Can You Use Encapsulated Citric Acid Substitute for Sausage?

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A perfect spice mixture and acidic tone – two players, making the sausage lip-smacking and finger-licking. And the curing agent, encapsulated citric acid, plays a prominent role in promoting the process.

However, sometimes, using this acid might not be your best option as it may dissolve the meat fibers, turning them into dry and crumbly meat.

So Is there any encapsulated citric acid substitute for sausage? 

Yes, there are several substitutes for encapsulated citric acid you can use. Meat starter cultures, buttermilk, milk powder, soy protein isolate, fermento, etc., are some of the encapsulated citric acid alternatives that are stable, react and bind meat perfectly, and are easy to get and use.

To know more about the alternatives, stick around.

What Is Encapsulated Citric Acid?

encapsulated citric acid substitute

So, let’s get to the most fundamental question- what exactly is ECA? What does encapsulated citric acid do in sausage? 

Encapsulated citric acid is one of the main ingredients to dry meats such as sausages without the lengthy fermentation and drying.

It is basically coated in maltodextrin or hydrogenated cottonseed oil. The encapsulated acid is a yellowish powder that takes roughly 4 oz. to treat 25 lbs. of meat.

It lowers meat’s pH level, breaking down connective and tissue fibers and changing the texture. The coating of hydrogenated vegetable oil or maltodextrin creates a heat- or water-soluble barrier between the meat and the citric acid. 

While making sausage, make sure the acid doesn’t immediately mix with the meat and other spices, as it can change the texture and make it tasteless. The citric acid starts working at 135° F to 150° F. ECA requires careful portioning and processing. 

What to Look for In Encapsulated Citric Acid Substitute?

What to Look for In Encapsulated Citric Acid Substitute

Encapsulated citric acid is an excellent choice if you want a quick summer sausage that tastes like traditional products but has a longer shelf life and texture. Fermentation is required in the meat curing process. Through this, lactic acid is pulled out from the meat. 

The main disadvantage of encapsulated citric acid is that it is unstable. The acid might start working immediately and change the texture of the meat. It might turn grayish and won’t thicken in good shape.

So, you should look for a substitute that is not volatile and can react and bind the meat in perfect time so that the texture doesn’t get harmed.

Also, ECA’s curing process becomes slower or requires more rigid temperature or moisture control, which can be quite a hassle. So, you should look for substitutes that are easy to use and save time.

Is There a Substitute for Encapsulated Citric Acid?

If you don’t want to utilize an encapsulated citric acid alternative, you may have to find a substitute.

Here are some alternatives to ECA you might consider.

Encapsulated Citric Acid SubstitutePortion
Powdered ButtermilkA pound and a half per 50 lbs. of meat
Milk Powderat a 3% ratio
Fermento1 oz. per pound of meat
Meat Starter Culture10 to 25 grams per 100 pounds of meat
Soy Protein Isolate2 teaspoons per pound of meat
Dextrose Monohydrate2-5 tablespoons per 10 pounds of meat

1. Powdered Buttermilk

Powdered Buttermilk

Buttermilk is one of the best alternatives as a meat binder. It contains similar binding properties and lactic acid, the same acid produced in meat fermentation. A pound and a half of dried buttermilk per 50 lbs. of meat should do the trick.

The procedure is similar to ECA, and since lactic acid is weaker than citric acid, it won’t deteriorate the meat’s texture or color. Keep the meat in the fridge for two days to ferment before smoking and cooking.

Buttermilk adds a sharpness to the meat, although it’s true that, like Fermento, it’s not a good substitute if you want an authentic summer sausage taste.

But It gives the sausage some structure, and you want the filler to make the sausage maintain the moist and plumpness for a finer “bite.”. So, it might not be a total disappointment!

You can use Hoosier Hill Farm Buttermilk Powder for successful savory sausages.

2. Milk Powder

Milk Powder

Dried-up powdered milk is a natural binder that improves the consistency of the sausage while also adding taste. This product includes 50% lactose which is basically sugar and is used as a food source for bacteria in fermented sausages. It also has a protein content of 35%. 

Evaporated dried milk, when added at a rate of 3%, will effectively bind water and provide taste. Dry milk adds a lot of body and richness to sausage, especially smoked sausage.

You can select The Sausage Maker non-fat dried milk powder for a sure result.

3. Fermento


Curers prefer fermento, which is a dairy-based product.

It’s produced with skim milk and whey protein, yet the finished result tastes remarkably like buttermilk adding a tangy taste to summer sausages. The recommended starting amount is 3 % which is approximately 1 oz. per pound of meat, but you may go up to 6 percent if you want more tang. Use The Sausage Maker – Fermento Original Blend for an immediate tangy taste.

You mustn’t go below or above the limit. A lesser amount of the product will not have enough acidity to reduce the pH of the meat to the point where bacteria cannot develop. Adding too much Fermento, on the other hand, will render the sausage useless and inedible.

Fermento does not require time for the fermentation process because it does not require refrigeration, thus making the process less lengthy than meat starter culture. 

4. Meat Starter Culture

Meat Starter Culture

Starter cultures are freeze-dried bacteria used to make dry sausages like chorizo, fuet, salami, pepperoni, and a variety of others. They keep your sausage safe by acidifying it, and they give it a matured flavor. They’re always mixed with dextrose and curing salts (nitrite or nitrate).

Meat starter culture adds live bacteria to meat to reduce the pH level in a controlled setting. You can adjust the humidity and temperature. You can use The Sausage Maker – Bactoferm F-RM-52 that enhances lactic acid buildup during fermentation, making your sausage sour and savory.

5. Soy Protein Isolate

Soy Protein Isolate

Not only does soy protein isolate work as a fantastic fat-to-meat binder, it also aids in the preservation of moisture in the meat throughout the smoking or cooking process.

Soy protein isolate is more potent, containing around 90% protein, whereas soy protein concentrate is more commonly accessible and has about 70% protein. The Sausage Maker- Soy Protein Concentrate is an excellent soy protein isolate you can use.

You should add it at a rate of 3% of total meat, and even at larger rates, the flavor won’t be compromised. As a general rule of thumb, some cooks use 2 teaspoons per pound of meat.

6. Dextrose Monohydrate

Dextrose Monohydrate

This alternative is made from corn – the Dextrose Monohydrate is an excellent culinary addition for sweet dishes and meat preparation because of its less sweet flavor. It enhances the quality and the flavor of fermented sausages.

It’s 2-5 tablespoons of powdered dextrose per 10 pounds of meat. Approximately 200 pounds of meat can be processed with 1 pound 8 ounces of bulk dextrose powder.

Powdered dextrose is commonly employed in preparing semi-dry cured and dry-cured sausages because it is heavier than ordinary sugar and may push its way into the meat cells. Besides, you can use it as a browning ingredient in fresh breakfast or country sausage, giving it a more even brown color when fried.

Try The Sausage Maker – Powdered Dextrose; I’m sure you will love the alluring tangy flavor of your link.

Is Citric Acid and Encapsulated Citric Acid the Same?

Is Citric Acid and Encapsulated Citric Acid the Same

Encapsulated citric acid is a naturally occurring acid that has been encapsulated or coated with maltodextrin. This hydrogenated cottonseed oil melts around 135° F and delivers the citric acid into the meat.

The encapsulated citric acid prevents the release and premature lowering of the pH level of the sausage meat mix. It will have a negative effect on the texture if the meat’s ph level falls before the protein reaches 105-115 degrees.

With the natural citric acid, If you put citric acid directly onto meat, the acidity will immediately dissolve the connective and muscle tissue. The meat won’t bind, and the texture will be crumbly. Mexican chorizos are a good representation of processed meat using acid directly. 

You can use citric acid and water on fresh meat; it will prevent bacterial growth and seal the acidity level to prevent rotting or decay.

But with the encapsulated version, the pH level drops when the capsule melts, and a tangy or sour taste is achieved in the reduced pH product. Encapsulated acid is ineffective in the first place since it only works at temperatures over 135-150° F. Instead of melting the capsules in the mixture, you can do it with hot water.

Frequently Asked Questions;

  • Is encapsulated citric acid bad for health?

Encapsulated citric acid is basically coated citric acid from fruits and veggies. It is actually beneficial to health as it contains antioxidants that help our body to fight various diseases. 

  • Is encapsulated citric acid a cure accelerator?

No, unfortunately. ECA can enhance the shelf life but can not replace the curing salts (nitrates), the actual cure accelerator. ECA can prevent spoilage after mixing with the curing agents. 

  • Does encapsulated citric acid expire?

When it is prepared, encapsulated citric acid has a three-year shelf life. In its original unopened bottle, the acid’s chemical formula and strength stay stable for at least five years. Keep citric acid in its original bottle or container, which must be undiluted.

Final Words

ECA is crucial to elevating meat’s taste and flavor, producing a tang similar to a long fermentation process. However, they are unstable and can ruin the meat’s thickness and texture. But you can prepare a sausage without worrying about extra citric acid making it gray and crumbly if you use an encapsulated citric acid alternative in the meat mixture.

Powdered buttermilk, milk powder, Meat starter culture, fermento, etc., are good alternatives to encapsulated citric acid substitutes. They are stable, easy to use, and readily available. Moreover, they react and bind the meat properly without imposing unfavorable outcomes.

Now pick your suitable substitute, and your sausages will succeed at any gathering – camping, hunting, or home.

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