What Is Chorizo? Here's Everything You Need to Know About the Spicy Sausage

Updated 08/16/19
what is chorizo
Half Baked Harvest

Seriously though, what is chorizo? The delicious ingredient has been popping up in some of the tastiest (and trendiest) meals, and is a regular feature in our favorite dishes, from tapas to tacos. It's also been making its presence felt in a range of dishes across various price points, from Michelin-starred restaurants to taco trucks alike. Adored by ardent foodies, chorizo has gotten a lot of buzz lately—even outside of the culinary world. Now that you've tasted chorizo, it's time to get acquainted with the spicy sausage.

Here’s everything you need to know about this flavorful food.

What Is Chorizo?

The term chorizo refers to a specific type of pork sausage, traditionally prepared using natural intestinal casings. The predominant sources of chorizo are Spain and Portugal, where the tradition of making chorizo dates back to the Roman Empire. Chorizo is also popular in Mexican cuisine, though it can also be found in Central and South America and the Philippines. Mexicans make their chorizo using fresh and uncooked pork that is typically seasoned with vinegar and chile peppers. While the Spanish version is usually made with garlic, smoked red peppers, and paprika that gives it the distinctive deep-red color and smoky flavor.

How to Eat It

While chorizo can be enjoyed by itself (delectably fermented, cured, and smoked), it can also be easily used as an ingredient in another dish. If you go the latter route, consider pairing it with eggs for a delicious breakfast option. You can also pair it with rice, pasta, tacos, and vegetables for a hearty dinner. If you prefer enjoying chorizo by itself, pair it with salads, or simply add it to your cheeseboard or pair it with olives and manchego cheese for an interesting hors d'ouvres. Lastly, don't underestimate mighty sausage's power as a topping.

Tear it into tiny pieces and top it over steamed vegetables for added flavor or add it your dips for a spicy surprise. Regional takes on chorizo can vary significantly, with the addition of wines, spices, and a range of herbs, so keep experimenting till you find your favorites.

What You Should Know

Chorizo is considered a “forbidden” food among some health enthusiasts. Chorizo is technically a “processed meat,” meaning that it’s treated (in this case, smoked or fermented) instead of being simply cooked through. It also tends to be on the fatty side and is calorically dense, ringing in at about 455 calories per serving. However, if consumed in moderation, it can be an incredible way to spice up your favorite dishes. Aim to buy your chorizo from organic sources or try healthier vegetarian options.

And if you're new to cooking with chorizo, keep in mind that the outer casing needs to be removed before cooking. Now that you know what chorizo is, try this recipe for mini chorizo and cauliflower hashbrown egg loaves.

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