Although nutritionists agree that chorizo is one of the worst foods for cardiovascular health, this spicy Spanish sausage is gaining fame worldwide. This cured meat gives appetizers, bread, eggs, or just about any recipe -including lentils with chorizo- a special kick that makes it stand out.
However, some people are oblivious to the nutritional value of this meat product and what makes it different than others of its kind like longaniza. To answer all of these questions, below we explain what chorizo is, how to make it, and recipes where it is an ingredient, as well as the most common varieties around the world.
Chorizo is a cured, smoked, or fermented pork meat product which is minced and stuffed into intestine casings. Chicken, beef, turkey, and even vegan options also exist when it comes to different varieties of this product.
Spices are key ingredients in this type of sausage since sweet or spicy smoked paprika give it its red color and sweet or spicy flavor. This pepper made its way to Spain from the Americas in the colonial exchange during the 16th century.
The matanza (pig slaughtering) forms a part of an old Spanish tradition in small towns around the country. This event put food on the table for the whole family, including this meat, turning it into a sort of celebration.
This sausage was one of the main foods made after this annual event, and that's why it is the main ingredient in many Spanish recipes.
On the same note, this spicy sausage prepared after the matanza is cured since the original intention here was to conserve foods and make them last all year long.
This product is from the Iberian peninsula and a traditional part of Spanish gastronomy. This cured meat can be found in Argentinian, Mexican, and even Bolivian cuisine, due to Spanish and Portuguese influence. European countries like Italy, Hungary, Germany, and Austria also consume this food, and sometimes it's known as papikwurst.
Chorizo and longaniza are two of the most popular varieties of Spanish sausages. Also, both are made using mainly pork meat.
Both of these sausages are made with spices to give them their distinctive flavors, but, even so, their appearance, preparation method, and taste vary greatly.
The main ingredient of choripán (a chorizo sandwich) is ground meat, while longaniza is made with larger chunks of minced meat. Besides, chorizo is thicker with a deeper red color and cut into shorter links than longaniza.
On the other hand, longaniza is thinner, more elongated, and brown and sometimes covered with spices. On the inside, it is more pink than red and cut into finer slices.
There are so many recipes that use this cured meat as the main ingredient in both Spain and Latin America. Below we list a few of the most common ones:
Lentils with chorizo
Spicy tomato pasta
Chorizo and eggs
On a sandwich
With scrambled eggs
In South American countries like Argentina, this cured meat is also often eaten grilled on a baguette called a choripán with provolone cheese. In Colombia, on the other hand, it's always eaten with potatoes, arepas, or yucca. Finally, in countries like Mexico and Costa Rica, this spicy sausage is enjoyed on tacos with cilantro, onion, and a little bit of lime.
There are so many ways to make this spicy cured meat, but we recommend the following ingredients if you want to make your own at home:
850-900 g lean minced pork meat
200 g minced pork belly
3 tablespoons smoked paprika powder
1 tablespoon salt
2 meters pork or beef casing
1 glass white wine
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
2 tablespoons ground cumin
2 cloves garlic
To make this recipe, first, place all of the meat in the refrigerator for a few hours until it cools down. Then, put the other ingredients in a bowl with the meat and mix everything with your hands until you achieve a uniform texture.
When the mixture is ready, cover it with aluminum foil and let it rest in the refrigerator for approximately one day. After, take the casings and tie one end with a cotton string. Then, fill it with the meat you've prepared using a wide-mouthed pastry bag. Don't forget to leave part of the casing empty so that you have room to tie the opposite end of your spicy cured sausage once you've filled it most of the way.
Lastly, hang your freshly made chorizo in a dry, cool place for at least a month and a half so that it's well cured.
This spicy red cured sausage comes in many varieties. However, the leading countries that produce this kind of cured meat are Spain, Argentina, and Mexico. The most famous Spanish chorizo comes from Pamplona and La Rioja.
Chorizo criollo is an Argentinian variety of this sausage that needs to be grilled instead of cured. In Mexico, this sausage can also be made with other types of meat like beef and needs to have the casing removed before it's cooked. Mexican chorizo also comes in a green variation which gets its color from green chilis and cilantro.
Like all other processed meat, chorizo contains preservatives, coloring, sugars, and other ingredients of little nutritional value that can be harmful to the health if consumed too frequently.
The main problem with this food is that it is difficult to digest. This means that it could damage the digestive system causing toxins to accumulate, and over time, this could lead to chronic diseases.
On the same note, this spicy sausage is high in fat -mostly saturated- and calories that can lead to weight issues such as obesity. That's why it's important to eat a balanced and nutritious diet.
This doesn't mean you can't enjoy this cured meat as an appetizer or in lentil stew occasionally. However, try to eat this food in moderation to control your weight and most importantly, to stay in good health.
Aris, P. (2003). Spanish: over 150 mouthwatering step-by-step recipes. London: Hermes House. pp. 54–55.