Nduja isn’t on every pizza out there, but once you do find it on a pizza you’ll notice it. It’s got that incredibly hot kick to is, and beautiful red color, and a nice meaty flavor. This is a somewhat rare ingredient you’ll only find in true Italian establishments, and it’s always amazing.
It also calls for some serious heat resistance on your part, so beware before ordering it. Alright, but what if you know about nduja and want to make something similar at home ? Or, maybe you can’t find any, don’t want it, and generally are unable to add it to your cooking.
Well, then you need an nduja substitute. There are a few options you can use, and they all hinge on why you’re substituting nduja in the first place. Let’s take a look.
The best nduja substitute is trying a different spiced salami, and possibly blending that with a bit of lard. Another option is to blend together some cured meat, lard, and chili seeds to get a similar texture, heat, and and overall look. A vegan option would be aged tofu blende with hot paprika and olive oil. And finally, you can simply chop some fresh tomatoes, mix them with hot peppers, and blend.
All of these will get you close to nduja, though they will all lack the deep, complex flavor profile of the original Italian salume. To be fair, nduja tends to be so spicy you often forget about the rest of its flavors.
Try a different spiced salami
A different spiced salami may be a good option when substituting nduja. It depends on what you’re aiming for, because some salamis may have roughly chopped meat, or they may have a dry texture, or they may need a little help to properly blend. Or maybe you want them whole.
There’s a few options to choose from such as soppressata, pepperoni, a spicy chorizo version, or calabrese. Or you can try pisto, a fermeted soft sausage or soft ventricina (similar to soft nduja).
All of these options can be used as-is, and you can bring up the heat with some chili paste. Don’t overdo it with the chili paste, a little goes a long way and you can easily go overboard with this.
Read also: Salami VS Pepperoni
Blend cured meat, lard, and chili seeds
You also have the option of MacGyvering your own nduja, if you will. We don’t mean cooking from scratch, we mean taking a look at what else you have lying around the house.
To do this, let’s take a look at the key notes in an nduja paste:
- fermented meat – most plain curd meats will do
- dark red color – dried tomatoes and/or hot paprika
- chili – either real chili, the seeds, or simply hot paprika
- spreadable – can use lard as a lubricant, or a bit of olive oil
- slight smoked flavor – could be liquid smoke
As long as you have a selection of the above ingredient types, and a good blender, you can easily make your own nduja. We cannot guarantee your blender motor will survive, then again nduja isn’t very thick nor is it chopped very finely.
So feel free to add some chopped cured meat, lard, olive oil, and some hot paprika and pulse the ingredients together. Don’t add too much at once, or the blender won’t handle it.
Try blending aged tofu, with hot paprika and olive oil
Another option is to get aged, smoked tofu, and blend that with some hot paprika and olive oil. You can tweak the flavor with a few spices, though your best option is a hint of garlic.
Fry some mushrooms with hot pepper, blend
If you’re not looking for something spreadable but still want it vegan, try frying roughly chopped mushrooms in olive oil, with some hot peppers thrown in at the last minute. These can then be added as a pizza topping or into a pasta bowl.
How did nduja originate ?
Nduja is a soft sausage from Calabria, Italy, and the very first nduja is unknown. Looking at what goes into making nduja – leftover pig meat – the reasoning was probably to not waste any part of the animal.
The fermentation of the meat was originally meant as a way to preserve the meat, but nowadays it’s meant more for flavor.
Where can I find nduja ?
You can find nduja in traditional Italian shops, focusing on importing Italian ingredients for expats. And you may also find nduja in shops specializing in cured meats from all over the world. This is a type of meat that is not very difficult to find if you live in a heavily populated area.
But if you live in a more remote area, you may have a harder time finding it and may need to order online. The ever-reliable Amazon chain can easily get you some nduja internationally, though you can also find specialized online shops that will deliver to your door.
If you’re unsure where to start, ask your local salami store owner and they will likely point you in the right direction or may be able to bring it for you.