Goetta: Cincinnati's Unique Breakfast Sausage Blend

When it comes to choosing breakfast meat, you're likely firmly on the side of pairing your pancakes with either classic bacon strips or fatty sausage links. However, for many Americans, their breakfast meats have been influenced by their regional locations, where they didn't grow up on bacon and eggs alone. 

If you're from the Mid-Atlantic region, you'll likely have your fair share of scrapple tossed onto your breakfast plates. Next door, those native to Massachussets often opt for a tasty Portuguese variety of sausage, linguiça, instead. And in the South, Alabamians chow down on their Conecuh County's own Conecuh sausage.

However, for many Ohioans and those from Kentucky, their go-to breakfast meat looks slightly different. Goetta, a dish created by German immigrants, usually comes in the form of thick pan-fried patties made from pork or beef. These loose sausages also feature oats, onions, and plenty of seasonings, creating a sweet and spicy flavor. This crumbly sausage is popular across the state, but its roots lie in Ohio's third-largest city, Cincinnati.

History of goetta

Goetta's humble roots began in today's touristy Over-the-Rhine neighborhood in Cincinnati. In the 19th century, this working-class neighborhood was built when an influx of German immigrants settled in the area. Many of these immigrants had little money, and when it came to purchasing food, scraps from nearby butchers were often more obtainable than more expensive cuts of meat. Buying the scraps and making tons of sausage was an easy way to feed many people for cheap. 

Sausages, such as variations of blood sausage or the aptly named scrapple, have often been a way for leftover scraps and cheap fillings to be used up and eaten. When it comes to goetta, many German immigrants remembered their country's blood sausages, such as gruetzwurst. This was made similarly with pork, grains, onion, and spicesand whipped up a similar low-cost meal in their new homes.

Today, however, goetta is enjoyed across the state of Ohio as a tasty side at breakfast, slid into hamburger buns, and eaten fried on its own. However, some of the traditional ingredients have been replaced with time. 

Ingredients in goetta

While the German sausage gruetzwurst is made with barley or buckwheat, goetta's main ingredient is rolled oats. These oats were a substitute for the gruetzwurst's inclusion of barley or buckwheat, as oats were more accessible to source in Ohio. The oats absorb all the flavors included in this dish and give the sausage its unique crumbly texture. The oats, along with flavorful chopped onions, are blended with the ground meat.

As goetta has evolved, the main ingredients of leftover meat scraps were replaced with either ground beef or ground pork, sometimes both. However, the one-of-a-kind flavor is still very present thanks to the great lineup of spices included in this sausage. When it comes to seasoning, plenty of spices get tossed into a traditional blend. Ginger, coriander, white pepper, cloves, and garlic are common seasonings in goetta. Mace, similar to nutmeg, and marjoram, an herb similar to oregano, are also included.

However, it is worth noting that many families, restaurants, and butchers prepare their unique versions of goetta, all slightly different. Regardless, purchasing goetta from most places will not likely let you down, and it's quick and easy to fry up yourself at home.

How goetta is made and eaten

If you're sourcing your goetta pre-made from the store or a local butcher, it's very simple to learn to cook with. Frying thick slices in a hot skillet is the perfect way to enjoy this breakfast sausage. In bubbling oil, a slice should cook for less than 5 minutes before it turns perfectly golden and crispy. Since this is a loose sausage, it shouldn't be touched too much as it fries, as this could lead to broken pieces. However, you will need to flip the goetta over to cook both sides. The final product will have a brown crust that, once broken into with a fork, reveals a warm and soft inside.

If you're keen on traveling just to try this beloved regional meat, then it's worth stopping at Glier's Goettafest. This foodie event is held in August near Newport, Kentucky, and you can try all kinds of traditional and unique goetta dishes, from sandwiches to chili. However, if you're not planning on attending this festival anytime soon, butcher shops or regional grocery shops in Ohio or Kentucky will carry the sausage. Cincy Favorites also ships to many U.S. locations if you live outside of those two areas.