Guide to Bologna

Guide to Bologna

From the National Hot Dog and Sausage Council

The Facts About Bologna

Take our Bologna Quiz to Test Your Expertise

What is bologna?

Bologna fits into the USDA definition of cured, cooked sausages which also includes hot dogs, cooked bratwursts and knockwurst, made from different kinds of chopped or ground meats which have been seasoned, cooked and/or smoked.

Contrary to the saying “the two things you never want to see being made are laws and sausages,” the process of making bologna is quite simple. Much like hot dogs, bologna is commonly made of beef, pork, turkey or chicken that is finely ground and stuffed into a casing for cooking which is often later removed. The bologna is cooked or smoked and then either packaged whole or sliced. During the mixing process water or ice, or both, may be used to facilitate chopping or mixing or to dissolve curing ingredients. The finished products may not contain more than 30% fat or no more than 10% water, or a combination of 40% fat and added water.

Where did bologna originate?

Bologna, Italy of course! However its American origins are primarily associated with German immigrants.

Is there a difference between American and Italian bolognas?

Bologna originated as a variation of mortadella. The two include similar ingredients, though mortadella has large, visible chunks (i.e. cubes) of pork fat and often seasoned with red pepper and pistachios, among other spices. U.S. Government regulations require American bologna to be finely ground and without the visible pieces of fat. Like bologna, mortadella is most commonly a cooked sausage, but unlike American bologna, it can also be made as a dry or semi dry sausage.

What are other common types of bologna?

Bologna is a unique deli meat in that there are different varieties that have developed in local communities around the country. Examples include:

  • Beef Bologna: Beef bologna is nearly identical to standard American bologna, but is 100% from beef.
  • Ring Bologna: Ring bologna taste the same as American bologna, but is smaller in diameter and sold as a semi-circle or a ring. In can be prepared for consumption in a number of ways including: heating as an entire ring in a covered sauce pan with a small amount of water, split lengthwise and fried, or sliced and added to pasta or other dishes. It is also commonly sliced and served cold for snacking and served on crackers.

  • Lebanon Bologna: While called bologna, Lebanon Bologna looks and tastes more like salami.  It is a type of curedsmoked, and fermented semi-dry sausage. Made of beef and heavily smoked, it is known for its tangy and smoky flavor.


Does bologna include organ or variety meats?

Most bolognas do not contain organ or variety meats, but some ring bolognas in parts of Pennsylvania in particular might be made with hearts or livers. These are enjoyed as local favorites with recipes that have been passed down through generations. When organ meats are used, they are clearly listed in the ingredients on the package.

What other regional bologna styles and recipes are there?

Bologna remains a popular treat in the Midwest and may be served in a variety of ways. Companies like Usingers in Milwaukee offer German style beef bolognas with garlic as a primary seasoning with recipes brought over from ancestors. These can be found pre-sliced or whole.

Different varieties of ring bolognas are common as well, great for slicing and eating with crackers.

Koegels in Michigan offers a pickled ring bologna among many other bologna products. The pickled bologna is a ring bologna packed in vinegar.

Fried bologna sandwiches are a popular bar and diner food featuring thick sliced bologna griddled to make the edges crispy and topped with Monterey jack cheese and pickles.

A Fried Bologna Sandwich at Au Cheval in Chicago

For many in Appalachia, bologna was a breakfast meat of choice

In Baltimore, the bologna goes on a hot dog. The Baltimore style hot dog served in classic delis around the city features a bologna wrapped dog.

A Bologna Wrapped Baltimore Dog

And in Memphis and Oklahoma, it remains a BBQ staple. Restaurants smoke their bologna in house, grill up thick slices and serve them on white bread or a bun and slather it with BBQ sauce.

In Cleveland, chef Michael Symon features a bologna burger at his popular B Spot restaurant. Bologna can also be used as a topping for traditional burgers there.

How much bologna do Americans eat?

Over the past year Americans have purchased 236.4 million pounds of bologna at retail stores (grocery, Walmart). That’s $530.6 million worth of bologna.

Great Bologna Recipes

Want to celebrate bologna in style? Check out these great recipes to beef up your bologna

Emeril's Favorite Brown Sugar-Crusted Baked Bologna - Food Network

The Southern Gentleman's Pan-Fried Bologna Sliders - Southern Living

Fried Bologna Breakfast Quesadilla - Stockpiling Moms

Grandma’s Pittsburgh Fried Bologna Sandwich - The Kitchen Whisperer

French Poodles - Food 52

Fried Bologna Sandwich - Sam the Cooking Guy

Bologna Burger - Genius Kitchen

“Fried” Bologna Sandwich Recipe - Lemons for Lulu

Bologna Squiggles Sandwich - Kraft

Easy Pickle in the Middle Bologna Wrap Appetizers - Genius Kitchen

Bologna Casserole - Southern Farm and Kitchen

Grown Up Bologna Sandwich - Dixie Chik Cooks

Pickled Bologna - RB and Mindy

Bologna Salad - These Old Cookbooks

Fried Bologna Sandwich - Snack Fixation

Fried Bologna Sandwich - Okie Dokie Artichokie

More Fun Options - Wide Open Eats