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What is Black Pudding?

By S. N. Smith
Updated May 16, 2024
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Black pudding, otherwise known as blood sausage, is a dark sausage stuffed with animal blood seasoned and cooked with fillers such as bits of meat, suet, oats, or barley and congealed until solid. Various cuisines around the world incorporate versions of this pudding. Although this dish is normally made with cow or pig blood, it can also be made with the blood of ducks, geese, and lambs.. The fillers, seasonings, and type of animal blood used vary according to regional tastes and local availability.

As long as animals have been slaughtered for food, there has been the desire to maximize the usefulness of the carcass. Homer’s Odyssey contains a reference to a sausage-like victual consisting of a stomach packed with blood and fat and roasted over a fire. This reference is nearly three thousand years old.

Black pudding is extremely popular in England and Ireland. In northern England, it even has a festival dedicated in its honor: the World Black Pudding Throwing Championships, wherein participants sling black puddings in an effort to knock Yorkshire puddings off a stack. British black pudding is generally made with pig’s blood mixed with pork fat and oatmeal or barley. It is traditionally served as part of a full breakfast, but it has become popular as a fried item in fish-and-chip shops.

The French call their black pudding boudin noir, and make it with pig’s blood, pork fat, onions, and bread crumbs. Often, cream and apple brandy may be added to the boudin noir, making for a sausage that is much lighter in texture than those filled with cereal grains.

Spain’s version of this sausage, morcilla, also utilizes the fat and blood of the pig, but incorporates rice as a filler and is seasoned with paprika and sherry and occasionally almonds and raisins. Morcilla is often served as a tapas dish. German blutwurst is made with pork, pig’s or cow’s blood, and barley. Zungenwurst is a variant of blutwurst that contains pieces of pickled pork tongue.

The term “black pudding” may also be loosely used to refer to other foodstuffs that feature large amounts of animal blood among the primary ingredients. Examples would be Taiwan’s zhũ xiě gāo (or “pig blood cake”), which is pork blood and rice that is formed into a cake and steamed or fried; Finland’s veriohukainen, a pancake-like creation made from pig’s blood, rye or oat flour, and onion; and Russia’s krovianka, which combines pig’s blood and buckwheat groats.

It can be challenging to obtain fresh blood to make black pudding in the home kitchen if the cook does not slaughter his or her own animals. If one is bringing animals to an abattoir to be slaughtered, one can request that the blood be captured and retained in addition to the carcass. If one has no animals of one’s own, sometimes fresh blood can be purchased from an abattoir. If not, dried blood may be purchased from specialty suppliers and reconstituted.

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Discussion Comments

By anon283373 — On Aug 04, 2012

Black pudding is nasty. I used to eat that crap until I found out what is in it. I won't touch it now.

By anon163184 — On Mar 26, 2011

can cow's blood be used for black pudding?

By anon151766 — On Feb 11, 2011

@GiraffeEars: My favorite is black pudding and bacon in a nice crusty roll or baguette with plenty of ketchup. Nice simple meal for when you get in from work or breakfast/lunch on the weekend.

By anon109792 — On Sep 09, 2010

GiraffeEars: black pudding is most frequently served as a breakfast item alongside eggs, bacon, other sausages etc.

I have also had it with pepper sauce as a restaurant entree (black pudding au poivre which was delicious) and from time to time I have also had it in a sandwich. It should never be hard. If it is, send it back as this is not the way it should be cooked.

By Glasshouse — On Jul 23, 2010

@ GiraffeEars- Black pudding is prepared in different cultures all over the world, so the complimenting tastes would vary by region. Some varieties of pudding like Lancashire black pudding are battered, fried and served with fried potatoes. This type of preparation is common in English and Scottish chip houses.

The French serve black pudding, or boudin noir, with mashed potatoes and apples. This presentation compliments the onions, potatoes or apples that they often add during the sausage making process.

In Asia, the blood pudding is made without a casing, resembling tofu more than sausage. The blood cakes are then fried or steamed and eaten as is, or simmered in rich sauces and served with rice.

By GiraffeEars — On Jul 23, 2010

When cooking black pudding, what types of food would one serve with it? I have never eaten black pudding or blood sausage, so I am curious to know what kinds of flavors compliment this interesting sausage.

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