Andouille Sausage: A Mainstay of Cajun and Creole Cooking

Smoked andouille sausage
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Think New Orleans and you will likely conjure up Cajun and Creole foods. While people living outside the Big Easy may use the terms interchangeably, people in the know do make a couple of distinctions: Cajun food, which often bears the tab of the country version of Creole food, does not include tomatoes in its recipes, while Creole food does. They both use Andouille (pronounced ahn-DOO-ee), a spicy sausage made from smoked pork.

Andouille sausage is thought to have originated in France or Germany, countries that both have rich and extensive traditions of sausage making. The French creators call their sausage-making charcuterie.

Indeed, andouille is a mainstay of Cajun cuisine, which traces its roots to the Arcadians, Canadian immigrants of French origin, and also Creole, which represents a highly eclectic mix of French, Spanish, German, West African, Caribbean, and Native American influences. 

Today andouille sausage is associated with the cuisine of Louisiana, which is the center of the United States' vibrant Cajun and Creole communities.

How Andouille Is Made

Traditionally, French andouille was—and still is—made by utilizing the entire digestive tract of a single pig. To be specific, the filling consisted of the animal's stomach and small intestines (think chitterlings) chopped or sliced into strips, combined with onions and seasonings in a casing made from the animal's large intestine.

It is thus quite a large sausage, and not prepared using smoke but rather poached, then allowed to cool and served cold in thin slices. The sausages can also be grilled.

A smaller version, made using the small intestine as casing, is called by the French diminutive "andouillettes" and is often grilled and served with mashed potatoes.

American Intervention

In the United States, andouille sausage is made with pork butt, and if all this talk of the pig's intestines and digestive tract has got you spooked, rest assured that the term pork butt, in fact, refers to the upper shoulder of the animal, and sometimes goes by the name Boston butt, which is readily available.

Andouille in the U.S., particularly the Cajun version, comes highly spiced, and it generally undergoes two rounds of smoking: First, the meat to be used as the filling is smoked, and then the finished sausages are smoked again.

Sliced andouille sausage is one of the key ingredients in traditional Cajun dishes such as gumbo and jambalaya (as well as the Creole versions). 

If you're making something like gumbo or jambalaya and you can't get your hands on true andouille sausage, you can substitute any smoked pork sausage, but your best options will be Spanish chorizo if you can find that because it is similarly spiced. 

Failing that, any smoked or air-dried sausage will do, and in a pinch, you can certainly use kielbasa. But in general, the drier the sausage, the better. You want your sausage to more closely resemble jerky than the fresh, juicy sausages you see in the butcher case.