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What is head cheese? You may have the wrong idea

What is head cheese? You may have the wrong idea

Surprisingly, head cheese isn’t made with any cheese at all. In fact, it’s made from a pig’s head. As unappealing as the name may be, the meat in head cheese is quite soft and nutritious. 

Chances are high that you have probably even made this meat form at home or used it without even realizing it because it tastes and looks like every other type of meat.

Head cheese originated in Europe. It’s a form of meat jelly made from the head of a pig. Please don’t confuse it with pig brain, though. The loaf of meat is made by boiling a pig’s head and adding some ingredients to form a loaf similar to a pate. It can also include other body parts, including feet, tongue, and heart.

In the US, the meat is referred to as head cheese, but it has different names in other parts of the world.

How is head cheese made?

Head cheese is made differently in different parts of the world. However, the traditional method of preparing head cheese includes boiling pigs’ heads in water for about six hours. 

Herbs and seasoning are then added to the water after boiling the heads. When the pig’s tongue is tender and soft, the meat is strained, picked, chopped into tiny pieces, and stuffed into sausage casings. The meat is then chilled overnight to form head cheese.

No gelatin is required in making head cheese since the collagen in the bones of the pig melts and mixes itself with all of the ingredients. This then solidifies the meat together when it’s chilled.

What does head cheese taste like?

This meaty cold cut is highly flavorful, which can best be compared with the taste of bacon. It has a soft and tender texture that melts in your mouth when you bite into it. 

The head cheese flavor can also be described as tangy, but depending on the seasonings and herbs mixed in the meat, the flavor varies.

How to use head cheese

Head cheese can be eaten cold like deli meat since it’s been prepared. You can even treat it as a spread. 

Sandwiches made of head cheese taste absolutely delicious as well. The Vietnamese sandwich, for one, also known as “Banh Mi,” is famous simply because it contains head cheese. Here is a simple Vietnamese sandwich recipe you can try. You can also use head cheese in place of pate as its texture and taste are similar. 

Typically, head cheese is tossed in a sandwich with some light mustard and lettuce. Others also choose to pre-order pre-made head cheese sausage rolls. Alternatively, these rolls can be made using prepared head cheese meat.

Types of head cheese

Here are the main types of head cheese that are available in the market:

Regular head cheese

This type contains pork head meat, gelatin, skin, snout, and pork feet.

Tongue head cheese

In addition to the ingredients mentioned in regular head cheese, this type of meat contains a pig’s tongue.

Blood head cheese

The water in head cheese is replaced with blood in the cooking process. Thus, this type of meat is much darker in color.

Souse head cheese

In this type of head cheese, vinegar, or lemon juice is added to give it a tangy flavor. In addition to that, pickles and pepper are added.


This is the original head cheese, which contains pig’s feet but with bones in them. This type is most popular in some parts of Europe.

The bottom line

Despite the peculiarity that comes from its ingredients, head cheese is as versatile as it is tasty for most. And although head cheese may be hard to find in stores, you can still make it at home. 

Here’s a homemade head cheese recipe that you can try.