What is Chorizo? 10 Things You Need to Know About The Spicy Sausage



July 12, 2018

Here's your guide to navigating the types of chorizo, learning how to cook with it, and enjoying spicy and delicious sausage.
Kristi Kellogg & Kerry Acker

What is chorizo? It's sausage. And it's delicious. Just about everyone loves chorizo (right?), but navigating the different types of chorizo, and figuring out how and when to use which types of chorizo, is a whole 'nother story. Here, ten things to know about chorizo.

1. It's Made of Pork
Chorizo is a highly seasoned chopped or ground pork sausage used in Spanish and Mexican cuisine. Mexican chorizo is made with fresh (raw, uncooked) pork, while the Spanish version is usually smoked.

2. It's Spicy
Mexican chorizo is typically seasoned with vinegar and chile peppers, while Spanish chorizo is made with garlic and pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika, either sweet or hot), which gives it its deep brick-red color and smoky flavor. (Authentic Spanish, deeply smoky and tangy chorizo is a revelation—but there's also nothing like a spicy, beautifully greasy-in-the-best-way chorizo taco.)

3. Chorizo is Available Both Fully-Cooked and Semicured
In the United States, Spanish chorizo is available in two different forms: fully cooked and dry (to be sliced like salami/pepperoni), and fully cooked and soft (semicured). La Tienda sells both versions (in hot and mild varieties).

4. Mexican and Spanish Chorizo Aren't Interchangeable
Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo impart very different flavors—and behave differently—so they aren't interchangeable in recipes, people. According to culinary expert Anya von Bremzen's New Spanish Table, "While you shouldn't substitute fresh chorizo for semi-cured, dry chorizo can be used in its place if this all you can locate."

5. Think Beyond Chorizo and Eggs
Chorizo has made a name for itself at the breakfast table with chorizo and eggs—chorizo, however, can be used in a variety of dishes. It can be served as an hors d'ouvres with Manchego and olives. You can crisp chorizo and toss it into salads, particularly spinach. Or, simply warm it and mix it with any pasta "sauced" with kale, dried chile flakes and olives for a hearty dinner. You can also think of it as a seasoning: Render the paprika-and-garlic-rich fat and it can flavor anything from braised green beans to seared cod to dull cannellini.

Check out some of our favorite ways to cook chorizo that showcase the sausage's versatility:

Chorizo Bolognese with Buffalo Mozzarella
Brussels Sprout Leaves with Chorizo and Toasted Almonds
Cornbread, Chorizo, Cherry and Pecan Stuffing
Charred Octopus Taco with Harissa, Chorizo Crushed Potatoes, and Picked Ramps
Chorizo Lemon Butter
Grilled Chorizo, Goat Cheese and Watercress Pita Pizzas
Chorizo and Scrambled Eggs Breakfast Tacos
One-Pot Chicken and Chorizo
Calzones with Chorizo and Kale
Sheet-Pan Paella with Chorizo, Mussels and Shrimp

6. Remove the Outer Wrapper Before Cooking With Chorizo
If you're new to cooking with chorizo, this tip will come in handy: You're supposed to remove the casing before cooking.

7. Chorizo Lasts 1-2 Weeks
Wondering how long your chorizo will be good for? It lasts two weeks in the refrigerator. Once you slice it, however, it is only good for another week.

8. Chorizo is Not a Health Food
Delicious as it is, chorizo is a high-calorie, high-fat, high-sodium food. It is low-carb, though—and it fits into a ketogenic diet.

9. Chorizo Originated in Catalonia
Scholars believe that chorizo likely originated in Catalonia. In addition to Mexican and Spanish cooking, chorizo is also used regularly in Portuguese, Puerta Rican, Panamanian, South American, and Filipino cooking

10. It's So Good There's a Vegan Version
The taste of the spicy pork sausage is so desirable, vegans came up with their own meat-free version called Soyrizo.

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