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Homemade North African Merguez Sausages

These traditional North African lamb sausages are warmly spiced with Tunisian harissa and earthy spices. Grilled then sandwiched inside a crusty baguette, you'll soon be addicted to them!

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You’re not a real Algerian until you’ve had a merguez sandwich stuffed with frites.”

Well, that's what my husband told when we moved to Algeria. Merguez are practically an institution in North African. It has an almost cult-like following it's so popular. There is an entire culture dedicated to merguez making and eating. I'm really serious! And merguez are  even showing up posh restaurants in New York and London. What is merguez you may be asking? Well, merguez are little spicy sausages that are popular all over North Africa as a quick fast food snack or even as part of a meal at home. They're served plain just eaten with the fingers dipped in Harissa or mayo, with couscous, in sandwiches, with eggs or even stuffed into Algerian savory pastries called bourek.

But merguez is not your everyday kind of sausage. Typical in North Africa, this sausage was very special, even exotic to some. It's a sausage that is usually made with lamb and is enlivened with plenty of spices and a hefty dose of fiery Tunisian harissa (hot chile paste). Traditionally stuffed into sheep casing to form links, but they can be cooked as free form links, as patties or crumbles as well . Merguez, it's just delicious. When made right.

North Africa being at the crossroads of many different cultures, you'll find a panoply of flavors from West Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Europe and even America, the "New World". All these cuisines helped enrich the diversity of the North African cuisine and use of spices. Merguez is just one prime example of the fusion of flavors found in North Africa.

We ate quite a lot of homemade charcuterie when I was younger. My family have a small farm where they raise their own livestock and garden. The family would have a slaughter in the early Autumn, and sausage, ham and bacon making was a part of our traditions. They were a part of my childhood. But after reverting to Islam, all that went out the door. No more pork! So more bacon, ham, sausage. Nothing! It was a few years I didn't even think about them, even totally digusted by the thought of eating anything that reminded me of pork. Then I suddenly became obessed with charcuterie ... sausages to be exact. So I set to find non-pork sausages (and bacon) only to discover that most often non-pork charcuterie was either stuffed into pork casings or had pork fat added to them. So as a Muslim I couldn't eat them. It was quite a few years I moved to the States I found such joys as halal beef bacon and hot links. That made me happy. Real happy.

 Then fast forward another few years, I moved again, this time to Algeria, I thought had hit the motherload. Thinking as a Muslim country, Algeria would have similar selection as Turkey well I was kinda disappointed. Sampling the slim pickings I could get my hands on here I found them very substandard unfortunately. Well that was unil I came upon merguez. It's really my favorite now! If you've ever tasted them you'll know what I mean!

I mentioned above that merguez is delicious - when made right. There are many merguez shops in Algeria, and even maybe some where you live. But there are some factors that either make or break a merguez. Fat and Spices. If there's one thing that makes a sausage great, it's the fat. And merguez is no exception. But in the case of merguez, adding the right fat in thr right amounts makes it delicious. Adding too much will only yield you a greasy unpleasant sausage that turns into grease covered dry sawdust after cooking. Adding too little fat again, very dry and tasteless sausage. Lamb fat, like lamb, has a stronger flavor than other types of fat so it's a good idea to use beef fat to the "lamby" taste. It makes for a much milder and palatable sausage.

And while meat and fat can be tasty, they are just better with the right combination of spices. Combing spicy Tunisian authentic harissa with earthy spices makes for a very pungent flavor that can easily stand up against the "heavy flavor" of the lamb. This merguez happened to be one of my favorite sausage seasonings so far. The spicy Tunisian harissa with earthy cumin, coriander, galangal, fennel and paprika is just magical. The seasoning mixture was pungent with a strong spice, allowing it to stand up against the heavy flavor of the lamb shoulder. None of that fake "red coloring" or low grade harissa that tastes bitter. No no! Like the fat, the seasonings need to be in a prefect harmony also. And oh yeah, make sure you use quality (halal) meat. 

This recipe is small batch. No need to make tons of this stuff ... unless you really want to. And if using beef (not lamb) you probably already have all the ingredients in your kitchen right now. You can make these using halal lamb casings (if you have some) or if not, just roll them free-form into logs, form into patties or alternatively just use as a bulk sausage crumbles. It's delicious anyway you make them. 

Also to note, I like to use fresh whole spices that I toast then grind myself for deeper richer taste. You can certainly use already ground spices if you like. My neighbor, the local butcher in our neighborhood uses galangal in their house recipe. I've made the recipe with and without. I think I prefer it with. We can easily find dried galangal sold in the spice markets here in Algeria, but if you don't have galangal where you live use ginger instead. Also I've used both beef and lamb fat here. You can optionally use all lamb fat for a more "lamby" taste and much more greasier merguez. Or use all beef for a milder taste with less greasy feel in the mouth.

So with Eid al Adha coming up I know you will be making some merguez! Stuffing into some warmed crusty baguettes and chowing down! 
Recipe for my favorite merguez sandwich is coming so stay tuned in for that! 

Homemade Merguez Sausages } 

 These traditional North African lamb sausage are warmly spiced with Tunisian harissa and earthy spices are extremely addictive 

low carb, primal, paleo

YIELD: about 1 ½ kg  
PREP TIME: 2 HRS - overnight


  • 2 tsp whole cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 2 TBS Hungarian sweet paprika
  • 1 TBS salt
  • ½ tsp dried galangal root (or ginger)
  • 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced fine
  • 1kg - 2.2 lbs beef, lamb or mutton shoulder, bone in
  • 100g - 3 ½ oz lamb or mutton fat
  • 120g - 4oz beef fat
  • 2tsp (for mild) or 5- 6tsp (for spicy) Harissa paste
  • ¼ cup (about handful) chopped fresh cilantro/coriander
  • 120ml - ½ cup ice water
  • lamb casings, soaked in water for about 30 minutes pior to stuffing

    Making the seasoning mixture
    Place the cumin, coriander and feenels in a heavy bottom pan over a moderate heat and toast until fragant, about 2 minutes. You'll hear them popping. Transfer to a plate or bowl to cool, then grind into a fine powder in a spice or coffee grinder. Mix in the garlic, galangal (or ginger), salt and paprika then set aside.

    Mincing the meat using a food processor
    Remove the bone from the meat with a sharp knife, then cut into small cubes, about 2 cm.Once you have the meat cut, place on a baking sheet or large tray in a single layer - not touching. Freeze until the pieces are sift but still pliable, about 20 minutes. The meat should not be frozen solid. Remove the meat from the freeze and place a small amount, about ¼ in your kitchen machine. You should do this in batches, not overcrowding your machine.  You shouldn't have more than half your machine full. Pulse until you have coarsely grind meat. Empty the meat into a large bowl. Look through the meat for large unground meat. Place these back into the machine. Repeat pulsing the remaining meat until all is ground. I've read you can do this also in a blender.

    Mincing the meat in a meat grinder
    Like the above method, remove the bone from the meat with a sharp knife, then cut into small cubes, about 2 cm then place in a single layer on a baking sheet or large tray. It makes the meat go through the meat grinder easier. Place the blade, grinding plate and " worm" also in the freezer. Once the meat is semi-frozen remove the equipment from the freezer. Assemble your grinder using the smallest die (the plate with the smallest holes). Once assembled remove only small amount of meat you will mince. You can remove the rest later when you're ready to grind it. You don't want bacteria growth. Read your machine's instructions to know the speed and settings. Make sure long hair, hijabs and fingers aren't anywhere near the machine. Place a large bowl set in an ice bath where the meat comes out. Using the pusher push the meat through the top of the machine. Repeat until you have ground all the meat.

    Mixing the meat
    Now you're ready to season the meat. Add the spice mixture and cilantro to the meat. Toss or massage in the spices making sure it is throughly incorporated througout the meat. Gradullly, add in the water making sure it's also incoporated into the meat. Make sure the mixture is homoegous in color and texture yet slightly sitcky. Now pinch off a little of the meat and form into a small patty, to taste for seasoning. And place the remaining meat in the fridge. Fry the meat patty with or without oil in a small frying pan. Taste it. If you need more salt, add more salt. If you're unsure, make another meat patty to taste it again. 

    Making merguez using casings
    Now you can stuff the casings. But I would advise allowing the meat mixture to meld in the fridge overnight before stuffing. Before stuffing, still having the meat in the fridge chilling with very clean hands slip one end of the casings over your kitchen faucet, then turn on the cold water. Allow the water to lubricate the casing. This makes stuffing easier. Knot one end of the casing. Place the casings over the tip of a funnel or sausage horn holding firmly gently push the meat through the wider nozzle using your thumb. Don't overfill or the merguez will break. Continue stuffing until you have used the casing up. You should leave about 2 finger length of casings at the end unfilled. Tie a knot at the end of the sausage. Lightly prick the sausage with a stertile needle at various points of the long merguez. This lets the air escape and will prevent the merguez from exploding when cooked. Twist the merguez into small links. I generally use my index finger as my guide. You can make your merguez as short or long as you like. Alternatively, you can simply form small patties or (index finger long) logs from the merguez meat mixture. Or weigh out 250-300g portions of the meat for bulk sausage. 

    Merguez will keep in the fridge uncooked for up to 3 days, up to 3 months frozen. To freeze, coil the merguez around into a mound then place in freezer bags with all the air pressed out of the bag or vaccum seal. 

    Not into lamb or mutton? Make these merguez with beef, veal or even turkey. I often make free-form turkey merguez throughout the year as we mainly eat chicken or turkey. I'll post the recipe for it in the future.

    If you're looking for a vegetarian or vegan merguez check out this recipe here.

     CATEGORIES:  algerian savory, main dishes - meat, primal, paleo, homemade

    SOURCE:  adapted from serious eats and my neighbor aicha

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      These merguez go great eaten with your fingers or pinched off with a chunk of  homemade Algerian bread. Or even sandwiched between a French baguette or pita with frites. 

          have you ever had merguez? If so, what did you think?   

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          1 comment:

          1. As-Salaamu Alaykum,
            Baarak Allahu Feeki I'm very impressed you make your own merguez! I have to say i'm surprised by the galangal I never thought north Africa used that spice, you learn something new everyday :)


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