How to make Hungarian sausage

Hungarian sausage unsmoked

Winter is the season of pig slauther in Hungary, the time when you wake up at the weekend to the noise of  gas cylinders used to singe the pigs and when the vermilian sausages – the true stuff of worship – appear in bodily form. The Hungarian cuisine produces a vast number of types of sausages, each region has their own recipes and tastes, the knowhow of sausage making is passed on to sons from their fathers. So, let me share with you how we make it here on the Great Hungarian Plain.

The first and most important factor is the meat, which is basically pork, but it may be mixed with beef sometimes. Nearly every part of a pig can be suitable for making sausage; however, fatty meats (e.g. shoulder) enjoy advantages in this case. Good sausage can’t be made from only lean pork, therefore it has to be complemented with fat from the belly or the jowl of a pig. Sausage meat ideally consists of 70% meat and 30% fat, but this proportion may be changed to 65%-35% or 60%-40%.

Grinding and seasoning

The meat has to be fresh, and must not be washed or soaked in water because sausage can easily get spoiled. It’s recommended to wipe blood with a dry cloth, and cut out parts that are too bloody. Meat can be finely chopped or ground. If you decide to grind it, meat has to be chilled since the colder the pork is, the less it’s shattered. Sinews, cartilage and membrane that would worsen the sausage’s quality have to be removed. Meat can be finely or coarsely ground, it’s up to you which plate you use while putting the meat through the grinder. The next step after grinding is seasoning.

The majority agrees that sausages that don’t contain paprika can’t be called kolbász, they are just salami. In my family we season the meat with four ingredients: Hungarian paprika, salt, ground caraway seeds and garlic. In addition ground black or white pepper and sugar (it makes the cut end shiny) can be added, too. When the meat is seasoned and thoroughly mixed, leave it to rest for about 1-2 hours in order to let the flavours merge a bit.


  • 10 kg (22 lbs) sausage meat : 70% meat + 30% fat
  • 200 g (7 oz) salt (untreated, iodine-free)
  • 200 g (7 oz) Hungarian paprika: 70% sweet + 30% hot (or according to taste)
  • 20 g (3/4 oz) caraway seeds, ground
  • 70 g (2 1/2 oz) garlic, minced

Sausage is stuffed either into natural – usually using the small intestine of the pig – or artificial casings. Both natural and artificial casings have to be soaked in lukewarm water prior to stuffing to make them more elastic and prevent them from breaking and tearing. If you use small intestines, knot one end; in case of large intestines and artificial casings tie up one end with string.

To prepare the meat grinder for stuffing, remove the plate and cutting knife and affix a stuffing tube. Slip the other end of the casing onto the nozzle and push up onto the tube until you have reached the knot. Hold the casing loosely at the end of the stuffing tube and let the sausage feed into the casing as you turn the crank. One of the most important rules of sausage making is to stuff the casings airtight and hard enough not to let them burst. Tie the end of each link.


At this point you have to decide if you want to eat the sausage fresh and unsmoked or like a cold cut, dried and smoked. If you  choose to eat it fresh, store the sausages in a cool place or in the fridge. Turn them upside down once a day and leave them to rest for 4-5 days. During this time the meat fully combines with the paprika, and sausages can be frozen without turning white. After 4-5 days you can pack the sausages in plastic freezer bags and place them in the freezer.

Hungarian sausage smoked

After smoking – photos:

If you want to smoke the sausages, after stuffing hang them onto (wooden) rods and leave them to dry overnight in a cool, but frost-free place (don’t let fresh sausage freeze before smoking). The lenght of smoking depends on the smoking method and the type of smoker. To be able to store sausages for the longest possible time, cold smoking is the recommended technique instead of hot smoking. Sausages have to be smoked until color turns to a nice red.

(Just for your information this is how we do: sausages in small intestines are usually smoked for 8-9 hours, sausages in large intestines are smoked for 10-12 hours. Don’t take these numbers for granted, length of time may vary depending on the smoke intensity.)

For smoking use only hardwood like oak, beech, acacia in the form of firewood, wood wool and sawdust. Woods having a special smell, for example pine, are unsuitable for smoking because sausages take over the scent of the wood and the resin makes them bitter. Once your sausages are smoked well, leave them on the wooden rods and store them in a cool and airy place.

MentésUpdate 1: Cold smoking means that the smoke’s temperature needs to be between 10-25°C in order to avoid that the fat in the sausage melts.

Update 2: You often ask me if we use curing salt to season the meat. No, we don’t use it. The reason is that we always make smoked sausages in winter, when the outdoor temperature is below 5°C; cold, smoke and plain salt together prevent meat from spoiling.

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21 Responses

  1. Joseph Acs says:

    Love the explanation of different region of Hungary. Good job.

  2. Tina Bordacs says:

    Please explain how to cold smoke at home. Thank you for the recipes. My mum comes from Dunaharisty.

    • Eszter says:

      Hello Tina, There are different technics to make cold smoke, I can share with you how we do that. We have a separate place/chamber for smoking sausages. Outside that chamber there is a little stove, in which hardwood and sawdust are burnt. Smoke is transferred into the smoking chamber by a ventilator, so there is no open fire in the place where the sausages are hung. The smoke’s temperature should be between 10-25°C in order to avoid that fat melts in sausage.

  3. D Novak says:

    Excellent and informative article. It’s almost impossible to find good Hungarian kolbaz near me. Bought a meat grinder/sausage stuffing attachment for my Kitchen Aid stand mixer and want to make some. Have questions: where can I get casings, what size and type are preferable? Source for small batch(10-15 lbs.) detailed recipes? How to build/ locate a suitable cold smoker? These are just what comes immediately to mind…would appreciate any and all suggestions. Thank you.

    • Eszter says:

      Hello, Casings can be bought in the butcher shop. You can use small intestine or artificial casings, butcher can answer your questions. The recipe above is also suitable for small batches, just divide the quantities proportionally. Concerning cold smoker I recommend doing some searches in Google.

  4. Sandor says:

    You will be able to find most of anything related to making sausage. Below is a the URL for casings, click on it and it will take you there.

  5. Mihaly says:

    informative article…we just made the fresh kolbaz & seasoned simarlarliy, with added some water & left the seasoned mix in fridge (about 15 hours, & then hung for a approx. 27 hours in very cold place & we had it properly cold smoked low for around hours but after we went to eat some after simmering it 30 minutes or so as usual it can out very dry & tasteless except for the smoke..*before we smoked we did the usual fry taste test & it was fine & juicy… never happened before, in the past after smoking we always got a tasty juicy smoked sausage..any ideas what we did wrong to make so dry??..any help appreciated-thank-you..

    • Eszter says:

      Hello, You wrote that your sausages were hung in a very cold place before smoking. What was the temperature in that place? Is it possible that they froze? Maybe that’s why they are dry and tasteless…

  6. Mihalya says:

    thank you Eszter..I forgot to mention he cold smoked them low for 10 hours but they always didi it long…maybe too long?..yes as you mentioned it was also very cold for 2 days & outside it went to 0 degrees C. or lower…thank you -Mihaly

    • Eszter says:

      No, 10 hour smoking is not too long. If fresh sausage freezes before smoking, it spoils the quality of the smoked product.

  7. Mihaly says:

    Eszter..THANK You very much for your help, it is much appreciated for your knowledge & time-Mihaly

  8. Karl says:

    Sounds delicious! Definitely will be making these soon. Similar to our family recipe. I was curious what brand paprika do you and your family use? Thank you for this website. Karl

    • Eszter says:

      Hello Karl, We use our own paprika (we grow, dry and grind it), we usually plant kalocsai paprika.

  9. Anna says:

    hi,i don,t have a smoker, nor a cold room in my house. where do you suggest i put them and for how long before i can eat them? also if i want to make them a bit spicy, what and how much i put in it? thank you

    • Eszter says:

      Hi Anna, Fresh, unsmoked sausage can be eaten immediately. If you want to freeze them, then put the sausages in the fridge for 4-5 days (turn them upside down once a day), after that you can pack them in (ziploc) bags and put them in the freezer.
      Spicy means hot in this case? If yes, you can increase the proportion of hot paprika up to 50-60%.

  10. Jennifer says:

    I lived in Hungary for a year in the early 80s and experienced a village pig killing. At 4:00 am the whole village came to the house and we all had a shot of Pálinka. This American girl escaped the task of cleaning out intestines and embraced the task of peeling about 400 pieces of garlic. Will never forget this experience.

    • Eszter says:

      Hi Jennifer, I’m sure you won’t forget when 400 garlic cloves “saved” your life.

  11. Norbert Muller says:

    Can I use an electric smoker at the lowest temp setting to smoke them? I grew up enjoying these. Grandma made a big batch every year. She used to make sweet horseradish to eat with the sausages too. Have you ever heard of it? No-one in the family remembers how exactly it’s made, only that it is in the oven at a very low setting for hours. Would love to find a recipe.

    • Eszter says:

      I don’t have any experience with an electric smoker, but if it can keep the smoking temperature below 25 °C, then it’s worth a try. Making horseradish cream is an easy thing. Peel and grate the horseradish on the small hole side of a boxgrater (it will irritate your eyes and nose, so keep some paper hankies at hand). Put the horseradish in a heatproof dish, add vinegar, salt and sugar to taste, then place it in an oven preheated to 200 °C for about 8-10 minutes until it becomes very hot – the aim of the heat treatment is to reduce the horseradish’s hotness (if it’s still too hot after 10 minutes, put the horseradish cream back in the oven for further 5-8 minutes). Once it’s cool, you may flavour your horseradish with cream or mayonnaise if you want. Put it in an airtight container and keep it in the fridge.

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