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When it comes to pork products, labels can sometimes be confusing to understand. And if you’re not familiar with the various types of pork products, and how they’re prepared and packaged, you might wind up purchasing the wrong ingredient for your recipe.

For instance, is ground pork the same as ground sausage? If you’re looking to make a savory breakfast that includes sausage, you might be wondering whether you should buy link sausage, patties, ground pork sausage or ground pork. After all, are there really any differences between them? As it turns out, there are several. Let’s break them down, so you can navigate the grocery aisles with ease.

What’s the Difference Between Ground Pork, Ground Sausage, and Link Sausage Form?

Essentially, the differences between ground pork and ground sausage really come down to their seasonings. Ground pork is fresh pork that has been pre-ground and packaged for easy preparation in a variety of dishes — including patties, meatballs, or crumbles. Ground pork sausage looks almost identical to ground pork. But it’s been pre-seasoned prior to packaging.

Finally, link sausage is a meat product (typically, but not always, pork) that has been seasoned, mixed with additional fat and food preservatives, and is usually packaged within a casing. It can be pre-cooked, as in the case of the Polish sausage known as Kielbasa, or uncooked, the way you’ll often find Italian sausage or bratwurst sold fresh at the store.

Cured vs. Smoked vs. Dried Sausage

There are as many ways of preparing sausage as there are types of the pork product itself!

  • Cured sausage has added natural or artificial curing agents, which enhance flavor, prevent microorganism growth, and ensure longer shelf life. If it is preserved with natural ingredients like cultured celery powder and sea salt, it is often called “uncured.”
  • Smoked sausage is cured over a specific type of burning wood, like hickory, mesquite, oak, or applewood. The smoke from the wood enriches the flavor as the sausage absorbs its notes.
  • Dried sausage is cured and may or may not be smoked. It then undergoes an air drying process with temperature and humidity carefully monitored, which takes anywhere from a few days to six months. Drying is a common practice with salami, pepperoni, and chorizo.

How Are Ground Pork and Pork Sausage Made?

Ground pork and sausage undergo similar processing, with a few key differences.

Pork Cuts Used

Ground pork is made from pork butt — which is the term for the shoulder — plus trimmings from the loin and other cuts. Ground pork tends to be a bit lower in fat than pork sausage, which usually includes a bit of extra loin fat.

Processing

Once the pork is cut, it is fed through a meat grinder to break up the larger cuts of meat into smaller bits. If the pork is ultimately being sold as ground pork, this is where the processing will end. However, if the end product is pork sausage, the ground meat will also be mixed and blended with ingredients like sugar, salt, spices, brown sugar, or vinegar.

Packaging

The ground pork or pork sausage is then reshaped into a particular form — such as a brick, roll, patty, or stuffed into a casing for the traditional link format — before being packaged in sealed, airtight packaging to preserve its freshness until sold.

Using Ground Pork and Pork Sausage in Recipes

While it’s optimal to choose the correct pork product for the fare you’re making, there are times when ground pork and ground pork sausage can actually be used interchangeably. And knowing this can save you at the grocery store if your desired product is out of stock.

If you need ground pork for your dish, but only have ground pork sausage on hand, you can easily swap these out as long as you don’t mind the seasonings. Use pre-seasoned ground pork sausage in our Pork and Bacon Burgers recipe for a patty packed with flavor! Tip: omit salt and pepper depending on your taste buds.

ground sausage breakfast

If your recipe calls for ground pork crumbles, and all you have is uncooked sausage in a casing, you can absolutely cut the meat out of the casing and use it. An added benefit here is that the sausage is already seasoned for you, so as long as you’re dexterous with a knife, you can make it work.

It’s a little trickier — though still possible — to substitute these products the other way around. If your dish requires pork link sausage, and you only have ground pork on hand, you may still have options as long as a casing isn’t required — you’ll just need to season the ground pork..

For example, you can substitute ground pork for fully-cooked link sausage or kielbasa in recipes like Chiles Rellenos with Kielbasa and Quinoa or Kielbasa Orzo and Kale Soup. You can also substitute uncooked sausage links in these recipes — you’ll just need to pre-cook them before using.

Any time a recipe calls for crumbles or patties instead of link sausage, feel free to use ground pork!

ground pork stuffed peppers

Try Coleman Natural’s Pork

Whether you’re seeking all-natural fresh pork for a hearty breakfast sausage, looking for the smoked Polish Kielbasa for your pasta dish, or putting together pork patties for the grill, Coleman Natural has you covered.

Our 80% lean ground pork is perfect to complement your noodles or form into flavorful meatballs.

Our original ground pork sausage roll and a spicy ground pork sausage roll are delicious in Stuffed Peppers with Pork Sausage or Quick Protein and Potato Skillet.

Coleman Natural’s delectable uncured smoked Polish Kielbasa is a tasty addition to your slow cooker beans or cauliflower risotto.

bud brats spread

And if you’re looking for a line of pre-cooked brats, look no further than our Budweiser® BBQ Beer Bratwurst, which is marinated in lager and comes in cheddar or jalapeño cheddar varieties.

All of our pork products are sourced from American family farms that raise their animals 100% create-free, with no antibiotics or added hormones — so you can serve up your ground pork or sausage with the utmost confidence in its quality.

Read more helpful articles about choosing and preparing your pork: