Sausage vs. Kielbasa: What’s the Difference?

by Charlie
Difference Between Sausage and Kielbasa

Kielbasa or Polish kielbasa originally came from Poland. But nowadays, you probably see a lot of localized versions of Polish kielbasa across US stores, in a section along with other types of sausages. Unless the label says Made in Poland, these will most likely differ from the original, traditional kielbasa made in Poland.

Some may think sausage and kielbasa are just the same. And in basic ways, they are. Kielbasa is a Polish word for sausage. And we know that sausage is a term for meat products that are ground, mixed with other flavoring ingredients, and encased in natural or artificial casings.

Both sausage and kielbasa commonly use pork as meat, and they are both abundant in varieties. But there are some differences.

So what’s the difference between sausage and kielbasa? The main difference between sausage and kielbasa is the variety or type. Sausage is a general term for sausage products, but kielbasa is a specific type of sausage. In Poland, kielbasa is also a general term, because it simply means sausage. But when you see it in US stores, kielbasa means that you are getting a Polish-type sausage variety.

There are many kinds of sausages you can buy in supermarkets. They come cooked, smoked, fresh, and fresh smoked. For varieties, you can buy Bratwurst, Italian sausages, Bologna, and Polish sausages. You can also find pepperoni sausages, blood sausages, or frankfurters. And there are so many, many more varieties you can explore tasting and using for your different recipes.

There are also many types of kielbasa. In Poland, kielbasa varies per region, with each place offering its unique type of sausage. A popular smoked variety is the award-winning Kiełbasa Lisiecka that uses top-quality pork. Krakow District exclusively has been making this type of kielbasa since 1930. It bears PGI protection, meaning no other country can make and label this type of kielbasa as such. This smoked sausage is dark brown, with mild seasonings of garlic, pepper, and salt.

You can buy kielbasa any time in supermarkets. And if you want to have some authentic Polish kielbasa, you can get some from specialty shops.

What are Other Differences Between Sausage and Kielbasa?

There are other differences between sausage and kielbasa. Firstly, while sausage has the usual short or long cylindrical and curvy shape, kielbasa is shaped into a loop or horseshoe ( U-shaped). Keep in mind that authentic Polish kielbasa is indeed sold in loops. But not all loop-shaped sausages or kielbasa in stores taste like authentic Polish kielbasa.

Secondly, regular sausage and authentic kielbasa differ in texture. Sausages are usually finely ground, with some varieties coarsely ground. But kielbasa always uses coarsely ground meat.

Thirdly, they differ in taste. Sausage varieties differ in taste, but Polish kielbasa is always very garlicky and has marjoram.

Fourthly, they differ in the type of meat used. While sausages use all types of meat, authentic kielbasa only uses pork or a combination of pork and beef (or with veal). Today, many US kielbasa products use different types of meat, not just pork and beef.

Lastly, both sausages and kielbasa may be fresh, cooked, or smoked. But authentic Polish kielbasa is not usually smoked. At best, you may find some of them lightly smoked.

Does Sausage Taste Like Kielbasa?

Yes, sausage may taste similarly to kielbasa. Besides pork, local sausage and kielbasa varieties use beef, turkey, lamb, and chicken or veal. As for authentic Polish kielbasa, you can miss out on its very garlicky and marjoram taste. In this case, regular sausage won’t taste like authentic kielbasa.

Can You Substitute Sausage for Kielbasa in Recipes?

Yes, you can substitute different types of sausages for kielbasa and the other way around. Since they both use pork, beef, and other types of meat, they are similar in texture and flavor your dish in similar ways. However, if you are after the authentic garlicky and marjoram taste, make adjustments by adding marjoram and garlic during cooking.

When Should You Use Sausage?

Sausage varieties are so many that you can find one specific variety that will excellently match the other ingredients you’ll be using for a particular dish. Use it on its own or in a main dish. Fry it, boil it, steam it, bake it, or grill it on the barbecue.

Andouille sausage is a great choice for making jambalaya or gumbo. This French-influenced sausage is smoky and spicy.

Use chorizo pork sausage for rice or pasta recipes. It also brings out rich flavors in your tacos, stews, burritos, egg dishes, and more.

Italian pork sausages are also garlicky. It tastes of fennel or anise. Some are spiced with red pepper. It may or may not be sweet. Italian sausages are great to have with pasta recipes, on their own, in a sandwich, or with roast potatoes and other vegetables.

When Should You Use Kielbasa?

There are many varieties of kielbasa to choose from depending on your recipe or what you crave for. Even authentic Polish kielbasa comes in different types and flavors. And like other sausages, you can fry, boil, saute, grill, or bake kielbasa. Enjoy it on its own or mix it with other ingredients for a complex and tasty dish.

Polish smoked sausage (Kiełbasa Wędzona) and uncooked white sausage (Kiełbasa Biała) are often used in soups.

The Wedding Sausage (Kiełbasa Weselna) is a garlicky, peppery, double-smoked pork sausage, a favorite to serve at weddings and parties.

Kielbasa Krakowska is a cold cut sliced and served in salads and sandwiches.

You can dress up your morning omelet with Farmhouse sausages (Kiełbasa Wiejska).

If you’re having a sudden get together with friends, you can buy some kielbasa, cut it up, garnish it with onion, then serve to friends along with ice-cold beer.

Final Thoughts

  • Sausage and kielbasa mean sausage.
  • Sausage is a general term, but kielbasa specifically means Polish sausage.
  • Sausages use a variety of meats, but Authentic Polish sausage uses only pork or a combination of pork and beef.
  • A sausage usually has a long cylindrical, curved shape. But Polish sausage has a U-shape.
  • Sausages vary in type and taste, but real kielbasa is garlicky and has marjoram.

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