What is Andouille Sausage?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Andouille sausage is a spicy pork product that has its origins in French cuisine, but also has a revered place in Cajun cooking, a culinary style popular in the southern U.S. state of Louisiana. It is typically made from pig intestine stuffed with coarse pork meat and hot chili peppers, though other spices can be added in at the maker’s discretion. The most traditional links are homemade, but the sausage’s worldwide popularity has led to a number of different commercialized versions as well. Different manufacturers tend to have different styles and ingredient lists, which often means that there is some variety when it comes to what, exactly, a link labeled “andouille” contains — though spice and smoky flavor are all but guaranteed.

Jambalaya is a popular dish that often includes andouille sausage.
Jambalaya is a popular dish that often includes andouille sausage.

Modern Production and Additions

Although there are variations, the andouille sausage that is available in most markets today usually contains "mainstream" pieces of pork — meat from the thighs and shoulder, for instance — rather than the internal organs, as was traditional. The sausage may also be made in synthetic casings rather than in the animal’s intestine, which often eliminates the need for a freshly slaughtered pig. It is also common to find products with artificial smoke flavor added in, which gives a more traditional taste without having to invest the time in slow-smoking over a fire.

Andouille typically contains chili peppers.
Andouille typically contains chili peppers.

There tends to be a lot of variation when it comes to what, exactly, this sausage contains in addition to pork. Different cooks and companies have different takes, and experimenting with new additions and additives has become quite popular. Some brands will add cheese, for instance, while others incorporate proprietary blends of spices, herbs, and vegetables like roasted bell peppers or mushrooms. So long as the link is made primarily of pork and has a spicy kick to it, it can usually be sold as “andouille” without complaint.

Andouille sausage may be prepared in a skillet.
Andouille sausage may be prepared in a skillet.

Popular Recipes

In the American South, andouille sausage is a key ingredient in gumbo and jambalaya, two Cajun dishes. It is also commonly used in soups, and can also be mixed with beans and rice to create a hearty meal. The sausage is usually best used fresh, but will also freeze well.

Gumbo typically contains andouille sausage.
Gumbo typically contains andouille sausage.

When not added to a soup or stew, where it cooks in the liquid of the dish, the sausage can be prepared in a skillet. The cook may want to remove the casing and slice the meat into pieces at an angle before cooking. It can also be chopped or ground up and added to hamburgers, potatoes, stuffing, or grits for a spicy kick.

Andouille sausage can be used to add heat to chicken cacciatore.
Andouille sausage can be used to add heat to chicken cacciatore.

Substitutions

Despite their global popularity, links are not always readily available in all regions. Cooks who are hoping to make Cajun dishes or who are looking to emulate traditional French fare but cannot find a proper andouille sausage may be able to achieve a similar outcome by using something comparably spicy. Hot Italian sausages sometimes have a similar taste; alternatively, cooks could look for a regular smoked sausage, then add hot peppers on the side to recreate the same basic taste to the meal as a whole.

French Origins

Cooks in France have been making andouille sausages for centuries, though the first versions were far from the gourmet food items sold in many places today. Early on, this sort of sausage was basically a way for farmers and butchers to make use of every last part of a slaughtered pig. Cooks would simmer parts of the stomach and gastrointestinal system that were otherwise considered “unpalatable” with heavy spices, then stuff them into the intestine to form links.

The links were slow smoked over a fire — usually pine or hickory — then served in soups, stews, or with hearty breads. Most of the time, the spice and smoke disguised the otherwise rough taste of the pig’s internal organs, and often produced a pleasing meal. The process was highly economical and innovative.

Transformations in the United States

Early French settlers who had acquired a taste for the andouille of their homeland brought the tradition to Louisiana when they settled the then-unclaimed territory in the late 1600s. Many of the earliest versions were made in the traditional way, but with locally available ingredients. The peppers were often spicier in Cajun renditions, for instance, and the links were often smoked over sugar cane and pecan wood fires. When pork was scarce, settlers used garlic, peppers, and other ingredients as “filler”; the result was a much more robustly flavored sausage that soon began to take on a character all its own.

The pork filling for andouille sausage is seasoned with hot chili peppers before being packed into pork intestines casings.
The pork filling for andouille sausage is seasoned with hot chili peppers before being packed into pork intestines casings.
Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon926643

Can someone tell me why is it when I put andouille in the freezer and use it a week or a month later, it is ten times hotter than it was originally? Is it because it was in the freezer, or does it just get hotter over time?

Belted
Andouille sausage often gets cut up and put into soups and stews, but it is great grilled and slipped into a hot dog bun. I always cook up andouille is a feature of my backyard BBQs.

You have to have the right condiments to compliment it though. I like to eat mine with sweet relish. My wife swears by mustard.

backdraft

Does anyone have any experience making their own sausage, particularly andouille sausage? Is the homemade stuff better or is it worth it to save yourself the headache and just buy some from the store or butcher?

Ivan83

I love to use andouille sausage as part of authentic Cajun gumbo. With some big shrimp and a delicious tomato broth it is perhaps the most delicious meal on earth.

I have eaten dozens of different gumbo recipes in my life but my favorite has always been my mothers recipe. She passed it along to me before she passed away and I still follow it to the letter at least three or four times a year.

anon257003

Can you fry it with onions and peppers and add a tomato based sauce on hard roll?

anon241917

Add any type of savoury smoked sausage to winter soups for wonderful flavors.

anon240834

It has to be in 1/4" to 1/2" chunks when stuffed into casings.

anon148506

And don't forget to smoke it over pecan wood at 170 degrees for seven hours.

anon148162

Back in the day, andouille had stomach and intestines in it, as well as the pork and seasonings. Really doesn't matter whether it's chopped or ground, but yes, it was chopped back then. Garlic is an additional seasoning to it, and it is smoked over pecan, sugar cane, or both. Today's andouilles are marketed for those that want cajun cuisine and don't know any better. They are very good, and I enjoy them, but they are not traditional.

anon131764

cajun andouille is made with chopped or very coarsely ground pork put into large casings, period.

anon118469

I've never seen nor heard of andouille sausage, I'm in PA. What could I use in place of it? I don't think they sell it up here.

anon90135

Andouille is what we put into low country boils, along with shrimp, corn, potatoes, and more shrimp. Season the water with Zatarain's and bring the whole thing to a boil before dumping everything in.

Serves about fifty, if done right.

anon74576

You got it wrong dude. Andouille needs to be coarse chopped. You need chunks. Otherwise you get the mealy crap they try to pass off as Andouille up north

bestcity

Probably a good sausage to add to hearty winter soups made with beans or lentils even cabbage soup.

The spice in andouille sausage would add good flavor to the soup. I will have to try it.

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