Summer Sausage vs Salami: Understanding the Differences

Are you a fan of cured meats? If yes, then you’ve probably tried both summer sausage and salami. 

These two sausages are quite similar in taste, appearance, and texture, making it challenging to differentiate between the two. However, there are unique features that set them apart.

In this article, we’ll explore the differences between summer sausage and salami, so you can choose your favorite or tell them apart.


What is Summer Sausage?

Summer sausage has a fascinating history that dates back to when German settlers arrived in America and had to find ways to keep their food fresh during long trips. 

They invented summer sausage – a cured sausage that could be enjoyed even in hot summer months. 

Today, in America, any type of sausage that can be kept outside of the fridge before opening is referred to as summer sausage. It can be a dried sausage or smoked sausage, and the secret to its longevity lies in how it’s preserved during the production process.

What is Summer Sausage Made Of?

Most summer sausages include a mixture of ground pork and beef, though you can also find beef-only versions. 

Seasonings such as black pepper, garlic, salt, mustard seeds, and others are added to give the sausage its tangy, piquant flavor.

What Is Summer Sausage Served With?

Summer sausage is a versatile meat delicacy that pairs well with many foods, but wine and cheese are the most popular. Mild varieties of cheese like cheddar, Muenster, or Gouda complement the savory flavors of summer sausage. 

You can also enjoy it with mild crackers or add a few slices to your sandwich or use them as a pizza topping. When it comes to wine, Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, or Pinot Noir are excellent choices.

Summer Sausage Shelf Life: How to Store It

An important question you might ask is whether you should keep your summer sausage in the fridge or in the pantry. 

While store-bought summer sausage can generally be kept at room temperature thanks to preservatives and chemicals, some sausages might need refrigerating, so it’s best to check the label. 

If it says “Refrigerate after opening,” you shouldn’t put it in the pantry.

When you make your own homemade summer sausage, it’s best to refrigerate and seal it in an airtight container to make it last up to three weeks. 

If you want it to last even longer, consider getting a food-grade vacuum sealer. By making your own summer sausage, vacuum sealing it, and keeping it in the fridge, it can last for up to three months. 

However, unlike dried meats like salami, summer sausage retains moisture after cooking, which decreases its shelf life.

Read more: Do you need to Cook Summer Sausage?

What is Salami?

Salami is a type of cured meat that is seasoned, fermented, and then dried. The process of fermenting and drying gives salami its distinct flavor and texture. 

Salami is typically made by mixing meat, fat, cure, and seasoning together and stuffing the mixture into a special casing. The traditional seasonings include garlic, salt, and a mix of herbs, but different recipes may call for additional seasonings.

What Types of Meat are Used to Make Salami?

While pork is the traditional meat used to make salami, there is now a wide range of meat options available. Beef, turkey, and wild game are just a few examples of meats that can be used to make salami. 

When choosing meat, it’s important to consider the fat content as well since the fat helps contribute to the flavor and texture of the salami.

How is Salami Made?

The process of making salami involves mixing the meat, fat, cure, and seasoning together and stuffing the mixture into a special casing. The salami is then left to ferment and dry over time, which can range from a few days to a few years depending on the method of production. 

During fermentation, the yeast and lactic acid in the sausage increase, which gives salami its unique flavor.

What are the Different Types of Salami?

Due to its popularity worldwide, there are many different types of salami available. Some of the most popular types include:

  • Nduja: a pork sausage salami that has a spicy kick of chili.
  • Salame Napoli: made with pork loin, leg, shoulder, and specific spices.
  • Genoa: a type of salami that is seasoned with garlic and red wine.
  • Milano: similar to Genoa, but with a milder flavor.
  • Soppressata: a southern Italian salami that is seasoned with hot pepper.
  • There are also many regional variations of salami, with special types made in Italy, Germany, Spain, and France.

How Should Salami be Served?

Salami can be enjoyed in various ways, including:

  • Sliced as a snack or appetizer.
  • Topped on pizza or in pasta dishes.
  • Fried up with eggs or in a sandwich.
  • Served on a charcuterie board with cheese, crackers, and other meats.

What is the Shelf Life of Salami?

Unopened salami can be kept in the pantry for up to 6 weeks. Once opened, it should be eaten within 1 week. 

However, different types of salami may have different expiration dates, so it’s important to always check the packaging and follow the storage guidelines to prevent spoilage.

Also read: Can You Eat Salami Raw

What Makes Summer Sausage Different From Salami?

We’ll explore the key differences between summer sausage and salami, and help you understand which one is right for your next charcuterie board.

Moisture Content: The Main Differentiator

The most significant difference between summer sausage and salami lies in their moisture content. Summer sausage is a semi-dry sausage, meaning it retains more moisture than salami. 

During the production process, summer sausage typically loses around 15% of its original weight. In contrast, salami loses up to 25% of its moisture content during drying, making it a dry sausage.

Shelf Life: An Important Factor to Consider

Both summer sausage and salami are cured meats, meaning they have a longer shelf life than uncured meats. However, there are some differences in their respective shelf lives. 

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that a summer sausage should be kept in the fridge for a maximum of three months. Once opened, it should only stay in the fridge for up to three weeks. 

Salami, on the other hand, can remain on your kitchen counter for up to six weeks unopened and three weeks after opening.

Texture: Slicing Difficulty and Enjoyment

Another significant difference between summer sausage and salami is their texture. 

Due to the differences in moisture content, summer sausage has a softer texture and is easier to slice than salami. Salami, being a dry sausage, is harder to slice and has a firmer texture. 

The texture of summer sausage also means that it is a great addition to sandwiches, while salami is an excellent choice for charcuterie boards and antipasti platters.

Curing and Seasoning: Different Styles

The curing and seasoning process is also a factor that contributes to the difference between summer sausage and salami. While both are typically cured using sodium nitrite or sodium nitrate, the seasoning and curing process can differ. 

Summer sausage is often seasoned with black pepper and garlic, giving it a milder flavor. Salami, on the other hand, is usually made with a blend of spices, including paprika, garlic, and fennel, giving it a more robust, spicier flavor.


Both summer sausage and salami are delicious cured meat options, but they have significant differences. 

Summer sausage is a semi-dry sausage that has a softer texture, while salami is a dry sausage that has a firmer texture. 

Summer sausage has a milder flavor profile, while salami has a more robust, spicier taste. 

Ultimately, the choice between the two comes down to personal preference and how you plan to use them.

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