Turkish Sucuk Beef Sausage: Why is it So Popular in Turkey?

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Turkish cuisine or kitchen is a bridge between the Middle East and the Mediterranean, just like the country itself. And so, one of its most representative dishes is Turkish sucuk, which is a spicy beef sausage. Find out all about this meaty little sausage that packs a big punch of flavor and how you can use it to spice up your culinary adventures.

To Begin With: What Is Turkish Sucuk?

Sucuk is a very national Turkish dish. You can also find its variations in Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and the Middle East. It is famous as sudzhuk in Bulgaria and Russia, suxhuk in Albania, and soutzouki in Greece.

You can buy sucuk either from a market or a butcher. (Image Credit-Anaca3)
You can buy sucuk either from a market or a butcher. (Image Credit-Anaca3)

Turkish sucuk is usually made with ground beef, though some butchers add a bit of lamb for more flavor. Further east, in Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, sucuk may also contain horse meat. However, Turkish people do not use horse meat in their kitchens and culinary.

Sucuk is a semi-dried beef-based sausage made by a dry-curing process. Ground meat is well mixed with salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, garlic, cumin, sumac, and other common Turkish spices. The mixture is then piped into natural or plastic sausage casings and left to dry for several weeks. During this curing period, the salt and other spices ferment with the ground meat. The process creates a chemical reaction that changes the molecular structure, flavor, and consistency of the meat. Furthermore, it also acts as a preservation agent.

Turkish sucuk is one of Turkish cuisine's most representative dishes. (Image Credit-Çemen's)
Turkish sucuk is one of Turkish cuisine’s most representative dishes. (Image Credit-Çemen’s)

The result is a firm, flavorful sausage with a high-fat content that’s ideal for cooking. Especially when you are frying and grilling.

How Can I Cook Sucuk?

One of the best ways to cook and enjoy sucuk is with a traditional Turkish breakfast. Slices of sucuk are pan-fried with no added butter or oil. Then, you serve it with Turkish cheeses, fresh white bread, black olives, honey, fruit preserves, and brewed black tea.

Sucuklu yumurta, sucuk, and eggs are another popular way to serve this spicy sausage at breakfast.
Sucuklu yumurta, sucuk, and eggs are another popular way to serve this spicy sausage at breakfast.

Sucuklu yumurta, sucuk, and eggs are another popular way to serve this spicy sausage at breakfast. You fry slices of sucuk in a small, single-portion copper skillet called a sahan. When the sausage is crispy and has released enough fat, broke the eggs on top. The eggs are typically left runny to allow for dipping crusts of bread in the mixture.

You can Also Cook Sucuk with…

You can take sucuk out of the casing and make little meatballs or shish kebab cubes for broiling or grilling. Grilling sucuk allows the fat to drip away, leaving flavorful and fairly low-fat grilled sausages. Guests at typical Turkish barbecue parties often gather around the portable grill called a mangal with chunks of bread in hand to take pieces of sizzling sucuk right off the grill.

Kuru fasulye (Turkish white bean stew). (Image Credit-Habertürk)
Kuru fasulye (Turkish white bean stew). (Image Credit-Habertürk)

Sucuk is also a key ingredient in another national dish of Turkey called kuru fasulye (Turkish white bean stew). It is a navy bean and tomato stew. And it is also tremendously popular street food. If you ever find yourself in Istanbul or any other moderately large city in Turkey, keep your eyes open for a food stand or truck. They generally serve delicious sandwiches of sucuk crisped on a griddle, served on loaves of toasted bread with sliced onions and tomatoes.

What Does Sucuk Taste Like?

Turkish sucuk tastes like highly spiced aged crumbled beef that is saturated with fat but not swimming in it. As if fried but well-drained, leaving crispy, tasty little morsels of cured meat.

Turkish Sucuk vs. Mexican Chorizo

Mexican Chorizo
Mexican Chorizo

First, there is not a thing, which tastes like sucuk. However, the thing that probably comes closest in flavor is Mexican chorizo. Both have an intense spiced-meat flavor and dense fatty consistency. People make both to use them widely in their respective cuisines. They both are generally high on the heat-spice meter. Moreover, people of both countries surprisingly often serve them with eggs. Nevertheless, there are some significant differences between sucuk and chorizo. Mexican people make chorizo primarily with pork while Turkish people make sucuk with beef, possibly adding with some lamb (but no pork). Mexican chorizo is made as a fresh sausage to be used fairly quickly, whereas sucuk undergoes a curing fermentation stage which takes time and significantly alters its flavor profile.

This how it looks when sucuk meets egg on a pan. (Image Credit-Ozlem's Turkish Table)
This how it looks when sucuk meets egg on a pan. (Image Credit-Ozlem’s Turkish Table)

Varieties of Turkish Sucuk

There are only two basic varieties of sucuk: commercially produced and packaged or made in a butcher shop. But within these two categories, there is tremendous variation. Within the butcher-made category, each butcher has its own, often secret. The secret contains the recipe for preparing sucuk, and the amount of seasoning, and curing time. Sourcing of the meat, on the other hand, also varies greatly. While most sucuk is spicy, the amount of heat varies from almost imperceptibly mild to a level that will bring tears to your eyes. And so, it leaves you gasping for breath.

Turkish sucuk tastes like highly spiced aged crumbled beef.
Turkish sucuk tastes like highly spiced aged crumbled beef.

Most of the above considerations apply to the larger commercial producers as well. Except that they are much more reliable and consistent—once their product is in production, there is little variation. The big difference in this category, however, is stylistic. Some commercial producers attempt to produce a traditional-style version. Others, on the other hand, seek to make sucuk-like products that will appeal to the largest number of consumers. They do that by toning down the spice, speeding up the drying process by using heat treatment instead of fermentation. Indeed, they even use additives to reduce the admittedly high level of fat in the traditional product.

Sucuk Recipes

A few of the classic Turkish dishes utilizing sucuk are easy to make even without a recipe. Cut some hefty slices of sucuk, crisp them in a hot pan on both sides, then crack some eggs over the top, cover for a minute or so, then serve. You can also make a sandwich by removing the sausage from its casing. Roll the meat into little balls, then cook in a skillet, pressing down with a spatula. Flip the sucuk until crispy on both sides, then place it on one half of a hero-type role. Soak up pan juices with the other half of the roll. Sprinkle the sucuk with thinly sliced onions and tomatoes. And finally, top with the juice-soaked half of the bread and enjoy.

Sucuk is an indispensable part of traditional Turkish breakfast. (Image Credit-Grand Turkish Bazaar)
Sucuk is an indispensable part of traditional Turkish breakfast. (Image Credit-Grand Turkish Bazaar)

Otherwise, try sucuk in place of other recipes that call for spicy sausage.

Nutrition and Benefits Values of Turkish Sucuk

A 100-gram serving of Turkish sucuk sausage contains 400 calories. It consists of 35.47 of rams fat, 1.49 grams of carbs, and 18.24 grams of protein. The overall calorie breakdown is 80 percent fat, 18 percent protein, and 2 percent carbs. This represents about 45 percent of the daily value for total fat. 84 percent of the DV for saturated fat. And finally, 27 percent of the DV for cholesterol, and 11 percent of the DV for iron.

Turkish beef sausage and white bean stew is a wonderful and traditional combination of Turkish culinary.
Turkish beef sausage and white bean stew is a wonderful and traditional combination of Turkish culinary.

Where to Buy Sucuk?

Sucuk is widely available at grocery stores and butcher shops in Turkey. Elsewhere, you may be able to find sucuk at Middle Eastern and Greek groceries or butcher shops. You can also find it on websites selling Turkish and Middle Eastern foods and ingredients.

How to Keep Turkish Sucuk Fresh?

Sucuk freezes quite well and has a fairly long shelf life when kept in its original airtight packaging. Once you open the package, you can keep it in the fridge tightly wrapped in plastic for about five days. The amount of time when you can store sucuk largely depends on how much salt it consists to season it and how long it dried. (Finely chopping, heavily spicing, and drying meat probably originated as a way of helping to preserve it.) If buying it packaged, check the expiration date. If buying fresh, ask the butcher how long it will keep without freezing.

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