Ossenworst Definition, Origins and Uses

Learn More About this Typical Smoked Sausage from Amsterdam

Sandwich with ossenworst sausage. Photo © Karin Engelbrecht

 Definition of Ossenworst:

Ossenworst is a smoked raw beef sausage that is said to originate in Amsterdam. It is widely available in the Netherlands, but while you can find factory-made versions in Dutch supermarkets, these bear little resemblance to the real thing. That's why traditional Amsterdam osseworst (spelled without the "n") is now protected by the Slow Food Ark of Taste, an international catalogue of endangered heritage foods, maintained by the global Slow Food movement.

Ossenworst Origins & Etymology:

Ossenworst was originally made with ox meat, which explains why its name translates as ''ox sausage''. Many sources claim that the sausage has Jewish roots, but real evidence is lacking. 

In his book De Dikke Van Dam (Amsterdam, Nijgh & Van Ditmar, 2006) author Johannes Van Dam writes that the recipe that appears in De Volmaakte Hollandsche Keukenmeid (1746)a popular cookbook in its day, is not much different from the technique artisan Amsterdam butchers use today. Nowadays, of course, ossenworst is made with lean beef instead of ox meat.

Also known as: Amsterdamse Osseworst

How Ossenworst is Made:

According to Slow Food The Netherlands, supermarket varieties of ossenworst are often ''no more than sticky ground beef flavored with white pepper and salt, stuffed into plastic tubes''. The real thing, however, is made with premium beef ripened for at least 10 days to improve the flavor, before it is coarsely ground. The spices - usually salt, white pepper and mace, but also other typical spices from the Dutch East India Company, such as nutmeg and cloves - are then added by hand so that the sausage retains its loose structural qualities. The sausage meat is then stuffed into natural beef casings, after which the ossenworst is allowed to ripen for another 24 hours.

Most authentic varieties of ossenworst are also smoked after being pre-dried for an hour at a low heat. This post-ripening process adds to the flavor and ensures that the smoke better adheres to the meat. Authentic Amsterdam ossenworst is smoked on chips of oak or beech. Smoking must be done slowly at a low smoke temperature - usually for a day or overnight.

Uses of Ossenworst:

The finished product must be consumed within a few days. Ossenworst is usually served sliced with Dutch mustard, which is said to aid digestion of the raw meat. Other typical sides may include Amsterdamse zuur (pickled gherkins and onions) or pickled pearl onions. It is often enjoyed as an accompaniment to genever or beer, but is also a popular sandwich filling in the Netherlands. 

Where to find authentic ossenworst in Amsterdam:

You will find authentic ossenworst at many quality Amsterdam butchers. We recommend:

  • Slagerij De Wit (Wakkerstraat 13, 1097 CB Amsterdam)
  • Slagerij Jong (Utrechtsestraat 37, 1017 VH Amsterdam)
  • Slagerij Louman (Goudsbloemstraat 76, 1015 JR Amsterdam)
  • Slagerij Vet (Zeedijk 99, 1012 AT Amsterdam)