If you enjoy emulsified sausages, there’s no doubt that mortadella is a must on your grocery shopping list. This meat delicacy comes from Italy – Bologna, to be exact. It is a staple sausage in sandwiches, charcuterie boards, but in some meatball dishes, as well.
Mortadella has a high-fat content which gives it that marbled structure and a very unique, deep flavor. However, if you’re out of mortadella at the moment, or you can’t find your favorite brand in stores, you may need a good mortadella substitute.
In this guide, we will discuss some of the best options when it comes to replacing mortadella in your sandwiches and dishes.
The best substitutes for mortadella
This Italian emulsified sausage is mostly made of cured pork, and it has a higher fat content than cold-cut delis (about 15%).
There are also varieties that include other ingredients that contribute to the overall flavor and aroma. Some of these include olives, pistachios, and myrtle berries.
The fat dots come from the solid fat from the neck area of the pig, which doesn’t melt in the process. Mortadella is usually quite wide and cut into thin, convenient slices.
In Italy, mortadella is usually served in sandwiches, whether it be a hot panini or a cold sandwich, with the addition of cheese and condiments such as mustard. While it has a full, fatty flavor, it is still not too overpowering, especially if it is a plain kind with no veggies.
What is the best substitute for mortadella? Can anything match its delicious flavors, silky texture, and great versatility in cooking? Let’s find out.
If you’re looking for a quality mortadella replacement, make sure you’re choosing high-quality deli bologna, as there are many varieties on the market. Bologna is essentially a cooked, processed sausage originating from Bologna, Italy.
When it comes to flavors, it is quite similar to mortadella, but it is often saltier and includes more spices than regular mortadella. A lot of processed meat goes under the name of bologna, but original bologna comes from quality, cured, smoked pork meat.
Just like mortadella, bologna is extremely versatile. It has countless culinary uses, from cold and toasted sandwiches to pizza topping, appetizers, and pasta dishes. Quality bologna from the meat market will usually contain spices such as garlic powder, pepper, and coriander.
2. Thuringer Sausage
Thuringer or Thuringarin sausage is a branded regional specialty made according to specific regulations. The original recipe calls for defatted pork, beef or veal, pork cheeks (not including the rind), and a specific spice combination.
This mortadella alternative usually includes a mix of salt, garlic, marjoram, pepper, and caraway. As you might guess, it isn’t as neutral-flavored as most varieties of mortadella. In fact, this German sausage can be quite spicy and can be eaten both raw and fried or baked.
Thuringer often contains dry mustard, which gives it a distinctive tanginess. It may not be a spot-on alternative to mortadella, but it is a delicious fatty sausage that can replace it in pretty much any dish.
3. Olive Loaf
Olive loaf is a type of lunch meat that can easily replace mortadella in sandwiches, as they have similar textures and flavors. It is a particularly good replacement for mortadella with olives. Olive loaf is in fact made with whole or sliced stuffed olives – hence the name.
Olive loaf is a delicious cold cut that is a common choice in sandwiches, but it can also be served on a cheese platter.
Depending on the brand, olive loaf may include different spice combinations. Just like mortadella, it varies from completely neutral to spicy and peppery.
Galantine is processed meat that originates from France, and it was originally made from chicken meat, combined with veal, pork fat, truffles, and many spices and herbs. Once the mixture is ready, it is then stuffed into chicken skin and wrapped in bacon.
While this is the original galantine recipe, it is not the only method of preparing this cold cut. Galantines are essentially sausages, and they’re quite seasoned, as opposed to the majority of mortadella varieties.
However, an important similarity between the two is that they have a higher fat content. It provides that rich, deep flavor and recognizable complexity.
This German sausage has a soft, silky texture that is very similar to mortadella. It is commonly described as a meatloaf rather than a regular sausage, and it is made by combining pork meat, bacon, ground beef, and onions.
As you can tell from the combination of ingredients, Leberkäse is quite flavorful and aromatic – especially due to the addition of bacon and onions. This German specialty makes for a great smoked mortadella substitute due to the bacon aroma.
Leberkäse also has many variations, and it can be made from different kinds of meat. Some of these include horsemeat combined with cheese and pork meat mixed with salami, pickles, and peppers.
Landjaeger is an ideal choice for lovers of smoked meat, especially the type that has been air-cured for months. It is a popular German sausage that has a characteristic smokey aroma and an intense savory taste. Also, it can often be quite hot and peppery.
This type of sausage is normally eaten raw, as the smoking and air-curing process is all it needs to develop all the flavors. However, it can also be grilled or baked, but not for a long time, as it tends to dry out and lose all its moisture.
Landjaeger is quite similar to pepperoni, which makes it a great choice for pizza topping. Furthermore, it’s great for all kinds of sandwiches and pasta dishes. It can also be served as an appetizer alongside cheese, olives, and tomatoes.
7. Lebanon Bologna
This beef sausage is a cured, fermented, smoked type of cold cut that has a unique savory, sweet, and slightly acidic flavor. It is quite similar to salami in both flavor and structure, but it tends to have a somewhat stronger, smokier aroma.
This tangy sausage is not as mild and neutral as most types of mortadella, but they still have similar uses. You can combine it with your favorite condiments in a cold sandwich, and finish off with some Monterey Jack cheese, olives, and a splash of olive oil or balsamic vinegar.
8. Vegan Mortadella
Not only is there a delicious vegan mortadella on the market, but it is also pretty easy to make at home. While you may have thought that sausages and cold cuts, in general, are hard to replicate when it comes to vegan cuisine, that doesn’t have to be the case.
For your meat-free vegan/vegetarian mortadella, you will need to prepare the following ingredients:
- 2 tsp agar agar
- 3 tbsp tapioca flour
- 7 oz tofu (make sure it’s extra firm)
- 1 can cooked white beans
- ½ cup pistachios (optional)
- 1 cup sliced olives (optional)
- 2 tbsp beetroot juice
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 4 tbsp water.
Combine the water and agar in a small saucepan and heat up the mixture making sure it is well-combined by stirring constantly. Prepare all the listed ingredients (except for olive slices) by processing them in a blender to get a smooth, coherent mixture.
Combine the cooked mixture of water and agar with the processed ingredients and olives. Make sure to mix well so that all the elements are combined. Lastly, transfer this mixture into a pan and heat it up over medium heat.
The consistency should now be elastic and rubbery. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mixture cool down completely before making a sausage. Once you’ve made it into a sausage shape, freeze it for 4 hours.
It is best to use some kind of tube to get the desired shape and make sure it remains in that position while being in the freezer. After 4 hours, remove the vegan mortadella from the freezer and allow it to defrost before cutting it.
You may keep this meat-free sausage in the refrigerator for 7 days tops.
9. Chicken Mortadella
In case you don’t enjoy pork or beef, but you still likes cold cuts, there are always chicken alternatives – and mortadella is no exception. There are chicken mortadella varieties available on the market, which are usually not as fatty and savory.
Just like many other chicken alternatives, chicken mortadella usually has a much milder flavor profile, and it isn’t as seasoned. It will usually not have the fat portions characteristic of the original mortadella. However, the silky structure is an important similarity between the two.
What’s more, chicken mortadella will often include pistachio or olive slices, mimicking the original mortadella recipe.
How to choose a mortadella substitute
Mortadella is a great choice for pasta dishes such as baked macaroni, cold sandwiches such as muffuletta, as well as fried sandwiches. You can use it as a pizza topping, or a delicious appetizer served with some Manchego cheese, crackers, and tomatoes.
The ingredients in mortadella according to the original recipe are ground pork meat, fat, salt, spices, and herbs. In the majority of cases, the spices used aren’t too dominant and the flavor is mainly savory and fatty.
When it comes to choosing a very similar substitute that will have that mild yet deep flavor profile of mortadella, our best picks are bologna, olive loaf, and Leberkäse.
On the other hand, if you don’t mind a bolder flavor combination and a bit of spice in sausages, you’ll definitely enjoy Thuringer, galantine, Landjaeger, and Lebanon bologna.
Finally, mortadella comes in variations for those who prefer chicken or do not eat meat at all! Chicken mortadella is pretty much an identical dupe made of fatty chicken meat. Vegans and vegetarians can enjoy meat-free mortadella that is easy to make at home.