Top 9 Best Substitutes for Mortadella

Best Substitutes for Mortadella

Have you been craving that silky, speckled mortadella for your charcuterie board but can’t find it at the store? I feel your pain, my cured meat loving friends. There have been many an occasion where I’ve gone hunting for my favorite Italian deli meat only to come up empty handed. But fear not – as any true charcuterie aficionado knows, when one meat is unavailable there are usually tasty substitutes waiting in the wings. In this article, I’ll be spilling all the secrets to the best replacement options for mortadella that will have your guests nodding in salty, savory satisfaction. From classic bologna to surprising chicken varieties, we’ll explore nine top contenders that capture the essence of mortadella. So roll up those sleeves, it’s time to get creative with your cold cuts!

Best Substitutes for Mortadella

1. Bologna

When it comes to substituting one delicious deli meat for another, you really can’t go wrong with bologna. As the old saying goes, “When life gives you no mortadella, make bologna-della instead.” Jokes aside, bologna is undoubtedly the closest cousin to mortadella flavor-wise.

Originating from Bologna, Italy, this pork sausage has a centuries-long history of satisfying meat lovers. At its best, quality bologna captures a similar richness from cured pork with a hint of spice. The key is seeking out an artisanal version rather than the heavily processed stuff found at some supermarkets.

A high-end bologna will taste remarkably similar to mortadella thanks to its balanced savory profile. It may pack a little more salty zing, but the textures are practically identical – smooth and spreadable. Bologna is also equally versatile for any occasion. It holds its own on a cheese board and brings big flavor to sandwiches, pasta dishes, or pizza.

When the mortadella is MIA, bologna is your best stand-in. Reach for the good stuff from a specialty meat counter and you won’t be able to tell the difference. So next time the mood strikes for a meaty appetizer or snack, put bologna in the starring role instead. Your guests will be none the wiser about the missing mortadella.

2. Olive Loaf

If you’re craving the chopped olive variety of mortadella, look no further than olive loaf. This overlooked cold cut holds its own with a deeper complexity thanks to the briny olive bits scattered throughout.

Whereas standard mortadella gets its speckled look from cubes of fat, olive loaf derives its texture from thinly sliced Greek or Italian olives mixed into the pork filling. The result is bursts of olive flavor in every bite that keep even the savviest snackers on their toes.

Unlike bolder cured meats, olive loaf has a fairly neutral foundation allowing the olives to really sing. It pairs beautifully with an array of cheeses without overpowering them. The added saltiness also stands up well to bold-flavored mustards and chutneys for sandwiches.

Many deli olive loaves capture the subtle olive and herb notes of mortadella without delving into artificial ingredients. Look beyond the pre-sliced packages to find artisanal varieties made with whole muscle meats.

Whether adding flair to a charcuterie board or livening up lunch leftovers, olive loaf is a convenient stand-in. The olives are sure to be a hit with any guests unsure if they prefer mortadella or prosciutto. So don’t sleep on this secretweapon charcuterie choice.

3. Leberkase

When it comes to unctuous texture, Germany’s Leberkase gives mortadella a run for its money. Literally translating to “liver sausage”, Leberkase earns its silky reputation from a mixture of minced pork, beef and pork fat.

Despite the name, most modern recipes ditch the liver in favor of enhancing moisture and tenderness. The result is a spreadable log reminiscent of mortadella sliced paper-thin. Rich bites overflow with the essence of bacon and onion in every savory mouthful.

Though its hearty flavor profile stands out more, Leberkase bridges the gap between mortadella and classic charcuterie. Regionally, it also varies with additions like caraway, nutmeg or garlic. Some versions even swap pork for wild boar or horse meat.

Heat intensifies Leberkase’s complex layers, so it truly shines pan-fried or grilled. Few things pair better than a hot Leberkase sandwich piled high. You can also crumble it atop pasta or cream it into mashed potatoes for pure decadence.

When you’re craving mortadella’s lushness but want something bolder, Leberkase satisfies without question. Best of all, it’s widely available at European markets and online. Give into its silky siren song – your taste buds won’t be disappointed.

4. Chicken Mortadella

For those seeking a lighter take on mortadella, chicken is the way to fly. While pork reigns supreme in the original, chicken mortadella offers a milder yet nuanced twist on the classic recipe.

Rather than pork fat, Chicken mortadella derives its moisture from finely ground white meat mixed with olive oil or cream. The end result has a noticeably finer, silkier texture compared to pork versions.

Flavor-wise, chicken varieties take a step back from the deep complexity of their porcine counterparts. Herbs and spices often play a supporting role to let the poultry shine through. Some brands incorporate chopped pistachios or olives for added hits of texture.

On the charcuterie board, chicken mortadella adds variety without overpowering other selections. Its subtle nature also pairs beautifully in salads like pasta or grain bowls. Chicken mortadella also keeps sandwiches lightly satisfying rather than rich.

5. Thuringer Sausage

Those wanting to kick their mortadella sub up a few notches need look no further than Thuringer. Originating from Germany’s Thuringia region, this garlicky sausage delivers robust flavor with each bite.

Thuringer earns its assertive reputation from a potent spice profile including caraway, marjoram and plenty of black pepper. Fresh minced garlic and browned onions meld throughout giving an irresistible aroma. Its herbed seasoning diverges from mortadella’s more subtle approach.

Despite prominent spices, Thuringer maintains a similar smooth consistency to mortadella thanks to pork and bacon fat. Slices remain plush and spreadable yet pack much more gusto. Their intensity pairs wonderfully with robust beers and wines.

For those nights craving spice, Thuringer satisfies without breaking a sweat. Fry it up in a pan like authentic Thüringer Rostbratwurst for maximum savoriness. It also brings its personality as a pizza topping, in sandwiches or crumbled into dishes for tang.

While bolder than standard mortadella, Thuringer’s classic recipe makes it a solid substitute. Its kick adds fun flavors when you want to spice up charcuterie or take deli meats to the next level. Thuringer’s adventurous note hits the spot.

6. Galantine

For a stately take on mortadella, continental charcuterie offers galantine. Originating in French and European royal courts, galantine boasts an elegant pedigree befitting its velvety texture and nuanced flavors.

Traditionally crafted from boned chicken or veal, galantine integrates cuts of meat with pork fatback, herbs and spices. After careful poaching and pressing, it sets to a silken density reminiscent of foie gras.

Contemporary versions break tradition by branching out with varied proteins and fillings. Though galantine keeps things sophisticated with subtle herbs like thyme or rosemary. Truffle or Madeira also appear in luxury variations.

Offering lighter protein yet lush unctuousness, galantine elevates any board or platter. Thin slices display striations of diverse flavors in each elegant morsel. It sparks imagination for dainty sandwiches or hors d’oeuvres as well as adds polish to composed salads.

For events calling for refinement, galantine brings welcome nuance replacing straightforward mortadella. Whether chicken, veal or mixed, its complex layers captivate taste buds eagerly. So enliven the next spread with some deliciously Continental flair.

7. Landjager

When a party needs a meaty pick-me-up, reach for robust Landjager. This air-dried German sausage brings a distinctive smoked persona to the table as a mortadella stand-in.

Traditionally produced without added nitrites or preservatives, Landjager derives preservative powers solely from a long curing process. Lean beef and pork undergo months of natural drying and smoking, concentrating savory umami with every bite. 

The end result shows a dense yet pliant texture with a deeply tanned exterior. Slices showcase intense smoked flavors ranging from subtly woodsy to assertively peppery depending on producer. Landjager’s character truly stands out.

Itsassertivenessmatches smoked ingredients like chips, nuts or dried fruits well on grazing boards. Landjager also brings welcome dramatic flair topping pizzas, flatbreads or tossed into hearty pastas.

When you crave something wicked alongside wine, Landjager delivers complex savoriness in spades. Just be warned – its bold charms are seriously addictive. One slice and you’ll be hooked on this continental killer of cured meats. Dig in!

8. Lebanon Bologna

Developed by Pennsylvania Dutch settlers, Lebanon bologna puts a sour kick into the charcuterie game. Hailing from Lebanon County, this garlicky bologna diverges from sweet varieties with an intoxicating tart edge.

Fermented cabbage lends Lebanon bologna its notable tang infusing each bite with lively complexity. Balanced with warm spices like cinnamon and clove, its unexpected acidity gets tongues tingling. Some versions also spike the pork mix with black peppercorns.

Despite assertive seasonings, Lebanon bologna retains a smooth-as-butter texture ready for anything. It holds its own charmed in sandwiches alongside potent mustards. But also adds vivacious notes when diced into salads, chili or casseroles.

Not your average bologna by any means, Lebanon style sings a siren song for adventure-seeking palates. Share a slice with friends seeking an eye-opening experience beyond the norm. Its uniqueness awakens taste buds craving intrigue.

So when the mood strikes for something soulfully different, don’t overlook this tangy Pennsylvania Dutch beauty. Lebanon bologna’s zesty adventure more than satisfies any mortal jonesing for mortadella’s deep intrigue.

9. Vegan Mortadella

Even herbivores can partake in the mortadella experience thanks to clever vegan versions. Using plant-based proteins like tofu, beans and vital wheat gluten, vegan mortadella mimics the signature speckled texture without animal products.

Homemade varieties blend smoked paprika, fennel seeds, nutmeg and garlic powder to capture mortadella’s subtle savory notes. Mixed with olive oil or vegetable stock, the “meat” achieves a silky spreadable structure just asking to be on sandwiches or boards.

Some crafty cooks age their loaves with beet juice or tumeric for that signature rosa hue. Others getcreative with mix-ins like chopped olives, sun-dried tomatoes or pistachios. The options run as varied as regular mortadella!

On the table, vegan mortadella’s textures and flavors truly hold their own amongst carnivorous company. No one would guess its plant-powered secret! It adds nuanced protein to salads, pastas, bruschetta and more for all diets.

So whether following a plant-based lifestyle or simply wanting to please all palates, faux mortadella comes through. With its crowd-pleasing flavors, vegan versions let everyone savor the salume experience.


What is mortadella?

Mortadella is a smooth, delicately seasoned Italian pork sausage or delicatessen meat. It originated in Bologna, Italy and is characterized by a mild flavor and distinctive marbled or “speckled” appearance from cubes of pork fat.

What makes a good substitute for mortadella?

The best substitutes mimic mortadella’s texture and subtle flavors. Good options include bologna, olive loaf, chicken mortadella, galantine or higher-end versions of thuringer or leberkase sausage. They have similar creaminess and herbal, sometimes lightly garlicky flavors.

What’s the difference between mortadella and bologna?

Mortadella traditionally contains more finely ground or emulsified pork and seasonings for a smoother texture. Bologna tends to be coarser and strongly garlicky. Higher quality artisanal bologna can be quite similar though. The flavors are pretty close – mild and delicately seasoned.

Is olive loaf really a good substitute?

Surprisingly, yes! While its flavors are simpler, olive loaf has a similar smooth, spreadable texture thanks to chopped olives mixed in. This gives it bursts of briny flavor very similar to mortadella’s signature speckles. It’s one of the closest ready-made substitutes.

How do I know if a sausage is a good mortadella substitute?

Look for sausages labeled “spreadable” or “emulsified” with fine grains. They’ll have a spreadable, homogenous texture close to mortadella. Flavors should be balanced and subtle, highlighting herbs/spices rather than aggressive flavors like garlic or smoke. Thuringer and leberkase can work if higher quality versions.

Can I make my own vegan mortadella?

Yes, with the right plant-based proteins, seasonings and cooking methods you can mimic the texture and flavors of mortadella without animal products. Look up recipes using tofu, beans, gluten or jackfruit for the base along with spices like fennel, nutmeg and smoked paprika.

Is mortadella fully cooked?

Yes, mortadella is fully cooked during production. It receives a long slow cooking process to ensure food safety. It’s then aged and does not require any additional cooking before eating.

Can mortadella be eaten raw?

While mortadella is fully cooked, for maximum food safety it’s still recommended to eat it either cold at proper refrigeration temperatures or gently heated. Eating it raw risks potential bacteria growth from handling.

How long does an opened package of mortadella last?

Properly stored in the refrigerator, an opened package of sliced mortadella will keep for 5-7 days. For longer storage up to 2 weeks, wrap individual slices tightly and place in an airtight container or resealable bag. Check for signs of mold or drying out.

Can I freeze mortadella?

Yes, mortadella can be frozen to extend its shelf life for 4-6 months. Freeze whole batches or individual slices wrapped airtight. Thaw in the fridge overnight or at room temperature before serving. Texture may soften slightly.

Is mortadella high in sodium?

Mortadella is considered moderately high in sodium, as cured/processed meats tend to be. A 1-ounce serving provides 150-250mg sodium on average. For those watching their salt intake, it’s best enjoyed occasionally or in small portions.

Does mortadella contain nitrites?

Most commercial mortadella contains sodium or potassium nitrite, which act as preservatives and allow the distinctive pink color. Artisan versions made without nitrites will have a natural grayish color but taste and texture remain similar.

Final Thoughts

While mortadella originated in Italy, its flavors and texture have inspired variations worldwide. From Lebanon bologna to Korean ham, many cultures have put their own spin on this iconic charcuterie.

When a true mortadella isn’t available, don’t be afraid to think outside the grocery store deli counter. Sausages like thuringer and leberkase can make tasty subs when selected thoughtfully. Even chicken mortadella or vegan versions expand the possibilities.

Texture-wise, bologna, olive loaf and better-quality galantines come closest to the real deal. Just be aware of sodium levels with processed meats. Homemade versions offer fresh ingredients too.

Above all, appreciate mortadella and alternatives for the nuanced flavors they bring to the table. Whether in Italy or Iowa, charcuterie brings people together and enriches our diets with variety. Next time you crave an exotic yet approachable meat, let mortadella or one of its proxies lead the way. Salute!

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