Is Italian sausage gluten-free or should you take some precautions when ordering at a restaurant?
This question may be looming on your mind when you have celiac disease and cannot afford to go wrong with your food choices.
Gluten, a protein found in rye, barley, wheat, etc., is your biggest enemy, and if it is there in sausage, you know you just cannot enjoy it.
But, the question is, Does Italian sausage have gluten? Or, is it on the list of gluten-free foods?
Yes, Italian sausage is gluten-free and you generally need not worry about triggering your allergy symptoms by eating a sausage.
Is Italian Sausage Gluten-Free or Not?
Try ordering basic sausage at a meat market, and you will be surprised by the variety of options available.
Almost all sausages adhere to the same fundamental recipe. First, you blend ground beef with flavorings, fat, and preservatives.
And then you stuff it into casings constructed from a variety of materials. The filled casings are then interlaced to create linkages.
Most sausages are prepared with pork, but they can also be made with chicken, veal, lamb, beef, turkey, or game.
Occasionally, rice or oatmeal is added as fillers.
So, whether or not your Italian sausage is gluten-free depends on how it is wrapped and what ingredients it contains.
What is Italian Sausage Anyway?
Italian sausage comes in a wide variety and is characterized chiefly by its unique seasoning, which sets it apart from other types of sausage.
Fennel is a signature flavor in traditional Italian sausage. In fact, it gets its distinctive flavor from this herb, which has a licorice-like aroma.
In most cases, it uses pork, but you need to be careful about the presence of hydrolyzed wheat protein, usually present in fish, meat, and poultry.
It breaks your “gluten-free” status of your Italian sausage.
Tip: Avoid eating so-called gluten-free sausage if it also contains hydrolyzed plant/veggie protein, glucose syrup, or maltodextrin.
Are There Different Flavors of Italian Sausage?
Yes, different brands like to play around and offer different variations of Italian sausage.
Most people’s experience with Italian sausage is limited to the variety found on pizza and in pasta sauces. Both with and without the case options are available.
This sausage is prepared differently than others in that the casing is usually removed before cooking.
Normal flavor profiles for this type include spicy, sweet, and moderate.
In most cases, sweet basil is used to flavor the former, while chili peppers are the go-to for the latter.
Are There Different Types of Italian Sausage?
Yes, there are, and you have to know about them to decide whether or not your Italian sausage falls in the category of “gluten-free” food or not.
This sausage consists of pork, fat, veal, and wine. Most brands smoke it nicely to prevent mold growth and then age it in a natural casing.
This is a huge sausage with a flavor and texture comparable to bologna. It is frequently combined with jalapenos, pistachios, and olives.
This sausage is prepared with beef or pork. It is either prepared uncured or you can cure it in olive oil.
The uncured type is dried for 3-12 weeks and consumed with crackers or on sandwiches.
Gluten is present in nearly all crackers, bread, and wraps, so this type of Italian sausage is not acceptable in gluten-free diet.
This pork sausage uses roasted red peppers and has a distinctive flavor.
It is also unique because it is spreadable. You can enjoy it with cheese or bread or add it to sauces for pasta.
This is a type of cured sausage, which has to be fermented before air-drying.
Available in many different varieties, you can store it at room temperature for years.
Tip: Inquire about what is in the season because some contain wheat starch and malt vinegar, making an otherwise acceptable dish unacceptable.
Is There a Difference between Italian and Sweet Italian Sausage?
Understanding the difference between the two can help you decide if they are safe to eat on a gluten-free diet.
What is Typical Italian Sausage?
In the USA, Italian sausage typically refers to a pork sausage flavored with anise or fennel seed.
It is quite flavorful and can be seasoned with either fresh or dried herbs.
It is the typical sausage you find in pizza toppings, pasta sauces, etc.
What is Sweet Italian Sausage?
On the other hand, sweet Italian sausage is mild in flavor and is less fiery as compared to its big brother.
The terms “sweet” and “mild” are sometimes used interchangeably.
What is commonly referred to as “hot” Italian sausage actually just has a little bit of hot red pepper flakes added for flavor.
Are They Interchangeable?
If you enjoy the flavor of both, then by all means! Sweet sausage can be used in place of mild sausage or vice versa in any recipe.
The word “hot” can stand in for either mild or severe if you can handle the heat.
If you need something spicy but all you have is moderate or sweet, just sprinkle some crushed red pepper on top of whatever you make.
Tip: Educate yourself about different types of wheat such as graham, farina, spelt, semonila, faro, emmer, udon, Khorasan, etc., to eat safely.
Can You Find Gluten-Free Italian Sausage Brands?
Of course, you can!
These days, you do not have to stick to limited food choices just because you have gluten intolerance. The same is the case with Italian sausage.
While there are so many to consider, some of the best options include the following.
Beeler’s pigs are given plenty of space to roam, access to natural sunlight, and positive human interaction during their growth.
The company produces a variety of sausages for supper, including Italian sausage, bratwurst, and gourmet flavored sausages, in addition to the three breakfast sausages they offer.
There is a strict emphasis on minimal processing of all those food items.
They confirm that there is nothing on the menu that is not gluten-free, and there is no risk of cross-contamination either.
Pennsylvania-based Hatfield offers a wide range of breakfast and dinner sausages in many different flavors.
The good thing is that they maintain a database of gluten-free products, and many of their sausage products fall in the safe zone as well.
Just keep in mind that there is a slight risk of cross-contamination because some products utilize shared equipment.
But in most cases, the vulnerable products include ham and ham steaks.
Though Hebrew National is most well-known for its hot dogs, you can also order beef breakfast sausage.
Hebrew National identifies any gluten-containing components on the label because ConAgra Foods own it.
You would not find any artificial colors, fillers, or gluten in the making of their beef sausage.
Beware of Cross Contamination
No matter what brand you pick, understand that there is always some risk of cross-contamination.
Even if the label does not mention it, there is still a slight chance of having the sausage exposed to gluten while cooking.
Cross-contamination can occur, for instance, if a sausage maker uses a meat grinder or knife that was previously used to manufacture a gluten-containing sausage.
Ideally, you should search for a label indicating that the sausages are gluten-free and may contact the maker to inquire about its standards.
Tip: Order from a company that only deals in gluten-free products to lower the risk of cross-contamination, which can be just as troublesome.
Is It Possible to Make Your Own Italian Sausage?
Learning how to produce gluten-free sausage at home is probably the safest way to obtain gluten-free sausage.
While most home cooks will want to let the professional chefs handle stuffing sausage links, buying ground pork and seasoning it yourself is a perfectly acceptable alternative.
Many traditional Italian sausage recipes require different spices and herbs, such as garlic, fennel, sweet paprika, parsley, and oregano.
You will also often see red wine vinegar.
To make it spicy, you can always sprinkle in some crushed red pepper. Or, an easy option is to use a premade Italian seasoning blend.
You can substitute ground chicken for pork if you try to avoid eating pork.
Is Italian sausage gluten-free? You already have the answer, don’t you?
But, always keep in mind that the best idea is to find a brand with “Gluten-Free” certifications or eliminate the chance of cross-contamination.
Some brands are better than others, so you may have to experiment with a few to find what works for you.
Alternatively, you can always go with your own homemade Italian sausage. No one can beat that, right?