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19 January 2021

Nduja is an Italian meat spread traditionally made from pork and Calabrian peppers often served on bread, but used to flavor sauces and much more. Learn more about it.

Italian is one of the most popular and famous cuisines across the globe. No matter where you live, you can easily find Italian classics like pizza and pasta anywhere.

But there are a lot of hidden gems in this genre of cooking that go unnoticed in favor of the more popular stuff. One of these is Nduja, slowly rising to mainstream taste buds.

What is Nduja?

Nduja is a traditional meat and pepper spread that originated in Spilinga, a small town in the southern region of Calabria. It is very similar to a Spanish spread called sobrasada from the Balearic Islands, like a spicy spreadable salami. Sobrassada is a kind of a dry cured sausage.

It is traditionally eaten with bread slices and cheese but its unique taste makes it an exciting addition to many different kinds of dishes and cuisines.

Nduja has worked its way into part of the mainstream only recently, between 2015 to 2016 where it was actively featured in many high quality dishes across the United States and the United Kingdom.

If you have ever come across Nduja, you will certainly remember its special taste that keeps you coming back for more. Lucky for us, its popularity has made it is easier to acquire than ever before.

Nduja on a spreading knife, ready to serve

How is Nduja Made?

Nduja is made from pork. In particular, it uses the meat from the head, fatback, as well as some clean skin and meat trimmings. This meat is combined with red peppers that are roasted and ground up to provide a kick of spice and heat.

The peppers used in this case are special Calabrian chiles that have a very unique, peppery, and fiery hot flavor. Add to that a combination of aromatic herbs and earthy spices and you have yourself a deliciously one of a kind spread that goes well with almost anything.

Nduja was born out of poverty and necessity when butchers would grind up the remaining parts of their pork with herbs and spices and then cure them in sausage cases to create a delicious spread that turned into something of a delicacy.

The fermentation process is what gives the Nduja its sour and acidic taste. The paste is allowed to age so the flavor becomes deeper and more complex. Since the fat content of the paste is so high, the spread remains extremely soft and spreadable even after months of aging.

What Does Nduja Taste Like?

Nduja has a very meaty taste as it is primarily a pork product. The delicious porky taste is accompanied by the aromatics of the various herbs and spices that add so much depth and complexity to its flavor. It is a wonderful combination of spice, salt, and umami, with dominating earthy and neutral tones that go extremely well with carbs like bread and pasta.

The texture of the spread is almost like butter since it is a very soft salume that is perfectly spreadable and easy to incorporate during the cooking process. You can either add a little bit of it to your cooking for just a kick of heat, or you can go all out and serve a dollop of Nduja on top of some delicious bread.

How Spicy is Nduja?

When it comes to the heat level, Nduja can be quite spicy. On the Scoville heat scale, Nduja can go as high as 27k Scoville heat units.

What to Use Nduja for?

Nduja is classically eaten spread across bread or on crackers. But, the applications of Nduja go well beyond just being used as a spread. It can be used on top of pizza, added to pasta sauces to amp up the spice level, and you can even eat it with seafood like shellfish.

You can also incorporate it during the cooking process as the heat really brings out the salty and umami flavors. Nduja is a great way to add a kick of heat while adding a gorgeous, herb-filled aroma.

You can add a little bit of Nduja to almost anything you cook. The soft texture of the spread means it dissolves easily and only adds to the creaminess of the dish. Add it to curries, stews, broths, and vegetable dishes. You can also use it to accentuate other condiments, like mixing it in with some mayonnaise for a spicy dip or adding it to some tomato sauce for your pasta.

Nduja on a plate

Can you Eat Nduja Raw?

Definitely. In fact, that is the simplest and maybe even the best way to eat it. All you need to do is grab some crusty bread and lather it with the bright red spread. Have it for breakfast or as a delicious evening time or brunch snack.

Where to Buy Nduja?

Nduja used to be an obscure Italian sausage specialty, but in the past several years, it has been making its way into the mainstream cooking scene. You will see it frequently featured on various items across restaurants and you may even be able to find some at your local supermarket.

You will definitely find some in an Italian food market and online.

When looking for good Nduja to purchase, look for the authentic stuff. Ideally, you will want to purchase a version that only lists a few critical ingredients and as little chemicals and preservatives as possible. All you really need to make Nduja is salt, pork meat, and Calabrian chilies for the spice.