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What Is Hog Head Cheese? What Is It Made of?

What is hog head cheese? It’s a low-carb dish with high levels of protein and healthy fat that provides essential nutrients like vitamins and iron and helps skin health and muscle growth. It’s also a good addition for low-carb diets like Carnivore and Keto, only if you know the best ways to consume it to avoid potential side effects.

What Is Hog Head Cheese? What Is It Made of?
  • Hog head cheese is a traditional dish made from edible parts of the pig's head, usually served cold or in sandwiches.
  • Head cheese can help with better skin health and muscle growth and repair.
  • Individuals with digestive diseases or allergies to pork meat must consume head cheese in moderation.
  • Hog head cheese contains high levels of healthy fat and protein with very low carbohydrates, making it a good option for low-carb diets like Keto and Carnivore.

What Is Hog Head Cheese?

Hog head cheese, also known as head cheese, is made from scraps of a pig's head, including the tongue, snout, cheek, ears, and sometimes the heart.

Head cheese originated in Europe during the Middle Ages, when lords and land barons reserved the best meat cuts, leaving peasants and serfs with the less desirable parts, such as the pig's head.

To use these parts, people developed a method to create head cheese, which could be preserved and consumed over time. Hog head cheese is actually not cheese and contains no dairy products. So, why is it called head cheese?

Why Do They Call It Head Cheese?

The English term "head cheese" derives its name from the Dutch term "hoofdkaas," where "hoofd" means head and "kaas" translates to cheese.

Despite its name, head cheese does not contain dairy or cheese. Instead, the term "cheese" refers to the process of pressing the meat mixture into a mold or container to set, similar to making cheese.

So, this meat-based food contains pig’s head scraps with certain seasonings, including the ones below.

8 Percent of Minnesotans Tried Hog Head Cheese

A 2014 survey by the University of Minnesota found that 8% of respondents in Minnesota had previously consumed hog head cheese.

Learn More: Can You Eat Pork Rinds on the Carnivore Diet?

Hog Head Cheese Ingredients

What is hog head cheese made of? Well, the ingredients can vary depending on regional and personal preferences, but the basic components include:

Main Ingredients

  • Pig's head (including ears, snout, tongue, etc.)
  • Vinegar
  • Salt and pepper

Seasonings/ Flavors

  • Onions
  • Garlic
  • Celery
  • Bay leaves
  • Thyme
  • Parsley
  • Cayenne pepper or other spices

These ingredients are mixed using the following method to make hog’s head cheese, which is a traditional food and remains popular to this date.

Learn More: Can You Eat Ham on a Carnivore Diet? 5 Ways to Eat Ham on Carnivore

How Is Hog Head Cheese Made?

The most common hog head cheese recipe involves simmering or boiling the entire head of a pig until the meat becomes tender and falls away from the bone.

This long-simmering process also extracts natural gelatin from the head's bones, skin, and other connective tissues.

Once cooked, the edible meats from the head, such as the cheeks, tongue, and other pieces, are removed and chopped or shredded.

The cooking liquid, which now has dissolved gelatin, is mixed with the chopped meats from the pig's head. Spices, vinegar, salt, and pepper are also added for flavor.

The seasoned meat mixture is poured into loaf pans or molds and then refrigerated until the gelatin solidifies.

The result is a loaf or terrine of firm gelatin with evenly spread pieces of shredded head meat, which can be sliced and served cold.

This preparation method results in a delicious and nutritious dish packed with healthy fats and protein.

Hog Head Cheese Nutrition

You can see the nutrition profile of 100 grams of hog head cheese in the following table [1].

Calories179 kcal
Protein 17.86 g
Fat 10.71 g
Carbohydrates 1.79 g
Calcium 36 mg
Iron 2.57 mg
Cholesterol 80 mg
Sodium 1089 mg
Vitamin C 2.1 mg
Vitamin A 179 IU

Hog head cheese can offer both benefits and drawbacks as it is rich in calcium, healthy fats, protein, and vitamins but high in sodium.

Learn More: What Is Speck Meat? 5 Best Brands of Speck Meat

The Benefits and Side Effects of Hog Head Cheese

Hog’s head cheese can be a nutritious addition to your diet because it can provide many health benefits, including

  • Supporting Muscle Growth and Repair,
  • Promoting Healthy Skin, and
  • Boosting Nutrient Intake.

Supporting Muscle Growth and Repair

Hog head cheese is rich in high-quality protein, providing essential amino acids for synthesizing muscle proteins.

These amino acids help repair muscle tissues damaged during exercise and promote the growth of new muscle fibers, which help athletes, bodybuilders, and individuals recovering from injuries [2].

Promoting Healthy Skin

The natural gelatin from the connective tissues, skin, and bones of the pig's head contains collagen, an important protein.

Collagen helps keep skin firm and elastic, making it look younger and supporting skin repair. It also helps keep joints healthy by cushioning them and supporting cartilage, which can reduce joint pain and stiffness [3].

Boosting Nutrient Intake

Hog head cheese contains essential nutrients, including B vitamins (such as B12), iron, and zinc, which are crucial for many bodily functions, like energy production, immune system support, and red blood cell formation [4].

While hog head cheese is nutritious, it can cause side effects for sensitive individuals, so you need to be aware of these potential issues before consuming it to design a healthy meal plan.

Here are some of the important side effects of hog head cheese:

  • Increased Risk of Foodborne Illness
  • Digestive Discomfort
  • Allergic Reaction

These side effects only happen if you are allergic to pork meat or have digestive problems. If you have these issues,  it’s better to consult a healthcare professional; otherwise, don’t worry!

Increased Risk of Foodborne Illness

If hog head cheese is not cooked or stored properly, harmful bacteria, such as Salmonella or Listeria, can grow, leading to foodborne illnesses. Its symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and severe abdominal pain [5].

Digestive Discomfort

The high gelatin in hog head cheese can be hard to digest for some people with underlying digestive diseases, leading to bloating, gas, or stomach discomfort [6].

Allergic Reaction

Individuals with allergies to pork or specific meat proteins might experience allergic reactions, like hives, itching, and severe reactions like anaphylaxis [7].

You can avoid or minimize these side effects by having hog head cheese in a balanced diet like Carnivore, but you need to consider some factors to avoid possible effects on your diet results.

Can You Eat Hog Head Cheese on a Carnivore Diet?

The Carnivore Diet focuses on animal-based foods, including meat, fish, eggs, and certain dairy products, while eliminating plant-based foods.

This focus on animal-based foods and avoiding plant products is to minimize carbohydrates and increase healthy fats and proteins to reach various health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, weight loss, and improved digestion.

Hog head cheese falls within the range of foods allowed on the Carnivore Diet, as it is low in carbohydrates and high in fat.

However, some recipes for hog head cheese include ingredients and seasonings that are not allowed on the Carnivore Diet, such as vinegar, spices, and preservatives.

If you follow a strict Carnivore Diet, avoiding head cheese with non-Carnivore ingredients is better. Instead, consider making your hog head cheese at home to ensure that you use only animal-based ingredients.

But if you’re on less strict versions of Carinvore, you may consume hog head cheese with minimal plant-based ingredients. Anyhow, let’s see the common ways of consuming head cheese.

Learn More: The Carnivore Diet: Is It Healthy? Benefits and Side Effects

How to Eat Hog Head Cheese?

There are several ways to eat and serve hog head cheese, including:

  • Sliced Cold Cuts: One of the most popular methods is to slice the cold head cheese loaf, similar to deli meats or sausages. The slices can be served on crackers or bread or eaten directly.
  • Sandwiches: Sliced head cheese makes a protein-rich sandwich filling.
  • Appetizers: Head cheese slices or crumbles are frequently included on charcuterie boards, appetizer platters, and other cured meats, cheeses, and nuts.
  • Soups/Stews: Some traditions call for crumbling or dicing head cheese into soups or stews.
  • Heated: If you like head cheese warm, you can pan-fry or heat it before eating.

The same ingredients used in making hog head cheese are used in some African-American tribes to make a souse. Let’s see how it differs from hog head cheese and if it’s something worth trying.

US Red Meat Consumption in 2018

According to the USDA, Americans consumed about 222 pounds of red meat per capita in 2018, which includes beef, pork, veal, and lamb.

Learn More: 15 Simple Carnivore Soup Recipes with Chicken, Beef and Pork

Hog Head Cheese vs. Souse

Souse soup is a traditional Caribbean dish with pork, and sometimes chicken simmered in a broth with aromatic spices.

The broth is seasoned with herbs and spices like thyme, allspice, and bay leaves, giving the soup its unique Caribbean taste.

You can see the comparison between hog head cheese and souse in the following table.

FeatureHog Head CheeseSouse
Main Ingredients Primarily the head of a pig (meat, skin, sometimes tongue/brains) Various parts of the pig (head, feet, hocks), sometimes organs
Preparation Boiled to soften the meat, then chopped and mixed with gelatinous broth Simmered with spices and vinegar until tender, then allowed setting
Texture Firm and gelatinous Soft and jelly-like
Meat Form Chopped/shredded meat pieces Meat removed from bones
Consistency Solid, sliceable loaf/terrine Thin soup/stew broth
Serving Sliced and eaten cold Eaten as a soup or stew


So, looking to find an answer to the question, “What is hog head cheese?”, we found that it’s a traditional dish made from edible parts of the pig's head, such as the tongue, snout, cheek, and ears.

You can use it cold or warm, in sandwiches or stews, but remember that if you’re buying the pre-cooked head cheese, always check the ingredients to make sure there are no harmful additives or preservatives, especially if you’re on a low-carb diet like Carnivore.

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