how to turn pork breakfast sausage into italian sausage for recipes


One of the things that takes some getting use to about living in the country is the concept that “I’m just gonna run out and grab this thing I need” is insanely impractical. We’re a good 40 minutes to the closest supermarket, and while we have a small mom and pop grocery store about 10 minutes away, it certainly isn’t open all the time and has a very small selection.

Because of this, I’ve gotten really good at making substitutions. It’s not ever ideal, but it does the job and saves us the gas money (and time) of a trip “into the city”.

My newest substitution achievement is turning pork breakfast sausage into pork Italian sausage.

pork sausage

For some reason, our CSA keeps us in near-constant supply of delicious, flavorful, local pork breakfast sausage. Our freezer is stocked. So when I went digging in our deep freeze the other day for some Italian sausage, and all I was met with was pounds and pounds of breakfast sausage, I knew it was time for some substitution magic.

In an ideal world, we’d use the highest quality Italian sausage from the most incredible little Italian shop you could find. But this isn’t ideal. This is the country, where we do insane things like chase off coyotes and turn breakfast sausage into Italian sausage.

italian sausage

Because breakfast sausage is loaded with all kind of its own flavorings (most of which we don’t want in the final product) it takes some herb and spice subterfuge to cover those up and bring out that nice, spicy, fennel-y Italian sausage flavor. So open up your spice drawer kids, we’ve got some work to do.

breakfast sausage spices

The mixture is easy, in a bowl, combine:

  • 1 pound breakfast sausage
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds (this is absolutely imperative, fennel seeds are what *make* Italian sausage)
  • 1 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried parsley
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes (more if you like it hot)

Use your hands and get it really well-mixed and get all the spices distributed. Go on, get dirty. Once all the spices are mixed it, it’s ready to be used just like you would a store-bought pound of Italian sausage. I used mine in a tomato sauce over fresh pasta. Yum!


What’s your favorite kitchen substitution?


  1. says

    Thank you so much for posting this! I was JUST looking at all the pork sausage we still have sitting in our freezer from our CSA, thinking “What am I going to do with all that?!?” I did use a package mixed with ground beef to make really good meatballs a few weeks ago–its nice to have another option though!

  2. says

    I wish we could buy sausage like you do, over here sausages come ready made and if you want sausagemeat (which is what we’d call it) you have to remove the skins. I don’t really sub stuff for other stuff but that’s cause I live in a city where shops are open until 11pm!

  3. Athena R says

    You can also do this by using plain ground turkey, pork or chicken too. It’s great. I love to substitute 1 cup of milk mixed with 1 Tbsp of white vinegar or lemon juice (let sit for 5 minutes) when a recipe calls for buttermilk and I don’t have any.

  4. Betsy says

    Love Love this recipe! Just made it tonight and it was better than we expected! We have too much breakfast sausage and are sooooooo impressed with this transformation! So happy we tried it and have saved it for future use!!!!!!

  5. says

    Trying this tonight….we have plenty of breakfast sausage and no Italian sausage. It’s a rainy fall day, perfect for soup and I don’t want to go out to the store. That just defeats the purpose of having soup and staying in!

  6. Rachelle says

    Thank you! Thank you! I’ve been freaking because I live in rural Alaska and my friend bought breakfast sausage when she went to Anchorage for Thanksgiving shopping instead of italian sausage- the essential ingredient in my dressing! You’re my savior!!!

  7. Wendy says

    I cannot believe how good this was!! Far better than Italian sausage (I’ve never been big on anything but breakfast sausage). I made sausage pizza tonight and used about a third pound of breakfast sausage and adjusted the ingredients (which I actually had on hand! Amazing since I detest fennel normally.) I browned the sausage while stretching the dough into the pan and then topped with sauce, sausage and cheese (I’m a toppings under the cheese kind of gal.) It was FABULOUS and I even just ate the last piece (1/3 lb was too much for one pizza) of sausage all by itself and loved it. Holy geez – you’re a genius!

  8. says

    I had a pound of regular pork sausage in my freezer and wanted to make upside-down pizza, so I searched for a recipe to turn what I had into what I wanted and ended up here. It was delicious!

  9. Joy says

    This mix was absolutely perfect! I had turkey breakfast sausage needing to be turned into “Italian” sausage and this did the trick and then some. Thank you!

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