Recipe: Most Excellent Ground Bologna Sandwich Spread

Last updated November 26, 2018


One of my Ground Bologna sandwiches on white bread, on February 28, 2016. Yeah, I like them even thicker than this.

There’s a deli/butcher shop in Burton, Michigan, called Nehring’s Market. We’re more than acquaintances with the Nehring’s as Ralph and his wife are my late younger sister Janet’s Godparents. Ralph and his crew of cutters make a Ground Bologna Sandwich Spread that tastes almost exactly like this recipe. This recipe is what my mom made for at least five decades.

Somewhere down the line, we think mom’s recipe, and what the Nehring’s crew offers in the store, crossed paths and are, in fact, of the same lineage.


A working bin of the spread at Nehring’s Market, December 30, 2008, in the middle of being transferred to the small tubs for sale in the case.

This lunchtime and picnic favorite is available by the pound in some variation in just about every deli and butcher shop in the midwest. It’s simple to make: Kids absolutely love helping grind the bologna in the meat grinder. A lot of this recipe doesn’t actually need to be measured. This is one recipe you can make ingredient-by-ingredient, tasting as you go, creating your own flavor, and using different brands and various flavors of each of the ingredients.

Ground Bologna Sandwich Spread goes by at least a couple different names. There are likely others, which I’m attempting to find. In some places it’s known as:

  • Ham Spread/Ham Salad: This seems a misnomer, as there’s certainly no ham in the recipe. But this appears to be similar to what Irma S. Rombauer called Mock Chicken Drumsticks (City Chicken) in the original versions of her Joy Of Cooking. The 1943 edition lists both pork and veal as ingredients, but no chicken. Many versions of City Chicken today only use pork. So a Ham Salad that contains bologna but no ham also makes sense.
  • Bologna & Pickle Spread: But of course.
  • PM Sandwiches: This is the term used in northeastern Pennsylvania, according to Jackie who commented on this post on March 29, 2018. In explaining the term, Jackie wrote “We called them PM sandwiches, meaning pickles & meat or party meat because it wasn’t a party without it.”
  • Funeral Salad: So-named because in some areas it’s regularly served at wakes.
  • Monkey Meat: This is mentioned in the comments, and Google users search for Monkey Meat and land on these types of recipes. I have no idea why it’s called this in some areas. But please, eat no monkeys. Ground bologna is much better.

Regional variations on the recipe also include American or cheddar cheese, dill pickles, or chopped hard-boiled eggs.

Historical Note: In chats with Hungry Christel up in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, we believe the historical recipe this preparation came from is what’s called Fleischsalat. A simple staple in Germany that’s loosely translated as “meat salad”, it’s different from the similar preparation Wurstsalat or “sausage salad” in that Fleischsalat contains a German mayonnaise that’s mostly sunflower oil, among other differences. You can use a German ring bologna (aka “ringwurst”) for Fleischsalat, and you need to use a German pickle as well … but it’s the German delicatessan mayonnaise (there’s another style that’s a differenbt preparation) that you’ll find to be expensive.

You can take the leap to make your own Leberkäse, which is a baked loaf of meat, to use instead of the ring bologna. It would also certainly be less expensive to make your own sunflower oil-based German mayonnaise. Be aware though that homemade mayonnaise only has a life of a couple days due to the use of raw eggs in its preparation. But remember, for authenticity German-style ingredients matter.


This is the real article here; Nehring’s Homemade Sandwich Spread, made with Koegel’s Bologna and photographed in Nehring’s own Koegel meat case.

Of course, ya’ gotta have good meat. Finding the right ring bologna is an important step as it affects the flavor of the finished spread. The most popular ring bologna, such as Ekrich and many others, have roots in the Pennsylvania Dutch communities. What you want to find is a good German ring bologna, as the Pennsylvania Dutch versions won’t taste the same whatsoever.

Koegel’s Ring Bologna is the only stuff most home cooks use for this recipe. Albert Koegel was raised in the city of Durlach, Germany, in the late 1800s. When he was of age he joined one of Germany’s well-respected apprenticeship programs under the supervision of a Master Butcher. In a few years he had earned his Meister Wurstmacher designation, indicating he was a Master Sausagemaker. The product I use, shown below, is his own original recipe from the early 20th century. Find yourself a good local German meatpacker (there are many, such as at Alpine Village in Torrance, California) and use their ring bologna.

There’s another option as well, which is what Nehring’s uses. We’ll get to that shortly …


Koegel ring bologna, one of the preferred products for this recipe.

In the recipe below for Ground Bologna Sandwich Spread, I include a step about skinning the ring bologna before grinding it. However, the hot dogs in natural casings for the Homestyle Flint-Style Coney Sauce that I make regularly don’t get skinned before being sent through the same grinder. Unfortunately one day my brain swapped the two procedures. I made a batch of this spread for Mary and I … while only glancing at the recipe for ingredient amounts. As I was grinding the ring bologna, I noticed the ground bologna seemed to stay inside of the grinder more than usual. I thought maybe the disks on the front of the grinder were simply stuffed so, using a butter knife, I dug all the meat out of the disassembled grinder, then finished the batch of sandwich spread.

The following day after eating sandwiches made from this batch for lunch, we had a good laugh (more Mary than myself as it was at my expense!) over having to dig large pieces of natural casing from each bite of our sandwiches.


Chunks of Koegel bulk bologna from a 10-lb chubb, the other preferred bologna for use here.

In January 2017 while visiting up north near Flint, and at Nehring’s Market itself while getting some ring bologna for this recipe, I asked for a couple lbs of beef bologna from a 10-lb chubb. I asked for it not to be sliced as I was planning on slicing it about 3/8″ thick, especially since I already had the ring bologna for the spread. The meat cutter looked at me strangely and, while holding the chubb of lunchmeat bologna, said “But this is what we use for the spread.” Ummm … what?? It turns out home cooks have likely used the ring bologna because it’s more readily available in most stores. (I’ve found Koegel’s ring bologna as far away as Lafayette, Indiana.) But the chubbs of beef bologna are generally only found in delis in Genesee County and surrounding areas, while grinding slices from the 1-lb packs is a royal pain.

The bottom line: Ring bologna is not a requirement. You could also use a good German-style beef lunchmeat bologna. (Again, for accurate flavor make sure it’s not from a Dutch-style company.)


The only two commercial mayonnaise that are acceptable in this recipe. While using Hellmann’s for decades, we’ve switched to Duke’s for its extra creaminess and richness, and almost zero “twang”.

A few notes about the ingredients:

  • Bulk bologna and ring bologna are spiced differently, so final seasoning of the resulting spreads will differ.
  • Yellow onions aren’t as harsh as white onions, so we specify yellow.
  • Duke’s Mayonnaise has a nicer flavor profile than Hellman’s, but as Duke’s can be difficult to find outside the south using less Hellman’s to get the same type of flavor and texture is fine.

The best batch I’ve made so far uses Koegel bulk bologna, Duke’s Mayo, French’s yellow mustard, yellow onion, sweet gherkins, and no salt or pepper whatsoever.


The original image for this post, circa 2008.

Make all kinds of good stuff, and to enhance your reputation in the kitchen, make sure you can repeat it. And be sure that I will skin the ring bologna for the Ground Bologna Sandwich Spread from now on.

Ground Bologna Sandwich Spread

This lunchtime and picnic favorite is available by the pound in some variation in just about every deli and butcher shop in the midwest. This is one recipe you can make ingredient-by-ingredient, tasting as you go, creating your own flavor, and using different brands and various flavors of each of the ingredients.
Prep Time20 mins
Course: Sandwiches
Cuisine: American, German
Keyword: bologna, bologna & pickle, fleischsalat, funeral salad, ground bologna, ham salad, ham spread, monkey meat, pm sandwiches, sandwich, spread

Equipment

  • Meat grinder, manual
  • Glass dish, 8" x 8"
  • Mixing bowl, large
  • 2-quart Storage container

Ingredients

  • 1-1/2 lb Bologna, ring or bulk, unsliced German, not Dutch
  • 2 - 3 ea Gherkins, sweet
  • 3 ea 1/8" slices yellow onion, medium
  • 1 cup Mayonnaise Duke's or Hellmans
  • 2 tsp Mustard, yellow prepared
  • Salt & pepper (optional)

Instructions

  • If using ring bologna: Remove any strings or clips off the ends. Cut the bologna into 4 sections for easier handling. Slit one side of each section lengthwise and remove the casing.
  • Install discs onto the front of the meat grinder for a fairly small grind and grind the bologna into the glass dish. After digging the rest of the bologna out of the grinder, dump the bologna into the mixing bowl.
  • Finely-chop the sweet pickles till you have about 1/2 cup, and then do the same with the slices of onion. Add the chopped pickle and onion to the ground bologna in the mixing bowl, then add the mayonnaise and mustard and mix it all together till it’s smooth. Taste it, adding some salt and pepper to punch up the flavor if necessary.
  • Transfer it to the storage bowl and refrigerate the spread until it’s ice cold. Use a fork to put a layer of spread about 3/8″ thick (my kids like it about 1/2″ thick on a slice of white bread, then close with another slice. Serve with kettle-cooked potato chips or steaming-hot French fries.

Notes

  • Koegel’s bulk bologna from a 10-lb chubb or original-flavor ring bologna are the preferred choice. The garlic or pickled varieties also make for an interesting flavor. Other brands from other “real” German meat suppliers may be acceptable substitutes.
  • While it’s possible to grind the bologna in a food processor, a better texture is created using an old-fashioned hand-driven meat grinder. These are available in specialty and antique shops, commercial food equipment dealers, and the cooking section of stores such as Cabela’s in Dundee, Michigan.
  • Both Nehring’s Market and Grandma Joyce used Miracle Whip dressing instead of the mayonnaise.  She also ground the pickles and onions through the grinder instead of chopping them separately. Grinding the pickles and onions also squeezes their juices into the ground bologna, which adds an interesting touch to the already tangy flavor of the Miracle Whip dressing. Oddly enough, she liked my version better, even though she insisted on using Miracle Whip for her own batches!

86 Comments

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  1. Heh. You should name this sandwich in honor of her: “The Izatryt Special,” an “Izatryt sandwich,” an “Izzy.” 😉

    I thought this sandwich was going to be ground bologna *and* Velveeta. While I like both separately, I was going to have to lodge a complaint against Velogna.

  2. Oh, I bet this is delicious! Sadly, I can’t eat anything with sodium nitrite in it, as it gives me horrendous migraines, but you can bet that I’ll be keeping an eye out for a ring bologna that is nitrite free. I never would have thought of using ring bologna, for some reason I had in my mind a large hunk of sliced bologna, cut thick from a deli to be used for grinding.

  3. @Adam, if I ever do a version with Velveeta, that’s exactly what I’ll call it. Thanks for the idea! 😉

    @Erika, sorry ’bout that! I’m sure if you go to a real meat cutter’s you might be able to find some without the sodium nitrates. Lemme know if you do find it!

  4. This is all just SO wrong! Very, very wrong. I always dreamed of having a sandwich named after me, but with sprouts and avocado on whole grain bread. Maybe a little sweet onion to kick it up? NOT this, oh please not this! *hanging head and crying*.

  5. Hey LPC, I followed the link under the velveeta thread at SE…I just HAD to see what this sandwich looked like…hmmmm, doesn’t look like the devil at all…what’s izzy so fired up about? As for naming the sandwich after izatryt, I think it might be good as a melt (use velveeta of course). See you at SE.

  6. Sounds almost exactly like the deviled ham sandwiches my mom used to make when I was very small… mmmmmmm… used to love those things!

  7. This photo needs to be submitted to Photograzing! C’mon..share it!

  8. Unlike izatryt, I love good, ring bologna.

    If I had a grinder
    (sing that to the tune of “If I were a rich man”),
    Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
    All day long I’d biddy skin and grind.
    If I also had a hunk o’ meat.

    I’d sub BROWN for yellow mustard.(BLEH)
    Ya ha deedle deedle, bubba bubba deedle deedle dum.
    If I were a biddy biddy hungry
    Yidle-diddle-didle-didle gal.

    ;-D

  9. @izzy, Nah this isn’t yours. Yours has Velveeta. 😀

    @wookie, she’s fired up because she’s wrong! 😉

    @LoCo, I love deviled ham! I normally don’t make, it, but I have probably once or twice.

    @JEP, I dunno … I avoid social sites. 🙂

    @PerkyMac, thank you! That is one of my absolute favorite movies/plays. I can actually sing that, and almost get the voice right!

  10. Hey, thanks Dave. Me, too. Do I know ye from SE?

    Lunatic – I just noticed the title of your Most Excellent dish and I am picturing the guy on SNL who worshiped and adored Pat Sajak (sp?). I can’t think of his name, but his waist was pulled up to his neck and he had the first faux hawk I recall. He flittered about and everything to do with his hero was Most Excellent. Are YOU he? I will forevermore picture you as he, darn I forget his name! Oh, nevermind. It’s Luna! hehe

  11. @Perc-o-later, geez … I can’t believe you’re not making the connection. Yeah, I go by my real name in here, fer cryin’ out loud!

  12. @Dave ~ DUH. His name is Dave. I’m about to get kicked outta Mensa.

    I’m cryin’ out loud. Kee Ripes.

    Ed Grimley aka Martin Short. Had to look it up. Memory is the eleventy-seventh thing to go.

    Deanna 😀

  13. @PerkyD, dearie … maybe you just need beer … 😉

  14. Ring Bologna sounds like a disease.

    @Perky~Dave thinks you need a beer. I think you already had the beer! Mensa isn’t all it’s cracked up to be!

  15. I was in MI last weekend and saw a billboard for Koegel’s ring bologna and this came to mind immediately! If I ate meat, I’d totally try this. It reminds me of something my gram would make growing up. Sometimes the simple things are the best (and definitely the most comforting!).

  16. @izzy, I just peel the stuff right out of the package and munch on it.

    @Rebecca, yeah they only have the “Serve The Curve” billboards down here yet for the Koegel Viennas. I think different ones are coming.

  17. Hey LunieP ~ So I am home waiting for the HVAC repairman to arrive, for the second time to fix the AC part. I have to mention, we just put a completely new system 1 year ago! anyway, I have a bit of “extra” time to nose around your site. After all, we are pals, right? Aren’t you and Mary just adorable! Now that I have seen your photo, it is kind of cool to put a face on LPC!

    I still think the whole ring bologna thing is pretty gross!

    We drive to Michigan when we come out to visit friends (we lived in Kalamazoo for a time). Where is Luna Pier? Maybe we will stop by for something that isn’t ground. 😉

  18. can i use hot dogs instead bologna my grandmother seems like she did and i dont think she cooked them frist but isaw on unwrapped that they are fully cooked thanks

  19. @cheri, hot dogs would be fine for this. The recipe would be the same, you’d just use 1-1/2 lb of hot dogs.

  20. I lived in WI till I was 18. I left for NM for AF and was stunned that you cannot find Ring Bologna anywhere. Just made it…ah good as it always was…

    Ring Bologna

    one ring of bologna
    1.5 medium onion
    1 1/2 cup of miracle whip
    6 pickles

  21. Miracle Whip?? Noooooo!!!!! 😉

  22. Have been searching for bologna or hot dog sandwich spreads today because my mom just made a recipe of my grandmother’s and the measurements are not exact. My dad just loves this sandwich spread.
    Ground hot dogs
    Pimento cheese
    Pickle relish
    AND
    Peanut Butter

    It is surprisingly good. I will have to try this recipe.

  23. I am the type of person that is passionate about cooking from a very young age. I am usually on the Internet just to find new and interesting recipes to try out. This one seems very delicious, so it’s another one to add to my list of recipes to prepare soon. I’m sure I’m going to enjoy it.

  24. My mom used to make this when I was a kid growing up in Lansing. I live in California now and nobody has every heard of ring bologna here, nor this sandwich spread. I had no idea that it was a Michigan thing. Now I want a sandwich really bad. What can I do? Use regular bologna? I guess it’ll have to do.

  25. @EricW, ring bologna has a different spice combination and finishing process than regular bologna. I’d be surprised some butcher out your way on the west coast isn’t making ring bologna on their own. You might have to look for more of a specialty butcher or meat processor/smoker, likely of German decent.

  26. love the spread havent made it for years

    i do basically the way you say but add GREEN PEPPERS as I grind
    the bologna

  27. I never knew anyone else ate this. Since we can’t always find ring bologna I will occasionally substitute big bologna when we are really jonesing for ground bologna.

  28. This is a more finely ground version of the German Fleischsalat(meat salad).

  29. I hated Miracle Whip as a child, as mom would always spread it on my sandwiches so thick that I would choke on the vinegar, However, nowadays I like it on some things, although me and the other half like mayo on most things. However, I have had much better results with ground bologna using the Miracle Whip, as frankly, bologna is not the best of lunch meats and needs some help in the flavor department. I also highly recommend grinding the pickles and onions in with the bologna as it gives them a better mouth feel and texture, as well as distributing the flavors better in the final product.

  30. Joanie, it depends largely on the bologna you use. If you have to add flavors, you’re not using bologna that has a decent flavor to begin with. You have to have a decent base or the whole of it isn’t worth the exercise anyway and that’s when you have to cheat to add what should be there in the first place.

  31. Cheryl... Native of Flint

    Oh, I love this stuff, was just looking for the recipe because I couldn’t remember all the ingredients. I would so love to use the Koegel’s ring bologna, but now live in Missouri and can’t get the good stuff here. I have found a little market here that has very good all beef bologna so will give it a try! Thanks for the memories of the best hot dogs and bologna ever.

  32. Grew up in Flint with Koegel’s products. Live in Tn now and always bring home hotdogs for us and many friends. I can remember my mom grinding the bologna with the pickles — the dogs were under the table licking up the juices. Funny what you remember. You mention Flint coneys — do you have a recipe close to what Angelo’s and/or the Night Owl put on their hotdogs???? That would be wonderful. Now we just need a Halo Burger down here!!!!! thanks sue

  33. Sue, you can find a PDF with multiple coney recipes at http://micuisine.com/lunapiercook/?p=2055. I’ll email it to you though.

  34. I thought bologna and pickle spread was just something our family did!
    We call it monkey meat….:). Its comfort food to me.
    My question : is there an ethnic origin for this spread?
    I grew up in calif but after surfing the net people from
    everywhere remember this sandwich

  35. nazufani, I have no idea where this actually originated. The meat, bologna sausage actually, originated in Bologna, Italy, but my family is German and so are the Koegel’s, who make the variety I prefer in the Flint, Michigan, area. I’m honestly not sure anyone could track it down as it seems so common.

  36. Hi Dave, I am having a Book Club lunch and we’re discussing Bill Bryson’s “Life and Times of the Thunderbolt Kid.” I thought one of the foods I should serve was what was a staple of my life in the 50s (the era of the book). Over time, I’d forgotten how to make it. In WI, we called it Ground Down. A search for that didn’t turn up anything. 🙁 I do remember helping my Mom grind the meat. I’m so happy to have found your recipe and look forward digging out my grinder and sharing this most wonderful of 50s food (on white bread – of course!) to my guests. Wish me luck in finding the right kind of ring balogna here in Eastern PA. Thanks!

  37. Hi Neala, glad you found the recipe! I have a roundabout thing for you on finding the right bologna … Over on Serious Eats, my friend Hawk Krall has referenced this recipe for a piece on ring bologna. He also lives in Philadelphia. In that piece, he said he used Zweigle’s ring bologna that he’d gotten at Wegman’s. Maybe that’s your solution? (I’ll copy this response into an email for you, too.)

  38. My wife used to make this and I loved it. After she passed I could not find her recipe. This one looks like the same one and I am going to try it. Thank you.

  39. Bob, you are quite welcome, I hope you enjoy it!

  40. Just wanted to add that my husband and I both loved this bologna sandwich spread as kids. He grew up in Clevland, OH, and I’m from St. Paul, MN. So this sounds like an upper midwest thing. BTW, we just received a meat grinder for Christmas, and I’m looking forward to trying this. That’s why I was checking out the recipe – curious about whether to use mayo or Miracle Whip, and also sweet or dill pickles. I got my answers here – thanks!

  41. I will have to try your version of Ground bologna. While I was growing up it was served at all the baby/bridal showers and tupperware parties.
    Our version had just three ingredients. Koegals ring bologna dill pickles and Miracle whip. I still make it except I use dill relish instead of the pickles.

  42. Katherine, let me know what you think!

  43. I found this site and made the recipe (more or less) this afternoon. It’s the first time I’ve eaten this in close to 45 years. My mom, a farm girl from ‘way downstate Illinois, made this when we were kids growing up in a northerly suburb of Los Angeles in the 1950s and 1960s. I always loved it; I think my siblings had a different opinion. I never found her recipe, so I went searching and found this one. I think my mom might have ground up some, perhaps a substantial amount, of carrots in hers; this one didn’t quite remind me of what I ate as a kid. It was pretty good, though, and I’m afraid it’s not going to last later in the week as I had hoped – my wife and then my son found it (neither of whom I expected to like it), and they’ve been devouring it as a spread on Ritz crackers.

  44. Louis, maybe this is what you were looking for?

    1 lb. bologna OR wieners
    1/2 C. chopped pickles or relish
    3 hard cooked eggs
    1 C. mayonnaise
    1 tbsp. minced chopped onion
    1 C. ground raw carrots
    1/2 C. chopped celery
    1/2 tsp salt
    dash of tabasco sauce

    Grind it all together.

  45. This is almost the same recipe my mom always made. yes only Koegel bologna, sweet gherkins. mom never put mustard or salt in hers. Also she never chopped the onions or the pickles she just put them through the grinder and then put a slice of bread through to get all the goodness out of the grinder.

  46. Janet, having grown up on the mustard and salt being included, not having them would probably make it bland for me. But I do know a lot of folks who nose-up at the mustard so I do understand. The bread thing is a neat trick though!

  47. I have made this for years! I still have the handwritten recipe that was my great aunts. No measurements, just ingredients. We just always used whatever bologna we could get. Didn’t matter to us and everyone loved it.

  48. Being originally from Michigan, I am well acquainted with the DELICACY we call ground bologna. I couldn’t agree more that using Koegel’s is by far the finest choice. I live in Wyoming now and not only is it hard to find ring bologna (much less anything near Koegel quality), but nobody around here has ever heard of ground bologna spread (sad but true). I have taken it upon myself to “spread” the good word… not unlike the Apostles or say, Johnny Appleseed. So, I’m toying with my recipe, borrowing elements from other recipes such as yours (thank you) and with the conviction of a missionary, I will enlighten the American West.

  49. Growing up with 5 kids in the house, Mom made this with not only bologna, but with that little piece of left over roast beef, or ham. My personal favorit was when there were left over grilled hot dogs to add to the bologna. Mmmmm Grind meat, add gound pickles, dash of pickle juice, and mayo. Mix until spreadable.

  50. Has anyone ever made sauced-covered sandwiches with a similar bologna spread? My family adds mayonnaise, mustard, and (sometimes) onions to ground bologna to make a sandwich spread. After making a sauce from cream of mushroom soup, milk, and shredded cheese, spread the meat on a piece of toasted bread (or two for a double decker) and cover it in sauce.

    Please reply if you know of ANY similar recipes!

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