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Spicy Cheddar Snack Sticks

I have to admit. I’m a sucker for a good spicy snack stick. I can eat them all day long!! Recently we started a project that involves some of the world’s hottest peppers so I though it would be fun to make the ultimate spicy snack stick. The cheddar was just a bonus😁

Today we are aiming to make not only a spicy snack stick but a tangy one as well!! We are going to achieve those sourly notes in our snack stick by using a product called encapsulated citric acid. This is a great way to get that traditional old fashion tangy flavor with out having to ferment of mess with starter cultures. This product works like a time release to lower the ph of your sausage. You can use it to make summer sausage, pepperoni, or anything that you want a slightly tangy or sourly flavor.

Here’s how it works. The citric acid is coated with hydrogenated cotton seed oil. That cotton seed oil melts between 135F – 150F. So as soon as you start cooking your ECA filled sausage and it reaches an internal temperature of 150F the oil coating will have melted and the citric acid will be released into the meat, lowering the ph. TANGY!!

Encapsulated citric acid is very easy to use and works great if you follow the package directions. ECA (encapsulated citric acid) must be the very last ingredient you add to your meat as you are mixing. If you add it too soon the encapsulation could break, releasing the citric acid into your meat messing up the bind and texture. The other thing to remember about ECA is that it must be cooked the day it’s prepared.

I know that some of you may saying, ” wait a minute. Don’t we have to let the sausage rest in the fridge overnight to allow the cure to work?”. Under normal circumstances you are correct but encapsulated citric acid also works as a cure accelerator so when you use ECA you can cook immediately after stuffing!

I used 18-20mm sheep casings in this recipe but if you happen to have collagen casings those work great as well. Just be sure to dry your snack sticks out before cooking so that the casings can adhere properly and the snack stick can take on that tasty smoke. To dry your casing out simply hang it at room temperature for a couple of hours before smoking or set your smoker to very low (100F-110F) with the baffles wide open or the door slightly ajar. This will speed up the process.

Follow basic sausage preparation practices when making this sausage.
  1. Clean and Sanitize all of your equipment.
  2. Keep your meat and grinder parts super cold (below 34F)
  3. Any liquid that is added to the mince needs to be ice cold
  4. Mix your very chilled meat till the mince becomes very tacky
  5. Stuff the mince into sausage casings and prick out any air pockets
  6. After stuffing, smoke and cook your snack sticks low and slow:
    Start at 125F for 1 1/2 hours, 135F for 1 hour, 155F for 1 hour, 165F for 1 hour, then 180F till the internal temp reaches 150F (smoke is being applied lightly through the entire cooking process)
  7. After they finish smoking submerge the snack sticks in ice cold water to cool them off completely
  8. Finally let them bloom at room temperature for several hours.
  9. Refrigerate and enjoy!!

Here are a few things you might find useful when making sausage

ThermoWorks Thermapen Mk4

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Print Recipe
4.88 from 16 votes

Spicy Cheddar Snack Sticks

Hot and tasty snack sticks delicious
Prep Time1 day
Cook Time6 hours
Total Time1 day 6 hours
How much do you want to make? 1000 grams



  • Clean your meat of any silver skin, sinew, arteries and cut into small strips or cubes. Place the meat and fat in the freezer for an hour or until the temp reaches 32f – 34F.
  • Prepare all of your seasonings (except the encapsulated citric acid), clean and rehydrate your casings
  • Grind your very chilled meat and fat on a course plate (12mm). Add all of your seasonings to your course ground meat (except the encapsulated citric acid)
  • Regrind your seasoned meat on a 6mm or 4mm plate.
  • Add the ice cold water to your seasoned meat and begin to mix till it becomes very tacky. If you grab a small handful it will stick to your hand if you hold your hand upside down. Once that happens add the small cheddar cheese cubes and mix till they are well incorporated. LASTLY ADD THE ENCAPSULATED CITRIC ACID and mix for 20 more seconds till it's well incorporated.
  • Stuff your mince meat into the sheep casings and form your links.
  • After you form your links place the sticks in your smoker and let them dry out for 1 hour. I keep a low 100F temp with the door slightly open.

Cooking Schedule

  • Start cooking at 125F for 1 1/2 hours, 135F for 1 hour, 155F for 1 hour, 165F for 1 hours then 180 till the internal temp reaches 150F (smoke is being applied lightly through the entire cooking process)
  • Once finished cooking submerge in ice cold water and hang to bloom for 4-8 hours

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47 thoughts on “Spicy Cheddar Snack Sticks”

    1. no. citric acid will acidify the meat immediatly messing up the bind and the texture. The encapsulated element keeps that from happening till it’s cooked 😀

    2. I am an American living in the Philippines. I am relatively new to the sausage and salami hobby, I can’t get encapsulated citric acid or starter cultures here because they have to be kept refrigerated. Is it necessary to use the mold cultures if your using pink cure #1 or 2 in your sausage or salami.
      Thank you for your reply,

    1. Sure. In the “servings” box just type in how much you want to make in grams. 5 pounds = 2270, 10 pounds = 4540 and the recipe will automatically figure it out for you.

      1. Hi Eric, I’ve been watching your videos for a while and am FINALLY getting to making some sausage. We did the UmaiDry salami kit and were pleased with the results. I want to make some Jalapeño and cheese snack sticks and was wondering if I should use fresh, canned (not pickled), or dehydrated peppers. I already have some high temp cheese but it seems as though I won’t necessarily need it. Thanks in advance!

  1. There is no reason this recipe won’t work if I leave out the encapsulated citrate and do an old fashioned ferment is there?… I’m a fan of tspx (mostly as it’s the culture I have).

    1. Nope. That’s actually the way I prefer to do it. To get that tangy flavor though you’ll want to drop the pH to 4.6. That means ferment a little hotter and add 1% dextrose. It’s not really the way TSPX is meant to be used but it’ll work. Here’s a post I did on naturally fermented snack sticks..

  2. Hi Eric,
    I’m not big on spicy part of these snack sticks. So if I left out the chipotle powder and the pepper flakes would I have to increase anything to make up for the 5 gram lost?

  3. Well, I left out the chipotle powder and the Super spicy pepper flakes. I used 350g of ground chuck and 650g of ground pork. They turned out excellent!
    Will this recipe work for venison?
    I am thinking of using 650g of venison and 350g of ground pork. What do you think.

  4. Hi Eric,
    I made the snack sticks with venison and ground pork. I’m not sure what happen. The collagen casing falling off the meat. I followed your cook schedule. I have made them before with no problem.
    Any idea what I did wrong? They taste great but don’t look so good.

    1. Hey Tim. If the collagen casing is falling off the meat it means the casings didn’t have a chance to adhere properly. This might be due to fat smearing or some other bizarre issue. After I stuff I generally allow the sausage to remain at room temp for several hours to let the casing adhere. Even when I go to smoke it I let the sausage come to room temp them let it hang out at 90F for several hours just to let the casing stick. My best guess would be it’s a fat issue..

      1. Eric,
        I think that is what happen. I know I was in a rush to get them into the smoker. They were stuffed and were into the smoker with in an hour.
        Thanks for the help.
        PS Did I mention that your recipe is a big hit.


      2. Eric,

        Why is it that you have us add so much dextrose (example for 5 Lbs for this Snack stick recipe it’s 13.5 grams) and when your recipes that make 5 Lbs of all your salami’s you NEVER use that high percentage of dextrose for a 5 pound batch?! It seems off. Why so high for Snack Sticks but lower for Salami’s?

        1. Because we are using a starter culture that’s designed for acidification only. When you use a starter culture like that you need to add more sugar (usually .8% – 1%). For salami we are not trying to get the ph that low so we don’t need much

  5. Hi Eric,
    Can I make these snack sticks without the encapsulated citrate? I don’t want the tangy flavor.
    Thank you!

    1. yes. Keep everything else the same just omit the ECA. If you plan on using cure in the recipe you’ll want to let it rest overnight before cooking

  6. 5 stars
    Great recipe. I used Antelope and pork belly and the result was amazing. One word of warning, using the “prescribed dose” of ghost pepper flakes makes these VERY spicy (which I love!)

  7. I find myself with a lot of fresh garlic on hand from my garden. Is there any reason that crushed fresh garlic couldn’t be substituted for the garlic powder in this recipe, either for safety or texture/bind reasons?

  8. Since this is a one day cook, would it be prudent to use sodium erythorbate in the recipe to make sure everything is cured properly?

  9. Would I be able to grind and season one day and the next day, mix the ECA, stuff casings and smoke on the second day?

  10. Regards the High Temp Dehydrated Milk Powder, any reason I cant add that, as well as all the spices, to the water first (I’m not using the Citric Acid) then mix into the grind, then put into the refer for 12 hours for the cure to work? Proceed then with second grind, mix again till tacky….

    1. you can do that. The mixture will be super sticky on the regrind and very difficult to process. Just make sure everything is super cold when you regrind.

      1. The best snack sticks I’ve made.Didn’t use the ECA ,used sodium erythorbate turned out great.Thanks for the recipe!

  11. 5 stars
    Just finished #30, split Cheddar and Pepper Jack, Jalapeno and Serrano. OH MAN is it good! I was surprised how mild it is, next time I will double the fresh pepper! New to this. Why the long, low, slow cook?

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