If you’ve never had bangers and mash before, you should change that. It’s the definition of a comfort food. It’s filling and easy to make with inexpensive ingredients. For many, especially in Ireland and Great Britain, it’s a dish that harkens to childhood and a homemade meal from mum.
While this was perfection as children, things aren’t so simple for adults. We need to be more health conscious and aware that sausage, gravy, and buttery mashed potatoes aren’t going to be allies in the fight against the obesity epidemic. With some clever tweaks, we can make this classic meal healthier while keeping the spirit of the dish largely intact.
Use a Slimmer Sausage for a Better Banger
When it comes to making bangers and mash, the bangers deliver a lot of the flavor. Traditionally, British pork sausage is used. This is a milder sausage with breadcrumbs. They also tend to differ from American breakfast sausage in that bangers are more savory where breakfast sausages are sweeter. Pork tends to be high in saturated fat and calories (from 290-455 calories and 23-38g of fat per link).
They also tend to differ from American breakfast sausage in that bangers are more savory where breakfast sausages are sweeter.
This can be improved by changing up the sausage. Namely, changing out pork for a leaner meat like turkey or chicken, which have roughly half the calories and a third of the fat (140-160 calories and 7-10g of fat). One benefit is that they’re both readily available in your grocery store in a variety of flavors. You can mix it up a bit, but you’ll want to aim for a savory, mild sausage. Chorizo or a spicy sausage will overpower the rest of the dish.
Another way to lighten the dish is to bake or grill the sausage instead of cooking it on the stovetop. This ensures the sausage isn’t sitting in grease or fat like butter or oil. But keep in mind, grilling the sausage means you won’t have the sausage grease to flavor the onion gravy.
Creating a Greater Gravy
One of the simplest way to improve the calorie, fat, and salt content of your bangers and mash is to simply not add the onion gravy. While it adds a lot of flavor to the meal and ties all the ingredients together, it’s not the bangers and it’s not the mash. To replace some of the taste, you can still lightly sauté the onions and add those to the potatoes.
While gravy adds a lot of flavor to the meal and ties all the ingredients together, it’s not the bangers and it’s not the mash.
If you want the gravy (preferable), you can make it a bit healthier. Some recipes will call for butter or stock. Others call for sugar. These aren’t entirely necessary. Truly, all you need to make an onion gravy is the onions, an oil, bangers, and some way to deglaze the pan. You’re essentially making a pan sauce. By removing many of the extra ingredients, you can lighten up the gravy. It’s still not super healthy for you, but the gravy packs plenty of flavor. This will allow you to cut down on portion size.
Making a Masterful Mash
We’ve previously written on lighter mashed potatoes, originally in Getting Creative with Comfort Food: Healthy Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes. There are many simple ways you can lighten your mash up. Instead of butter and whole milk, you can substitute skim milk, margarine, or low-fat sour cream.
The most important thing to note is to add milk, butter/margarine, and sour cream judiciously!
The most important thing to note is to add milk, butter/margarine, and sour cream judiciously, since you can always add more, but steaming or boiling more potatoes to mash takes too long. This can also help you save on calories by cutting back on the fatty ingredients.
Better Bangers and Mash
- 4 mild chicken sausages
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
For the Onion Gravy
- 1 medium onion
- 3 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 tbsp of butter/margarine
- ¼ cup of red wine
- 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth (water if you really want to cut calories)
- 1 tbsp of flour (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the Mashed Potatoes
- 8 medium russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- ¼ cup of skim milk
- ¼ cup of margarine
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Drop peeled, cubed potatoes into boiling salted water
- Bring water to a simmer at a low heat and cook potatoes until soft, about 15-20 minutes
- In a small sauce pan, warm the skim milk and margarine over low heat, just enough to melt the margarine
- Drain water and place potatoes in a large bowl
- Mash potatoes, adding the skim milk and margarine until the mash reaches your desired texture
- Salt and pepper the mash to taste
- If the sausage and gravy is still cooking, set aside and cover with foil to keep warm
- While the potatoes are boiling, heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet
- Add the sausages to the pan and cook, turning so all sides brown
- Remove sausages from the skillet and set aside
- Add the onions and 3 tbsp of olive oil and cook until brown
- Add the red wine and scrape the bottom of the skillet and stir
- Add the butter and stir as it melts
- Bring sauce to a boil before lowering heat to simmer, stirring occasionally to prevent onions from burning on the bottom of the skillet
- Allow gravy to reduce by about half to three fourths of the way
- Stir in low-sodium chicken broth
- Reduce about halfway, adding the 1 tbsp of flour
- Add the sausages back into the skillet and allow gravy to reduce until your preferred thickness
- Serve mashed potatoes, top with two sausages and one or two spoonfuls of onion gravy
The English Breakfast Society — A Guide to British Sausages