What do Southerners call sausage?

Answered by John Hunt

In the Southern United States, sausage is commonly referred to as a “hot link” or “red link.” This type of sausage holds a significant place in the cuisine of the region, making appearances in dishes associated with American barbecue, soul food, and Cajun and Louisiana Creole cuisines. It is also a popular ingredient in Texan cuisine and can be found in Chicago, Illinois.

The hot link sausage is cherished for its bold flavors and versatility in various Southern dishes. It is typically made from a mixture of ground pork, spices, and seasonings, which gives it a distinctive taste. The sausage is usually smoked or grilled, further enhancing its flavor profile.

One of the key characteristics of a hot link is its spiciness. Southerners enjoy their sausages with a kick, and the hot link certainly delivers in this regard. The spice level can vary depending on personal preference and regional variations. Some prefer a milder heat, while others embrace a fiery sensation that sets the taste buds ablaze.

In Southern cuisine, hot links are commonly used in barbecue. They are often served on a bun, either alone or as part of a larger sandwich, accompanied by barbecue sauce, pickles, and other toppings. The smoky and spicy flavors of the sausage complement the rich and tangy flavors of the sauce, creating a mouthwatering combination.

Hot links also find their way into soul food dishes, adding a flavorful punch to classics like jambalaya, gumbo, and red beans and rice. The sausage adds depth and complexity to these dishes, infusing them with its robust taste and spice.

Cajun and Louisiana Creole cuisines make extensive use of hot links as well. These sausages are integral to dishes like boudin, a traditional Cajun sausage made with pork, rice, and seasonings. Hot links can also be found in dishes like étouffée, a flavorful stew typically made with shellfish or chicken, served over rice.

Texan cuisine, known for its love of barbecue, also embraces the hot link sausage. It is often served alongside other smoked meats like brisket and ribs, adding another layer of flavor to the barbecue spread. In Texas, hot links are sometimes referred to as “Louisiana hot links” or “Louisiana red hots,” highlighting their association with the neighboring state’s culinary traditions.

Even in Chicago, far from the Southern states, hot links have found their place in the local cuisine. They are commonly served on a bun, known as a “red hot,” and are often topped with mustard, onions, relish, and sport peppers. This Chicago-style hot link is a beloved street food and a staple at neighborhood festivals and events.

As a personal anecdote, I have had the pleasure of enjoying hot links during my travels through the South. I vividly remember the smoky aroma and the burst of spiciness as I took my first bite. The sausage added a delightful kick to the dishes, elevating them to a whole new level of flavor. It was fascinating to witness the regional variations in how hot links were used and enjoyed, showcasing the diversity within Southern cuisine.

To sum it up, Southerners commonly refer to sausage as a “hot link” or “red link.” This type of sausage holds a prominent place in the Southern culinary repertoire, featuring in dishes ranging from barbecue to soul food, Cajun and Creole cuisine, Texan specialties, and even Chicago-style street food. Its bold flavors, spiciness, and versatility make the hot link a beloved ingredient in the South’s rich and diverse food culture.