Oktoberfest may have been canceled this year, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the food at home! Try my chicken bratwurst recipe when you want a lighter version of beer brats. This homemade sausage uses a mix of ground chicken and ground pork. After simmering in a buttery beer bath, the brats are slathered with mustard and topped with sauerkraut and caramelized onions. They're perfect!
I thought I was done sharing meat grinder recipes for now. Then I realized that I hadn't made bratwurst sausages yet!
Bratwurst is a type of German sausage that is usually made with pork. However, veal and other meats may also be used. Today, I'm adding ground chicken thighs to the ground pork shoulder to reduce the calories without sacrificing flavor.
This recipe is coming at a very seasonally appropriate time. The last day of the German Oktoberfest celebration is always October 3 or the first Sunday in October (whichever is later). If the celebration had not been canceled due to the pandemic, yesterday would have been the final day of Oktoberfest in 2020.
If you're down about missing out on the festivities this year, consider this recipe for chicken bratwurst my gift to you. We may not be able to travel the world right now, but at least we can still enjoy delicious foods at home.
I love it when the weather begins to cool down, and I start making some of my favorite seasonal comfort foods. Apples, pumpkins, and cinnamon are all super, but these beer brats definitely sing autumn to me too.
Benefits of Making Chicken Bratwurst
Hey, we're not going to the trouble of making homemade brats for no reason! Check out all of the benefits below of making your own chicken brats below.
Can be tailored to be a heart-healthier option
Store-bought sausages are typically quite high in sodium and saturated fat. It is very easy to cut back on the salt and fat when you make your own sausages. You can even make this a 100% chicken bratwurst instead of a chicken and pork mix (more on this below).
Lower calorie than classic pork bratwurst
I (fairly drastically!) modified a bratwurst recipe over at Food52 to make these chicken bratwurst a much lighter option. For one, I removed all the pork fatback and beef from the recipe and replaced it with chicken. Save your fatback pork and learn How to Make Lard; you won't be needing it here.
Second, I cut way (wayyyyy) back on the amount of butter used in the beer and butter bath that the brats get cooked in. Their recipe uses an entire cup of butter. That's a whole lot of butter!
Even though you don't consume the beer-butter simmering mixture, I figure that using less means less may end up on the sausage. Additionally, most of the beer-butter bath ends up getting discarded after cooking. It just makes sense to use smaller amounts of the beer and the butter to prevent some food waste.
Seasoned to your specifications
I noticed that some bratwurst recipes use a lot of red pepper flakes to kick up the heat. I have a family member who is not very fond of spicy foods, so I omitted the red pepper. You can adjust the seasonings in these chicken brats to fit your preferences and those of your family.
Mouthwatering, delicious, juicy sausage
After going for a dip in the beer bath, you won't believe that these are chicken sausage. They are incredibly juicy and delicious, the perfect brats for loading up with your favorite toppings.
Chicken Bratwurst Ingredients
So, what do you need to make your own chicken brats? Let's take a peek at the roundup:
- Chicken thighs
- Pork butt or pork shoulder
- Dried marjoram
- Caraway seeds
- Black pepper
- Garlic cloves
- Onion powder
- Hog casings
That's all you need to make the basic raw sausage links. But to cook the bratwurst sausage, you'll need to gather the following ingredients:
- Olive oil
- Beer (any cheap beer is fine)
- More fresh garlic
Brats are often served with beer and fries. If you want to make this a healthier meal, you could add whole grain hot dog rolls and non-starchy veggies instead.
I added cucumber slices, jicama sticks, and carrot sticks, simply because I had them on hand. A large side salad with leafy greens and tomatoes would be a nice alternative.
Finally, you'll need the following equipment for making homemade chicken brats:
- Meat grinder with a sausage attachment: I use Cabela's Pro Series DC Grinder, and I've been delighted with it.
- Cast iron skillet: This is used to brown and braise your sausage links.
Once you've gathered everything, we're ready to get started!
How to Make Chicken Bratwurst
Before we begin, set up your meat grinder and gather your ingredients. You need to keep the pork and chicken at 38-40 degrees Fahrenheit for easier cutting and grinding. It's better when you have everything ready.
Cut the chicken and pork into 1" cubes (or smaller). Place them in a large bowl. Stir in the salt, marjoram, black pepper, caraway seeds, garlic, allspice, and onion powder.
Put your chicken bratwurst mixture through the meat grinder using a coarse grind. Now send the ground mixture through the meat grinder again, still using the coarse grind plate. This will result in getting just the right texture.
You may be wondering why we're coarse grinding the meat twice instead of using the fine grind plate. The reason for this is that the fine grind plate will make the bratwurst mix too pasty.
I only finely grind sausages when I want them to have a texture like the inside of a hot dog. (That is to say, I pretty much never use the fine grind plate.)
Next, put your twice-ground brat mix in the fridge, and set up your meat grinder for stuffing sausage links. I used the largest stuffing funnel for my hog casings.
Prepare your sausage casings according to the directions on the casings packaging. Mine had to be soaked in water for 15 minutes and cut into 2-foot lengths. Then I had to run cool water through the insides of the casings to clean them thoroughly.
Stuffing Chicken Bratwurst Links
First, tie a secure knot at the end of the casing you will be using. Then, slide the casing over the end of the stuffing funnel of your meat grinder. I get the casings to fit by gathering them like I would pantyhose I was about to put my toes into, then sliding the open end of the casing over the funnel.
Second, start sending your ground chicken and pork mixture very slowly through the meat grinder. This is a two-handed endeavor!
One hand will use the stomper to push the meat into the grinder. The other hand helps to guide the casing as it fills. I used a tripod for the recipe video below since I did not have an extra hand for the camera.
Stop filling the casing when you get several inches from the end. Turn off the meat grinder and carefully remove the casing from the funnel.
Twist or tie the sausage into two or three links, starting closest to the closed end of the casing. This gives the filling room to move towards the open end of the casing as you tie. Finish the links by tying off the open end of the casing.
You don't have to clean out the meat grinder each time you fill a casing. Simply slide a new casing onto the machine and continue making brats.
When you've used all of the meat filling, turn off the meat grinder and finish tying your bratwurst links. You may be able to salvage an additional ½ - ¾ lb. of ground mixture stuck to the inside of the machine.
You can shape this extra meat into patties and pan-fry them. I served them as breakfast sausage patties the following morning with some eggs.
How to Cook Bratwurst in a Beer Bath
Now we are almost ready to eat. (Hooray!)
Put a tablespoon of olive oil in your cast iron skillet over medium-low heat. You're going to want to brown the bratwurst in the oil for about 5 minutes per side. After browning, remove the brats from the pan and set aside.
I only cooked ½ of this recipe at a time because that was enough for dinner for my family. If you want to cook them all at once, you may need to do it in batches.
Bring the heat on your stovetop up to medium. Add the beer, butter, onion, and garlic to your cast iron skillet. Allow the butter to fully melt and the beer bath to come to a simmer.
Once the beer bath is simmering, carefully add the sausage links using tongs. Let the brats simmer in their beer hot tub for 15 minutes. I bet you're getting pretty hungry by now.
While the brats simmer, toast some buns and prep your sides. Since I made such large bratwurst links, I cut each one in half. I found the half links fit nicely inside the hot dog buns, with plenty of room for toppings.
After the chicken bratwurst has cooked, cut (if desired) and put into buns. I topped each half link with 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut, ⅙ of a caramelized onion, and ½ tablespoon of mustard. They were absolutely marvelous!
You are seriously in for a treat with this one. So much tastebud happiness right here.
Expert Tips from a Dietitian
This is a level 3 recipe (weight maintenance and active lifestyles). This recipe yielded 6 large bratwurst links (2 lb. 5 ounces total). In addition, I salvaged 9.5 ounces of ground bratwurst mixture that had stuck to the inside of the meat grinder, which I shaped into patties and pan-fried. Thus, the total yield was 2 lbs. 14.5 ounces, or approximately 8 servings of 6 ounces each.
The nutrition information calculated with the recipe does not include the beer bath ingredients, since they are not consumed. It also does not include any toppings for the brats or side dishes. When you are done composing this meal, it will very likely be at level 3. This is particularly true if you go the classic route and add bratwurst rolls, beer, and (maybe) fries.
As mentioned above, skipping the beer and fries and adding non-starchy veggies will make the meal lighter. I understand if you are celebrating and need to keep with tradition though. Haha
What should I serve with bratwurst?
Are you wondering what to serve with chicken bratwurst? I would recommend trying any of the following slow food recipes as toppings for brats:
- Recipe for Homemade Mustard (Tarragon-Cider Flavor): Feel free to change the flavoring of this mustard to go better with your brats. For example, you could try using beer in place of the water in the recipe.
- Fermented Red Cabbage Sauerkraut: My sauerkraut recipe works well with green cabbage too.
- Fermented Beets and Turnips Recipe: This colorful vegetable ferment may be a fun alternative to a classic sauerkraut topping.
I also enjoy slowly caramelized onions on my brats. You could (of course) take a shortcut and use store-bought sauerkraut and mustard. However, if you're already taking the time to make your own sausage, why not go the extra mile?
Frequently Asked Questions
What does brat in bratwurst mean?
In modern German, the verb "braten" means "to fry," while "wurst" translates to "sausage." However, some sources say the "brat" part of bratwurst originally came from the Old High German word for "finely chopped meat."
Can I make chicken bratwurst without pork?
Yes! You can skip the pork shoulder in this recipe and substitute with more ground chicken thighs. This is an excellent option for those who avoid pork for religious reasons. It's also a good alternative for those who want to lower the saturated fat content in this recipe even further.
Most sausage recipes include an abundance of fatty meat and additional fat to help prevent the sausage from drying out as it cooks. For this reason, low fat sausages are often not good contenders for grilling or for Air Fryer Sausage.
Fortunately, since we cook these brats in a beer-butter bath, they are at very low risk of becoming too dry. Using a lower fat chicken in place of the pork should be just fine here.
Is chicken bratwurst bad for you?
Admittedly, there are even leaner ways to get your protein than this chicken bratwurst with pork recipe. However, these chicken brats are an unprocessed meat and much lower in saturated fat than 100% pork brats. I would categorize them as a better-for-you bratwurst option.
Another way that I made this bratwurst healthier is by skipping the added fat (fatback) often present in classic bratwurst recipes. I also cut back on the amount of beer and butter in the beer-butter bath.
If a healthier bratwurst meal is what you are after, don't forget about the side dishes! You can serve your chicken brat on a whole grain roll. You could also add a salad or roasted veggies on the side instead of fries and beer.
What is the difference between bratwurst and knockwurst?
Both bratwurst and knockwurst (AKA knackwurst) can be made of pork and veal. However, knockwurst typically has a strong garlic flavor that distinguishes it from bratwurst. Knockwurst in the U.S. is not necessarily similar to the regional varieties of knackwurst available across Germany.
Epicurious has a brief article on the different types of Oktoberfest sausage if this topic interests you. I had never heard of a couple of the ones on their list, such as blutwurst.
Other Recipes You May Enjoy
If you have a meat grinder and are looking for a fun weekend project, why not make homemade sausages? Check out the recipes that I have available, and learn to make all of your favorite types of sausage:
- Fennel Sausage: Italian Sausage Meat Grinder Recipe
- Chorizo Recipe (Fresh, Homemade Mexican Chorizo Sausage)
- Homemade Sausage with Chicken, Feta, and Sun-Dried Tomatoes (these all-chicken links make a great breakfast sausage!)
Don't forget to subscribe to our Weekly Newsletter to be kept up-to-date on all of the latest and greatest recipes!
And now for the disclaimer…
All recipes on this website may or may not be appropriate for you, depending on your medical needs and personal preferences. Consult with a registered dietitian or your physician if you need help determining the dietary pattern that may be best for you.
The nutrition information is an estimate provided as a courtesy. It will differ depending on the specific brands and ingredients that you use. Calorie information on food labels may be wildly inaccurate, so please don't sweat the numbers too much.
For more information on how the three recipe levels may help with a weight management goal, refer to my overnight oats with yogurt post. Let's get cooking!
Chicken Bratwurst with Pork
- 1½ lbs. chicken thighs (680 grams; boneless and skinless)
- 1½ lbs. pork shoulder or pork butt (680 grams)
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried marjoram
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon allspice
- ½ teaspoon caraway seeds
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- hog casings
To cook the chicken bratwurst with pork:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 3 cups beer
- ¼ cup butter
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- bratwurst rolls
- mustard, sauerkraut, caramelized onion (for topping)
- Set up your meat grinder before you begin.
- Keep your chicken and pork at 38-40°F (3.3-4.4°C) for easier cutting and grinding. Cut the chicken thighs and pork shoulder into 1" (2.54 cm) cubes (or smaller).
- In a large bowl, place the chicken, pork, salt, black pepper, marjoram, onion powder, caraway, allspice, and garlic. Stir well.
- Using the coarse grinding plate, grind the chicken and pork mixture twice. Sending the mixture through the meat grinder two times will give these brats the perfect texture.
- Refrigerate the ground meat while you clean the meat grinder and set it up for stuffing the bratwurst links. I use the largest stuffing funnel with the hog casings. If you are having trouble getting the casings on the stuffing funnel, try rubbing the outside of the funnel with a bit of oil.
- Prepare your hog casings for filling according to their package directions. I had to soak mine in water for 15 minutes and then cut the ones I planned to use into 2-foot (0.6 m) lengths. Then, I let cool water run through the entire length of each casing three times to thoroughly clean them. After rinsing, I tied a tight knot at one end of each length of casing.
- Slide one casing over the end of the sausage stuffing funnel on your meat grinder. Very slowly start sending the ground bratwurst mixture through the meat grinder. One hand can push the mixture into the grinder using the stomper, while your other hand can guide the casing as it fills.
- Stop filling the casing when you get several inches from the end. Turn off the meat grinder and carefully remove the casing from the funnel. Twist or tie the sausage into two or three links, starting closest to the closed end of the casing. This gives the filling room to move towards the open end of the casing as you tie. Finish the links by tying off the open end of the casing. You can either use kitchen twine or tie the casing itself.
- When you've used all of the meat filling, turn off the grinder and finish tying your bratwurst links. You may be able to salvage an additional ½ - ¾ lb. (227-340 grams) of ground mixture stuck to the inside of the machine. (This extra meat can be shaped into patties and pan-fried.)
How to cook chicken bratwurst in a beer bath:
- Put the olive oil in your cast iron skillet. You're going to want to brown the bratwurst over medium-low heat for about 5 minutes per side. After browning, remove the brats from the pan and set aside. I only cooked half of the brats. The rest were vacuum sealed and frozen for a future meal.
- Bring the heat on your stovetop up to medium. Add the beer, butter, onion, and garlic to your cast iron skillet. Allow the butter to melt and the beer bath to come to a simmer.
- Once the beer bath is simmering, carefully add the sausage links using tongs. Let the brats simmer in their beer hot tub for 15 minutes.
How to serve chicken bratwurst with pork:
- While the brats simmer, toast some buns and prep your sides. Since I made such large bratwurst links, I cut each one in half. I found the half links fit nicely inside the hot dog buns, with plenty of room for toppings.
- I topped each half-link with 2 tablespoons of sauerkraut, ⅙ of an onion that had been caramelized, and ½ tablespoon of mustard. I hope you enjoy them!