To put it bluntly, chorizo is a glorious form of spicy or highly-flavored pork sausage that is often used in Spanish and Mexican cuisine. In fact, there are varieties specific to each culture.
Chorizo is thought to have been invented in the early 1700s in Catalonia, Spain. Back then it was a Spanish sausage that was a short piece of gut (most likely the casings we know today) filled with chopped meat and fat and a host of spices. It was often smoked. Mexican chorizo came into its own a bit later.
Since those humble beginnings, two distinct forms of chorizo have arisen. There are two types of chorizo and it is good to be familiar with them both. Each one is great for different types of dishes. Let’s take a look at them.
First off, this variety is dried and cured in sausage casing before it is sold. It is fully ready to eat so you will often find it in the cured meats section – think salami and prosciutto aisle.
Secondly, with this type of chorizo, you can find some that are smoked and some that are not smoked. Some are sweet and others are spicy. No matter your preferred variety, there will always be chopped pork, chopped fat, and a hefty dose of pimento (smoked paprika) and salt. Some include other herbs and things like garlic as well.
The texture of this chorizo is dense and has quite a bit of chew. It can be sliced and eaten whole with the casing and all. Popular preparations include it in hearty soups and stews, rice dishes like paella, and even cubed and cooked with things like clams and mussels.
This type can get a little bit more complicated. Mexican chorizo is most often sold fresh and uncooked. It can be cooked whole or broken down and crumbled in dishes. You can find it in the same place you would find fresh sausages – either in an aisle or at the butcher counter.
Here is where it gets interesting. All varieties within the Mexican chorizo umbrella are highly seasoned and stuffed with fatty meats. Most often this is pork, but it can also sometimes include beef and other proteins.
In terms of taste, that will truly depend on who made the sausage. Some are bright red from paprika while others are dark red from deeper and more rich dried peppers. There is even a green variety that gets its color from chiles and cilantro thrown into the meat mixture.
This kind of sausage can be cooked up and thrown into breakfast with scrambled eggs, put in a corn tortilla for a killer taco, sprinkled on top of nachos or queso, sautéed with veggies, etc. The sky is the limit with this flavor-packed ingredient.
I might get some flak for this, but in my book, they are not. Each one is its own beast and its best to use the one listed.
What if the recipe doesn’t specify what type of chorizo to buy in the ingredient list?
Don’t sweat it! Just look at the prep instructions. If it says to take the sausage out of the casing and crumble it, then you are most likely working with Mexican chorizo. If it calls for slicing, dicing, or cubing, then you are most likely working with the Spanish variety.
Is chorizo a blood sausage?
As many of us know, blood sausages are popular in many, many countries, but not really here in the U.S. Chorizo is not a blood sausage but it is thought to have descended from something similar.