While lamb merguez sausage is small in size, its influence is felt worldwide. Spicy merguez comes from North Africa but is very popular elsewhere for backyard grilling, Bastille Day fêtes, and everyday eating. Read on for more about this tasty lamb sausage, including how to eat it.
Because of the Islamic prohibition on eating pork, the sausage selection is a little light in the Arabic-speaking world. But when the French colonized North Africa, they took to this little sausage in a big way and incorporated merguez into their cuisine. The contribution of lamb merguez sausage to culinary history is a significant, and much appreciated one. Today, merguez is popular throughout the Middle East, northern Europe, and we hope in your home.
How Lamb Merguez is Made
At D’Artagnan we make our merguez sausage with ground lamb shoulder that is spiced, mixed with a little fat, and stuffed into sheep casings. This forms a small sausage, about 4 inches long and less than an inch in diameter. Our version of lamb merguez is fresh, though there are sun-dried versions in North Africa.
The Flavor of Harissa
While there are several types of merguez in Tunisia and Morocco, the common denominator is harissa. Harissa is what gives lamb merguez its characteristic red color, and a dose of heat.
Harissa is a Tunisian chili sauce, made differently from family to family, but always containing a cocktail of potent hot peppers. Harissa can be made of Serrano peppers, bird’s eye chili peppers, garlic paste, coriander, caraway, red peppers, lemon juice, cumin, sumac, fennel, and can sometimes have a smoky flavor. Harissa is a standard ingredient in North African cooking, and prepared harissa is readily available online, and in specialty or Middle Eastern stores in the United States.
Merguez is sometimes made with beef or veal, but the most prevalent type is made from lamb, which makes sense when you consider that the sheep population is many times the cattle population in North Africa.
Cook Like the French
Merguez sausage has become a popular street food in France, where it is served much like hot dogs are in the U.S. But the French put a signature twist on the merguez sandwich. They serve grilled merguez on a fresh baguette smeared with a healthy dose of Dijon mustard or mayonnaise, and then right on top, a serving of French fries. The combination of spicy sausage and salty fries makes for an exciting – if carb-heavy – sandwich.
7 Ways to Eat Merguez Sausage
- Combine cooked merguez with just about any cooked pasta, and toss in fresh herbs like mint, parsley or basil, and chopped tomatoes from the garden. Dress lightly in olive oil and lemon and add crumbled feta.
- Make a grain bowl. Couscous is a traditional grain of North Africa and pairs well with merguez, but you can try rice, freekeh, wheat berries, farro or quinoa.
- Merguez hot off the grill can be chopped and put on top of a cold lentil salad, or mixed into a warm dish of lentils.
- A yogurt herb sauce full of chopped mint, parsley, basil, or cilantro is a natural pairing and tames the spiciness of merguez. Mint pesto would also work well in any merguez dish.
- Bitter greens like collards, swiss chard, dandelion play supporting roles to the rich lamby taste of merguez.
- Try brunch favorite shakshuka – a traditional poached egg dish of the Maghreb – with merguez.
- Top a salad of arugula with chopped merguez, feta cheese, tomatoes, and a yogurt dressing.
Are you a fan of lamb merguez? What is your favorite way to eat this sausage?
Stock up on lamb merguez at dartagnan.com.
Since 1985, D’Artagnan has been at the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, producing superior tasting products by partnering with small ranches and farms. We are committed to free-range, natural production, sustainable and humane farming practices and no use of antibiotics or hormones. That’s why D’Artagnan products have been revered by America’s most renowned chefs for over 30 years. We offer the same high-quality products to home cooks at dartagnan.com, along with recipes and guides to help you live the tasty life.
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