Grab ahold of these Sausage Popper Boats, a tasty combination of sausages stuffed with cream cheese, pickled jalapenos, cheddar, and smoked. This fun twist to the classic smoked jalapeno poppers is rich, smoky, and still packs a spice punch.
Yes, the world needs another twist on smoked jalapeno poppers. The combination of salty smoked meats, spicy peppers, and creamy cheese is irresistible, a need for every party that involves a grill.
Why This Recipe Works
More meat – As a fan of barbecue, I enjoy eating smoked meat. Letting a jalapeno popper ride in a sausage boat definitely satisfies my cravings, providing a significant meaty bite every time.
More smoke flavor – Consider the volume of the sausages versus a smaller jalapeno. There’s more room for smoke to adhere to, giving you more barbecue flavor with every bite.
Crispy edges – These sausage poppers are a success for the same reasons that jalapeno poppers are wrapped in bacon, which is crispy meat on the outside. The casing of the sausages crisps up nicely in the smoker, still providing that snap you’d expect when biting into it.
Plenty of heat – Pickled jalapenos are recommended for this dish, as the brine flavors really brighten up the sausages with every bite. Step it up and make a batch of the spicier, Smoked Pickled Jalapenos.
Tips for Smoked Sausage Boats
This might seem pretty simple, but there are definitely a few important tips that will give you the most success. Customizing these sausage boats is the best part, so here are a few things to consider as your prep:
- The sausage is the boat. Make sure you’re using a full-length, uncured sausage.
- Cream cheese is the lower deck. Substitute with any type of soft cheese if you’d like, such as goat cheese, brie, or even creamy blue cheese. Soft cheese goes on the bottom.
- Toppings are the passengers. They sit on top of the lower deck, where the soft cheese will hold them into place. No sliding around! The toppings are along for the ride.
- Shredded or sliced cheese is the bridge. Topping with a slightly firm cheese that can melt will hold everything together, guiding the experience. The last thing you want are passengers to fall off! Melty cheeses like Pepperjack or Muenster can be added halfway through the cook to make sure it doesn’t droop off the sides like a drunk pirate.
Ingredients You’ll Need
- Fresh Sausages – This is absolutely key, the sausages have to be fresh with a casing. Pre-cooked sausages will not work, as the process involves slicing open the casing and spreading out the meat (see image below). Feel free to experiment with brats, chorizo, or any other type of fresh sausages. Bun-length sausages will be the best size.
- Cream Cheese – A staple for jalapeno poppers, this is a must. I personally prefer Philadelphia cream cheese, for some reason it just melts the best out of the brands that I’ve tried. You’ll need half a block for 5 full-length sausages.
- Pickled Jalapenos – Brine flavors from the pickling really brightens up this appetizer. Fresh jalapenos will be more bitter, and you’ll be wishing for some acid. The fatty sausage benefits from the acidic pickled jalapenos, helping to cut through that richness. Good thing I’ve got a recipe for you here.
- Cheddar Cheese – Combining cheddar and cream cheese is a typical, delicious combination for smoked jalapeno poppers. The sharp, aged flavors from cheddar stand out against the mild, cream cheese. Think about trying smoked gouda, pepper jack, or a variety of other flavorful cheeses if you’re feeling creative.
- BBQ seasonings (optional) – Sprinkle a little bbq rub on after the full assembly if you’d like to add that magic touch of chile, spices, and sugar.
Step 1: Slice Open the Sausages
Using a sharp knife, slice into the casing on one side of the sausage (see image above for reference) and open it up with your hands. Be careful not to push the meat out of the casing, you really just want to open it enough for the fillings.
Push the meat so it creates a little ridge on the sides, making sure the cheeses don’t leak out during the cooking phase.
Step 2: Fill with Toppings
Place a 1/4-inch slice of cold cream cheese down first, followed by 3-5 slices of pickled jalapenos. Top them carefully with plenty of cheddar cheese.
Don’t be afraid to pile it on and compress the cheese, as it melts you’ll find it might not be enough if you hold back.
This is a highly-recommended step. Transferring these sausage popper boats to and from the smoker is so simple when using this. Use a medium-sized wire rack with a baking sheet and there won’t be any issues. Another benefit is that you can prep these ahead of time, leaving the baking sheet in your fridge for a bit until you’re ready.
These sausage poppers really shine when they are slowly smoked with wood-fired flavors, but I’m going to share each of the methods for cooking them. If you don’t have a smoker, you’ll still be able to enjoy these!
How to Cook Sausage Popper Boats
- Using a Smoker: Set your smoker or pellet grill to 300°F. You can simply place the baking sheet with a wire rack directly in the smoker and allow them to cook for about 45-60 minutes, depending on the size and how many you’ve prepared.
- Using a Grill: Create a 2-zone setup with coals, having a cool side. A wire rack likely won’t fit, so you’ll want to carefully place the filled sausages on the cool side of the grill, aiming for a 275-300°F interior. Try not to go much higher, as the sausages closer to the coals have a chance of cooking too much and could burst. Halfway through the cook, rotate the sausages to allow the ones further back a chance to be closer to the coals. Don’t miss the opportunity to use wood chips or lump hardwood for added smoke flavors.
- Using an Oven: Place the prepared sausages into the oven while on the wire rack with a baking sheet at 300°F. Cook for about 45-60 minutes until the sausages are getting crispy, and the cheese has melted into the jalapenos.
Variations of Flavor
How exciting, this is your chance to think outside of the box! The classic pairing for these Sausage Popper Boats uses a mild Italian sausage, cream cheese, pickled jalapenos, and cheddar. Here are some other ideas:
- Chorizo: Grab some chorizo sausages and top with pickled jalapenos, queso Oaxaca or Jack cheese, and maybe even cotija.
- Brats: Cream cheese, roasted peppers, and gouda would be incredible. Don’t forget to garnish with some Pickled mustard seeds.
- Roasted Hatch Chiles: Cream cheese and roasted Hatch chiles are an incredible combination. Sharp cheddar will still work, or even an aged white cheddar.
- Cheesesteak: Roasted peppers and onions on top of the cream cheese will remind you of the classic cheesesteak flavors. Get some beef sausages and top with your preferred cheese.
- Chimichurri: Try combining sausages with cream cheese, chiles, and mozzarella before you top them with a healthy dose of fresh chimichurri.
Frequently Asked Questions
Full-length sausages are going to work best here. You could try smoking breakfast sausages, but they would be much more difficult to work with. Cooking time will also vary.
Yes, you can, but I’ve found that the oils in the cheddar can start to separate, making the popper boats a bit greasy. The higher heat also crisps up the bottom of the sausages very well.
Any fresh-made sausages at your butcher or deli would be best. For a store-bought option, I really enjoy the Johnsonville products the most.
I have tested this theory, by not sharing. It doesn’t work, you’re going to have to share.
Looking for more Smoked recipes?
- 5 full-length sausages, with casing
- 4 oz cream cheese, cold
- 20–25 slices of Smoked Pickled Jalapenos, or of your choosing
- 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese
- (optional) BBQ seasoning of choice
- Using a sharp knife, slice into the casing on one side of the sausage (see image above for reference) and open it up with your hands. Be careful not to push the meat out of the casing, you really just want to open it enough for the fillings. Push the meat so it creates a little ridge on the sides, making sure the cheeses don’t leak out during the cooking phase.
- Slice the cream cheese into equal slices, enough for each of the sausages. It helps if the cream cheese is cold, right from the fridge. Place a slice into each of the sausage boats, followed by 3-5 slices of pickled jalapenos, then a generous pile of cheddar cheese.
- Preheat your smoker to 300°F (See blog for tips on using grill or oven). Place the sausage popper boats onto a wire rack with a baking sheet, and smoke them for 45-60 minutes. The sausages should be darker, the casings are crispier, and the cheese on top will be melty. Times may vary depending on how many you choose to cook at once.
- Remove from the smoker when ready and serve. The cheese will be like hot lava in the center, so give it a couple of minutes.
- Prep Time: 5
- Cook Time: 60
- Category: Side Dish
- Method: Smoking
- Cuisine: Appetizer
Keywords: smoked sausage, sausage boats, sausage popper boats, jalapeno poppers