Hot dogs, brats, and Polishes are absolutely delicious, but there’s a wide world of sausages out there beyond the big three, ready to be tossed onto your grill. Case in point: ćevapi, a dense little alternative to the classic tubular meats that doesn’t get nearly enough love. Let’s change that right now.
Ćevapi, or ćevapčići, are a type of stubby Balkan sausage typically made of ground meat like beef, pork, lamb, or some combination of the three. They’re seasoned with garlic and paprika and grilled, served in a pile on flatbread with onions and other condiments.
Ćevapi have a uniquely spongy texture to them, thanks to the addition of baking soda. This gives the uncased sausage some real spring when you chew it, making it texturally different from, say, a bratwurst.
Part of my fondness for ćevapi stems from the fact that many Chicago street festivals feature a stand simply called Ćevapčići Chicago that sells delicious meats to a typically long line of hungry attendees. Chicagoans can spot that blue banner with the yellow font a mile away, along with the smoke rising off the grill. It’s a summertime tradition to grab some of these sausages while walking around, and they pair perfectly with a crisp, cold beer.
Fear not, clumsy festival-goers: these become a handheld food when tucked into flatbread. Dress them with chopped raw onions, ajvar (a roasted pepper and eggplant relish), and some sour some cream, and you’ve pretty much got a meal that will keep you full all day.
Ćevapi are also really easy to make—Philo’s Kitchen has a simple recipe that involves minimal prep—and you can even do a vegan version of them using a plant-based beef substitute like Beyond Meat. It’s a summer recipe that’s full of shortcuts, if you wish to take them. Ajvar, for example, which you really shouldn’t skip, is conveniently sold by the jar at some supermarkets and specialty stores.
Maybe you already know the glory of ćevapi and you want to spread the good news far and wide. In that case, the aforementioned Ćevapčići Chicago ships its raw product nationally, with free delivery throughout Chicagoland. When I asked about shipping to either coast, the company did mention that the costs can get a little steep, so it just depends on how far-flung your loved ones are and how generous you want to be.
If you see some ćevapi at the grocery store this season, be sure to snag some for your next cookout. They’re so easy to make that you should really give them a shot for dinner one night. It’ll be a welcome change from burgers, and just about as easy. It’s time for you to see what the fuss is about.