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What Is Chorizo?
Chorizo is a pork sausage that can be either raw or cured, but is always strongly flavored, either with smoked paprika or chilis. What we think of as chorizo today likely first appeared in the Iberian peninsula sometime after the introduction of paprika to Spain in the sixteenth century. Chorizo was defined in a Spanish dictionary in 1726 as a "short piece of gut, filled with meat, regularly pork, chopped and seasoned, usually cured by the smoke."
7 Varieties of Spanish Chorizo
Spanish chorizo is often made from cuts like cabecero (from the neck to the fifth rib), lomo (loin), papada (jowl), and panceta (belly). Pork shoulder is a good substitute if those cuts aren’t available, but with a total fat content around 40 percent, the use of tocino (pork back fat) in chorizo is non-negotiable. Spanish-style chorizo gets its flavor and bright red color from pimentón (smoked paprika), but other types of chorizo lean more towards pink, brown, or even green.
Spanish chorizos are classified both by level of curing and by their ingredients, but they always include pimentón (smoked paprika), which gives Spanish chorizos their bright red color.
- Spanish soft chorizo can be loose (known as picadillo) or in a casing (chorizo fresco). This fresh, raw sausage is typically made from pork meat, pork fat, paprika, crushed red pepper, and garlic and must be cooked before eating.
- Spanish chorizo semicurado is semi-cured: It’s fresh sausage that has been fermented and possibly smoked, but not dried. The fermentation process adds acidity and extends the shelf life of semi-cured chorizo, but this type of sausage still needs to be cooked before eating.
- Spanish chorizo curado is cured, or fermented and dried until hard and shelf-stable. This type of chorizo typically eaten uncooked, thinly sliced for a simple tapa.
- Chorizo riojano is produced in Rioja, Spain, and seasoned with garlic and both pimentón picante (spicy) and dulce (sweet/mild). It’s available cured or semi-cured.
- Spanish chorizo castellano contains the same seasonings as chorizo riojano, plus oregano.
- Spanish chorizo navarra is seasoned with pimentón dulce and garlic.
- Spanish chorizo andaluz is seasoned with black pepper, pimentón, cloves, garlic, and dry white wine.
What Are the Characteristics of Mexican Chorizo?
Unlike chouriçco and Spanish chorizo, Mexican chorizo always needs to be cooked before eating.
- Classic Mexican chorizo is made from pork (and occasionally beef) seasoned with chilis and vinegar rather than paprika and wine. Though it is sometimes briefly fermented, à la Spanish chorizo semicurado, it’s never cured. Instead, Mexican chorizo is sold raw, with or without sausage casing.
- Mexican chorizo verde looks green when raw, since it’s seasoned with green chiles, tomatillos, and/or cilantro.
2 Other Types of Chorizo
- Portuguese chouriço is very similar to Spanish-style chorizo, but with slightly different flavorings. Typical Portuguese chouriço contains less paprika and more garlic than its Spanish counterpart, plus red wine. It’s typically smoked and cured. Portuguese chouriço de sangue is a blood sausage, similar to British black pudding.
- In Louisiana, Creole and Cajun cuisine features chaurice, a fresh, spicy sausage that comes from Spanish chorizo. Chaurice is typically seasoned with green onions, garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, cayenne or other chili pepper, bay leaf, parsley, and celery. Find it in red beans and rice, gumbo, and jambalaya.
How to Cook Chorizo
How to cook chorizo depends on what kind you’re using. Cured chorizo doesn’t require any cooking at all: Simply slice and eat! For raw and semi-cured chorizo varieties, you’ll generally want to remove the casing (if there is any) and fry in a hot, dry pan until the chorizo is cooked through and the fat has rendered out.
9 Chorizo Recipe Ideas
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Cured Spanish chorizo is generally eaten sliced, as part of a tapas plate with manchego or olives. Other types of chorizo are cooked in different regional preparations:
- Tex-Mex migas, a mixture of cheese, tortilla strips, eggs, and Mexican-style chorizo.
- Chorizo con papas (potatoes), a dish from Mexico often served as tacos, burritos, or alone. This chorizo recipe is sometimes spiced with cumin.
- Queso fundido with Mexican chorizo is a melted cheese dip.
- Mexican chorizo chili, a classic cumin-spiced chili with Mexican chorizo sausage for added flavor.
- Chorizo con huevos (eggs), scrambled eggs with chorizo mixed in.
- Portuguese chouriço tortilha (like a Spanish tortilla or an Italian frittata) is a simple egg dish, slowly cooked over a stove with potatoes and chouriço,
- Portuguese chouriço with littleneck clams and white beans
- Paella with sliced cured Spanish chorizo
- Chaurice with red beans and rice
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