The Ultimate Ranking Of Breakfast Sausage

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A full breakfast is hardly complete without a side of meat, and sausage is one of the superstars of breakfast meats. Whether they come in links or patties, breakfast sausages can be made in a myriad of varieties, from pork to chicken to turkey to vegan alternatives. What makes a sausage great has as much to do with flavor as it does with texture. A great sausage typically has a good snap to it, isn't gristly, and has a delicate spice profile accentuating the meat.

According to Fabi and Rossi, sausage making dates back 5,000 years to ancient Sumeria, while the first breakfast sausage is attributed to 14th-century German butchers, who would season ground meat with a variety of spices and then wrap it in intestinal casings. American breakfast sausage production was the brainchild of German immigrant Thomas E. Deutsch, whose original recipe combined pork, beef, salt, pepper, and sage. This dry-cured delight became so popular that it made its way into butcher shops throughout the U.S. after its introduction in the 19th century.

The average breakfast sausage differs from regular sausages — like brats and kielbasa — in a couple of ways. Typically, breakfast sausages are lower in fat thanks to the use of leaner meats. They're also more finely ground and seasoned with a mixture of spices including some combination of sage, thyme, brown sugar, nutmeg, cayenne, paprika, salt, and pepper. Breakfast sausages are best cooked boiled and then pan-fried or baked in the oven. Below are our top 10 breakfast sausages, ranked from least to most favorite. We have included a diverse selection to accommodate the tastes and needs of a wide cross section of consumers.

10. Banquet Brown 'N Serve Original Sausage Links

Banquet Brown 'N Serve Original Sausage Links are fully cooked sausages made of a combination of pork and turkey. They are quick and easy to reheat for breakfast in a pinch and have a mild flavor. While there is nothing gourmet about these sausages, reviewers note that you can't beat them for the price. 

Our biggest complaint is that the 6.4-ounce package comes with only 10 sausages, which is 3.5 servings. If you are serving a party of four, you need two packages or you have to short two people a sausage. That being said, leftover links can easily be frozen in a freezer bag. We do recommend thawing them before cooking so that they don't develop a rubbery texture. These links also include soy protein to improve flavor and texture, which can be of concern for those with soy allergies. But overall, they are a great cost-effective option on a busy morning.

9. Great Value Original Premium Sausage Links

We aren't going to lie — buying Great Value Original Premium Sausage Links wasn't our intention. Typically we do not like store-brand products, as many are inferior in quality to their brand-name alternatives. However, at one point recently, our local Walmart didn't have any breakfast meats of any kind except their Great Value brand. Since we didn't have another grocery store option in a pinch, we decided to give these a try. Frankly, we were pleasantly surprised. The flavor and texture were perfectly serviceable, and our guests quite enjoyed them. 

Our only concern is that these Great Value sausages contain monosodium glutamate, a common preservative added to foods to extend shelf life. MSG, as it is commonly known, has been linked to several long-term health issues. However, in small quantities once in a blue moon, these sausages are a great option at an affordable price. We suggest pan-frying them until they are lightly browned on the exterior for maximum flavor and texture.

8. Swaggerty's Farm Breakfast Sausages

Swaggerty's Farm is a family-owned company that has been making its pork sausages using the same recipe originally created by Lonas Swaggerty, grandfather to the current owners, since 1930. While their operation has expanded, the third generation of Swaggertys still prides itself on manufacturing a 100% pork sausage that is gluten-free and doesn't contain any artificial flavorings. Its flavors come in mild and hot, patties and links, and are packaged in containers ranging from eight to 42 servings per container.

If you are serving a big family or want to buy in bulk, the larger packages are a great value. We do recommend repackaging them once purchased in freezer bags with smaller portion sizes that can be frozen for later use, as the wax paper they come in can get soggy and make them retain water when they cook, adversely affecting texture. Again, we don't suggest cooking them straight from the freezer, but rather prefer thawing them first in the refrigerator overnight. Die-hard fans swear by their quality and flavor and have grown fond of following the company on social media, where it provides recipes and testimonials for its products. As for us, it's all about the taste, and these sausages deliver on that promise.

7. Jones Dairy Farm All-Natural Turkey Sausage

As far as turkey sausages go, many leave a lot to be desired compared with their porcine cousins. However, we recognize that a high-quality turkey sausage is a necessity for those with certain dietary or religious requirements, so we wanted to find one that would not only be flavorful but also had a decent texture. The Jones Dairy Farm brand was exactly what we were searching for. These sausages are fully cooked and reheat in just a few minutes, so they are quick and easy to make.

But what makes them stand out for us is Jones Dairy Farm's mission. The company is a seventh-generation organization based out of Fort Atkinson, Wisconsin, specializing in sustainably sourced products concerned with animal welfare. All of its products are certified gluten-free and carefully manufactured in facilities that avoid what are known as the "Big 9" food allergens. Its sausages are also nitrite- and nitrate-free and contain no MSG and no preservatives. Since we often host individuals with various dietary restrictions related to food allergies, having a safe alternative for them is really important to us.

6. Beyond Meat Breakfast Sausage Plant-Based Patties

Finding a decent quality vegan sausage is a challenge. Many are grainy, heavy, have a distinctly vegetable-forward flavor, and are unconvincing as a substitution for real sausage. That being said, the Beyond Meat brand of breakfast sausages are definitely a superior vegan option. As with many of its products, while you can tell they aren't meat, they do have a meaty texture and a flavor that isn't overwhelmingly "healthy" tasting. Additionally, its sausages are kosher, gluten-free, soy-free, and non-GMO, which makes them unusual in the plant-based arena. Many plant-based proteins utilize wheat gluten for texture and are therefore not suitable for those with gluten intolerances, per Healthline. Keep in mind, though, that the primary base of Beyond Meat's sausages is made up of pea protein, which is a legume and therefore not recommended for those with peanut allergies.

Fear not, however, there is no pea flavor to be found. In fact, many of the thousands of five-star reviews of these sausages on Amazon specifically note that they couldn't tell the difference between these and a real pork sausage. High praise indeed. Our one note of caution with these is that they are intended to be cooked from a frozen state, which means they can easily be overcooked and become dried out. The instructions on the packaging recommend either pan-frying or baking the patties. We found that they took slightly less time to cook through than the packaging suggested, so monitor them closely.

5. Applegate Organics Chicken & Apple Breakfast Sausage

For a premium brand sausage link with a twist, one of our favorites is the Chicken & Apple Breakfast Sausage from Applegate Organics. These sausages are gluten-free, dairy-free, casein-free, sugar-free, certified non-GMO, and skinless. What they aren't free of is flavor. In fact, we quite enjoy their slight hint of sweetness paired with less savory breakfast options, like pancakes, French toast, or waffles. Because they are skinless, they won't have the snap that is typical of breakfast sausages in casings, but don't let that deter you. If cooked properly, they get a nice brown crust with a juicy interior. According to the packaging directions, they can be cooked from a frozen state either in a pan or in the microwave. However, we recommend against using the microwave, as all microwaves have very different heat levels and you can easily overcook these sausages. Additionally, you won't get that nice brown crust if you microwave them.

One word of caution: Because these are a preservative-free sausage, they have a very short shelf life. If you aren't planning to eat them right away, freeze them immediately. Otherwise, they will develop a slimy coating on the exterior indicating they have spoiled. Several reviewers on Amazon noted this, which is unfortunate because they are a bit more expensive than other sausage brands. We still think they are well worth the investment, though.

4. Smithfield Hometown Original Sausage Links

Smithfield is one of the more well-known breakfast sausage manufacturers. Their Hometown Original Breakfast Sausage Links are consistent, have good snap and mild flavor, and are reasonably affordable. There are no bells or whistles, which is sometimes exactly what is called for. These are the types of sausage that you could boil first and then finish off in a skillet to brown them. By doing this you maintain a nice, moist interior, which will help accentuate the exterior snap of the casing.

As a side note, Smithfield's Maple Links are also very tasty. They have a strong maple flavor that is a perfect compliment to pancakes or French toast. Be very cautious with cooking these, however, as the maple browns very rapidly and can burn before the center is thoroughly cooked through. We recommend cooking them on a low temperature in a skillet. Start by covering them with a lid to steam them for a couple of minutes before finishing them off uncovered to brown them.

3. Boar's Head Traditional All Natural Breakfast Chicken Sausage

As chicken sausages go, Boar's Head excels in the medium. Its line of chicken options has seven different choices, ranging from Honeycrisp Apple to Chorizo to the ever popular breakfast links. Since we are focusing on breakfast sausages here, that's the product we will review. But, we do want to point out that many of the larger chicken sausage flavors would be a brilliant addition to a traditional English breakfast fry-up, which tends to include more robust, meaty sausages. 

As for its breakfast links, they are all-natural, antibiotic-free, gluten-free, contain no MSG, and have no artificial colorings. Their flavor is slightly more aggressively spiced compared with other breakfast sausages, containing strong hints of sage, garlic, and red pepper. We love that — particularly when paired with an elegant egg dish like a frittata or quiche. Again, since these are fully cooked, you do not want to overcook them or they will dry out. Pan-frying is probably the best way to heat these through and brown the exterior for a nice texture.

2. Johnsonville Original Recipe Breakfast Sausage Links

The slogan says it all: "You can't spell sausage without U.S.A." Johnsonville is the best-selling brand of sausage in the U.S. and can be found in grocery stores in nearly 50 countries. The company's legacy is one of tradition and values dating back to 1945, when Ralph F. Stayer and his wife Alice opened a butcher shop in Johnsonville, Wisconsin. The original recipe focused on using the best cuts of meat, which were then spiced to perfection and carefully ground into a more homogenous texture.

Still family-owned, the company's commitment to quality and integrity shows in the enduring popularity of its products. Its sausages are intended to be cooked fresh, not frozen, although you can freeze them if you don't plan on using them immediately. We'd like to give an honorable mention to the Bold & Spicy Smoked and the Sweet & Smoky Smoked sausage varietals, which are highly complimentary with recipes using aggressive flavors, like huevos rancheros or shakshuka. Whichever flavor you choose, you won't be disappointed with the Johnsonville brand.

1. Jimmy Dean All Natural Pork Sausage Links

Country singer, actor, television host, and sausage connoisseur — Jimmy Dean the man is almost as famous as his sausage recipe has become. Born on a farm in Plainview, Texas, Jimmy's philosophy was inspired by his humble upbringing. He was frequently overheard stating that "Sausage is a great deal like life. You get out of it what you put into it." He's not wrong. Almost all of the best dishes that come out of our kitchen begin with premium-quality ingredients, and that's what Jimmy Dean's all-natural sausage links offer.

There's nothing fancy or fussy about these sausages. They have a mild flavor, nice texture, and are almost foolproof to cook. The package directions recommend braising the sausages on the stove top in about ¼ cup of water. This technique tenderizes the interior while enabling the exterior to brown nicely. There's a bit of nostalgia that comes with eating a Jimmy Dean sausage. Many of us grew up seeing the Jimmy Dean sausage commercials on television and associating it with the perfect breakfast. That's why it landed in our top spot. Flavor, consistency, and affordability make this a sausage that fulfills the needs of almost everyone.