14 Popular Sausage Brands, Ranked Worst To Best

If you're like every other red-blooded barbecue-loving carnivore, you've probably been tempted to try every sausage you've ever seen. The problem is that would be a terrible exercise in indigestion. Well, we've got some great news for you. We have selflessly taken the gastrointestinal hit to rank the most popular sausage brands from worst to best so that you can sleep tonight without a bottle of Tums on your nightstand.

A couple of notes before we begin: There are a bazillion sausage brands available in America alone, and lots of them are "popular." If we left your favorite brand off this list, please forgive us. We tried to stick with the ones that are available in big chain supermarkets, and we excluded anything you wouldn't cook on the grill like breakfast sausages and ground sausage.

It's also worth mentioning that there are as many different sausage varieties as there are sausage brands, and while trying only Italian sausage or only andouille would have made the most fair comparison, it just wasn't possible given the massive number of varieties and the fact that every brand doesn't do every one of them. With that in mind, here we go.

14. Hempler's

Sadly, one of these sausages had to be handed the title "worst of the worst," and unfortunately it's Hempler's Andouille. This sausage was just ... weird. It had a flavor that could only be described as nutty. And not nutty in a nice "hint of a nuttiness" sort of way, but nutty in a bowl of peanuts sort of way. 

In fact, we actually had to go back to the packaging to see if we'd accidentally purchased a plant-based sausage. But here's the thing: We've had plant based sausage before, and even the people who make plant-based sausage know it isn't supposed to taste like nuts.

Hempler's Andouille is a pork sausage, and the label clearly states that there is only pork, salt, spices, and garlic, plus the ubiquitous dextrose and sodium nitrate. So unless one of those "spices" is cashew, we're not sure how it got its flavor. Anyway, we couldn't put this one very high on the list, for obvious reasons.

13. Tyson

Tyson's Mild Italian Chicken Sausage is a facsimile of the pork Italian sausages you can buy in the fresh meat department at the supermarket. This was a lot less greasy than a pork sausage, which is a plus, but in giving up the extra fat, it also lost some of that rich, deep flavor that you expect when you cook up the standard pork version.

As a chicken-based copy of a pork Italian sausage it can only come so far in terms of "meatiness." Most chicken sausages make up for that with the spice profile, but Tyson just didn't succeed in doing that.

Italian sausage is known for its fennel flavor (via Chowhound) and we do think some of the pork brands go a little bit overboard. Tyson's sausage has fennel in it, but it wasn't so detectable that you can't taste anything else. While it was nice to not have the in-your-face fennel overload, the rest of the flavors were just a little underwhelming.

To be fair, Tyson is really more of a chicken nugget brand than a sausage brand, so it's almost like these were a bit of an afterthought. We also found them in the frozen section, which means they may have suffered a little bit depending on how long they were on ice.

12. Signature Select

What can we say about this Albertsons (or Safeway, depending where you live) store-brand smoked sausage? It has a lower price point than similarly styled sausages and the look of a Hillshire Farm sausage, but it also has the depth and complexity of a hot dog.

This might be a good time to say that hot dogs do have their place in American cuisine — at school picnics and baseball games. We're not trying to put down hot dogs if they happen to be your thing, but they are not in the same category as sausage, and therefore, one should not be like the other.

Now, we do know that some sausages are supposed to have a hot dog-like texture (which frankly can be a little off-putting, but that's just us). When they're indistinguishable from an Oscar Mayer wiener, though, there's a problem. While the Signature Select smoked sausage smelled on point, we cannot say the same about the taste. It's almost as if the smokiness was just painted on the outside and it burned off in the fire.

Anyway, "smoked" was one of the selling points of this sausage, and the fact that we just couldn't taste any smoke was pretty disappointing. To be fair, you don't really expect name-brand quality from a store-brand sausage or store-brand anything else for that matter, but it would have been nice to actually taste the flavor that was promised on the package.

11. Hillshire Farm

The Hillshire Farm Polska Kielbasa we tried didn't taste anything like the Signature Select sausage, which is really this sausage's major accomplishment. Obviously, a kielbasa shouldn't taste like a generic store-brand smoked sausage. Still, the consistency was pretty similar. It was over-processed and hot dog-like, and it was way too salty and greasy. It also cost a little more than the Signature Select sausage, and it's not really clear what the extra buck actually does for you.

This sausage is made with turkey, beef, and pork, but one wonders what the point of the turkey is because it just tastes like any other pork and beef sausage. Other ingredients include soy, corn syrup, and MSG, plus all the usual nitrates you expect to find in a sausage. But what? Soy? Sausage is already made from the cheapest cuts of meat, so why, exactly, do you need to fill it up with soy?

To be fair, this sausage would be okay if you chopped it up, cooked it with bell peppers, and served it in a tomato sauce over pasta. But it's not the sort of thing that tastes great right off the grill.

10. New York Style Sausage Company

New York Style Sausage Company makes a typical mild Italian sausage. It's uncooked, so you'll find it with the rest of the pork instead of lumped in with all the other sausages next to the hot dogs and lunch meat. 

Now, you really have to like fennel in order to enjoy this sausage because it's very fennel-forward. Fennel has some licorice notes, so it really is kind of an acquired taste. The spice can be outright alarming if it's the dominant flavor, and this one leans towards that territory. 

The sausage is also very, very greasy, to the point where if you prick it while it's on the grill you'll probably get hot grease in your eye. A greasy sausage is a traditional sausage, though, so it's hard to knock points off on that quality alone. Still, after a couple of bites, it almost starts to be a little gross. The grease was definitely a problem given that we were eating this sausage alongside 13 other brands. This sausage is so very, very rich and heavy that you might not eat a whole one under normal circumstances, and you certainly wouldn't want to eat it alongside other rich and heavy things.

9. Boar's Head

Boar's Head is one those names that makes you think you're eating something gourmet, or at the very least, like you're in a little pub somewhere out in the English countryside. The Boar's Head Uncured Beef Knockwurst was also one of the more expensive sausages we tried, which further promotes the illusion that you're eating something fancy.

Now, this is one of those moments when we kind of think maybe another variety would have made us rank Boar's Head a little higher. They do have some other pretty interesting flavors to choose from like a Blazing Buffalo chicken sausage and one made with honeycrisp apple. Or maybe we just really wanted to like this sausage more because of the super cool logo and the English pub name.

Granted, it was super beefy, which is something you would expect from, you know, a beef sausage. But we're a little perplexed that Boar's Head calls this a "knockwurst" because a traditional knockwurst is made out of pork and veal. Sure, beef knockwursts do exist, but regardless of what this sausage is made out of, it's also supposed to be very garlicky, and we couldn't even find garlic on the Boar's Head label, let alone actually taste it. So anyway, don't let the fancy name and high price tag fool you — this sausage is pretty ordinary.

8. Zoe's

The middle of our list is a great place to put our most middle-of-the-road sausage. Zoe's Italian Red Pepper & Fennel Chicken Sausage is not great, and not awful. It's an organic chicken sausage, and the big brag on the packaging is "the art of meat." If this is art, though, it's more like something you'd see on the wall in a coffee shop versus something that is hanging in the Louvre.

The only thing that really came through was the fennel. It did taste like an Italian sausage, so points for that. Unfortunately, it lacked fat to the point of being a little too dry. At first we thought we might have overcooked it — Zoe's sausages are pretty slim compared to some of the other ones that were on our grill. But some of the other sausages were almost as petite and they weren't dry at all, so it seems like more of a Zoe's problem than an "us" problem.

The main problem with this sausage is that it has "red pepper" right on the label, yet it does not taste like red pepper. There might have been some in there somewhere, but it couldn't compete with the fennel. Still, we did think Zoe's was decent, but probably more for chopping up and putting in a lasagna than eating right off the grill.

7. Evergood

We tried the Evergood Louisiana Brand Hot Link Sausage and were ready for something spicy, given the word "hot" was in the name and the fact that there was a drawing of some chili peppers on the packaging. But we did not really detect anything hot. Or spicy. In fact, a look at the packaging revealed that there actually isn't anything hot or spicy in this sausage, unless it's hidden somewhere in the "spices" part of the list of ingredients. Also, what is this "Louisiana Brand" but "made in California" thing on your label, Evergood? That's just a super weird thing to read.

Anyway, despite it being an utter letdown in terms of what we thought we were going to be eating, this all-beef sausage did taste good. It was reminiscent of a summer sausage, which (ironically) is the sort of thing you eat cold on New Year's Eve with a port cheese ball and some water crackers, not the type of sausage you pull off the grill on a summer evening. It was also really rich and greasy, which clashed with the whole summer sausage vibe — not that we were really that into the summer sausage vibe in the first place.

6. Johnsonville

Frankly, we didn't expect much from these Johnsonville Beddar with Cheddar sausages. They're straight like hot dogs  — kind of diminutive and ordinary-looking. In fact, even the packaging makes you feel like you're about to eat a hot dog since it features a photo of a Beddar with Cheddar sausage on a hotdog bun with some mustard and onions.

Also, the whole concept of the "Beddar with Cheddar" sausage is just a little uninspired, and not just because it's really annoying when brands misspell words out of some weird desire to have people think their marketing department is clever. If you're going to put cheese in sausage, wouldn't you pick something kinda interesting like Gruyere or Gouda and not just ordinary cheddar?

Well, these sausages were actually a nice surprise. Let's keep in mind that there's a reason why cheddar remains the most popular cheese in the world — because it's good, and it's good in things, and this sausage is no exception. There was just enough cheddar to give the sausages a creamy texture and a nice cheese-forward flavor, but they were not overwhelmingly cheesy or excessively greasy either. They cooked up nicely on the barbecue and looked tempting on the plate, and their small size was even kind of a boon because it seemed like a crime to not eat more than one — well, until we did eat more than one and regretted it later on.

5. Hawaiian Brand

In our local store, Hawaiian Brand Portuguese Sausage is sold in single-serving packages for $1.99, which seems like a bargain until you add up what it would cost to buy enough of them to feed the whole family. This is a long, skinny sausage that barely fits on a dinner plate, not that you'd really want to eat a whole one anyway.

This is a smoked pork sausage, so sayeth the label, but a close look at the ingredients reveals that the smoke flavor comes from, well, "smoke flavoring." It's unclear if it's also literally smoked, but if it was, it does seem a bit odd that they would also have to add smoke flavoring. Also, we have never seen so many sodium-something-or-others on one label. (This sausage has five of them.)

Still, we thought it had a great flavor. It was meaty, not too salty, not too greasy, good texture. Maybe the secret is a lot of sodium whatever's. Who knows?

4. Dibrova

We tried Dibrova's Cajun Style Chicken Sausage, which is evidently not Cajun enough to be an andouille but is too Cajun to be a hot link. Anyway, this sausage stood out because it was delicious — it was surprisingly meaty for a chicken sausage, not overly greasy, and not drowning in herbs like chicken sausages sometimes tend to be. It tasted great just right off the grill, but it would also be a stand-out add-in for a gumbo or a pot of red beans and rice. The other thing we really appreciated about the Dibrova sausage was that it lacked the weird, cryptic ingredient list. This might be a good time to add that if you've never before bothered to look at the ingredients in the sausages you buy, you should, because some of them are kind of alarming.

Dibrova's label was like coming up for air after swimming in a sea of nitrates, sodium phosphates, corn syrup, and soy. This sausage is made from just chicken and seasonings stuffed into a pork casing, which, let's face it, is pig guts. It still beats the heck out of a collagen casing, whatever that is.

3. Open Nature

We did not expect to put a store-brand sausage so high up on the list, but here we are. Open Nature is the Albertstons (and Safeway) all-natural brand, so it has all the good stuff and much less of the bad, while also tending to be less expensive than similar brands. We went with the Jalapeño Monterey Jack Chicken Sausage and oh, my! The cheese was creamy but not overwhelming; the jalapeño had a nice little kick, but not so much of a kick that we had to gulp water to cool it down. It was slightly sweet, very flavorful, and had just the right amount of fat — enough so you know you're eating a sausage, but not so much that you're grossed out.

The label made us happy, too. The first three ingredients are chicken, Monterey Jack cheese, and jalapeño peppers, which is exactly as it should be for a product with the name "Jalapeño Monterey Jack Chicken Sausage." It also contains a little bit of cane sugar (hence the sweetness) but no corn syrup, which frankly is almost as weird a thing to put in your sausage as soy. Everything else on the list is a spice or natural flavoring of some kind, so this sausage will make your taste buds happy and should also satisfy your desire to know what the heck you're putting in your mouth.

2. Aidells

Aidells is famed for its chicken sausages, and the brand's Italian Style Chicken Sausage with mozzarella cheese proves why that is the case. We liked this one much better than any of the other Italian sausages on the list. To be fair though, Aidells Italian sausage isn't quite the same flavor profile as a typical Italian sausage. For starters, mozzarella cheese is the second ingredient. Mozzarella is certainly Italian, but it's not usually in an Italian sausage. 

And though this sausage was definitely herby, we couldn't detect any fennel. Indeed, fennel isn't on the ingredient list at all (though it could be hidden in the generic "spices" ingredient that all sausages seem to have) but there are plenty of other herbs like parsley and basil, as well as roasted garlic. So while this did for sure have an Italian vibe, it was not super similar to a traditional Italian sausage. Still, we ranked it high because it's not too greasy, has a really nice, complex flavor, and a not-alarming list of ingredients.

1. Silva

The winner of our taste test is Silva, but just barely. Its jalapeño pepper jack sausage was just a little bit better than the Aidells Italian sausage. It was also the second of the two jalapeño sausages we tried. Silva's sausage had a very similar flavor to what we sampled from Open Nature. But overall, we just thought it was a little more jalapeño-forward and a little more creamy. Notably, this is also a pork sausage, but we had to double-check because it lacks the unpleasant heaviness that a lot of pork sausages have.

This sausage is another one that's touted for its lack of nitrates and the fact that it's made from meat raised without antibiotics. The first three ingredients are what we like to see in a jalapeno-cheese sausage: pork, jalapeno peppers, pepper jack cheese. It does have a couple of weird additions (sodium phosphate and sorbic acid), but most of the rest of the list is dominated by various spices ... and cherry juice powder. (What? For color maybe?)

Anyway, we are forgiving some of the odd ingredients because this sausage just tasted so good. It proves that you can actually make a pork sausage that's not greasy, heavy, and makes you regret certain choices for a few hours afterwards.