With its distinctive red colouring and pungent flavour, chorizo sausage is a familiar sight at most deli counters. Originally from Spain, it is popular in many countries, some of whom have their own versions, but it is typically made from a potent mixture of diced pork and pork fat, garlic, salt and pimentón, or Spanish paprika. It is fermented, cured and smoked, and is often eaten cold, although it can also be cooked.
There are many different types of chorizo, even within Spain, but these can usually be divided into spicy, or piccante, and mild, or sweet (dulce). As a general rule, longer, thinner chorizo tends to be dulce, while the shorter, fatter varieties are often picante, although this is not always the case.
What to do with chorizo
Chorizo can be eaten in many ways, with less fatty varieties often eaten sliced, without cooking, as a tapas dish or appetiser. It is also commonly eaten alongside other cured meats, in a dish known as todos los sacrementos, or ‘all the sacraments’.
Fattier varieties of chorizo tend to be used in cooking, to add flavour to other, milder ingredients. In Spain, it is a popular ingredient in bean dishes, and elsewhere it is becoming increasingly common in cooked breakfast dishes, paired with fish or chicken, or as a flavourful alternative to ground meat. If you’re new to cooking with chorizo, remember to remove the meat from its casing first, so all those delicious flavours have the chance to infuse your other ingredients.
For more inspiration on how to use chorizo, take a look at these 5 Choice Ways of Cooking with Chorizo.
Mexican vs Spanish chorizo
Although chorizo is originally from Spain, there are also variations to be found in other countries, perhaps the most famous of which is the Mexican chorizo. Despite the shared name, Spanish and Mexican chorizo are actually quite different. Unlike its Spanish cousin, the Mexican chorizo is not cured, and is known as chorizo fresco, or ‘fresh’ chorizo. This means that it cannot be eaten raw.
It is made with Mexican chilli peppers, rather than Spanish pimentón, making it a much spicier sausage, and also uses ground, rather than diced meat. Pork is still most commonly used, but is sometimes replaced by other meats, including beef, venison, chicken or turkey.
Recipes with chorizo
If you like food with bold flavours, you’ll love these hearty and flavourful chorizo recipes.
Scottish Mexican chorizo: the perfect marriage of Scottish and Mexican ingredients, this spicy, boozy sausage is made with fiery ancho chilis, and warming Scotch whisky.
Chorizo waffles: flavoured with chorizo meat and cheddar cheese, these tasty waffles are perfect for your favourite brunch toppings.
Spaghetti with kale pesto and chorizo: simple and delicious, this flavourful pasta dish is ideal for a quick but satisfying weekday dinner.
Octopus with tomato jam, chorizo and artichoke hearts: impress your dinner guests with this exquisite dish from two-Michelin-starred chef Michael Kempf of FACIL, at the Mandala Hotel in Berlin.
Cod with chorizo, tomato and onions: a comforting, rustic dish, full of big, hearty flavours, this simple bake is sure to be a real crowd-pleaser.
Loach fillet with saffron risotto, chorizo and almonds: thinly-sliced chorizo is the perfect complement for creamy risotto and tender cod in this elegant and tasty dish.
Substitutes for chorizo
There’s nothing quite like the pungent, spicy, salty flavour of chorizo. But if you’re in a pinch, there are a few things that come pretty close.
For eating raw, try another cured sausage. Like chorizo, salami is cured and fermented, and it is also usually made from pork. Season with a little smoked paprika for an even closer flavour.
Pepperoni is another cured sausage, this time made from pork and beef. Like chorizo, it is flavoured with paprika and chilli, making it similar in flavour to a spicier variety of chorizo.
Ground pork and smoked paprika
For cooking, you can use ground pork and smoked paprika, which are the main ingredients of chorizo in the first place. Use approximately 3 to 4 tablespoons for every pound of meat. You can also try adding a little garlic and salt, and even chilis if you like it spicy.
Chickpeas and smoked paprika
For a tasty vegan alternative to chorizo, try using chickpeas for protein, seasoned with plenty of smoky paprika. Again, you can also add garlic, salt and chilis, as well as some grilled red peppers for extra texture.
Chorizo usually comes in vacuum-sealed packaging, which keeps it fresh without the need for refrigeration. Once the packaging has been opened, store in the refrigerator, but don’t use a sealed container, as this traps humid air and encourages mould. Instead, wrap it loosely in a paper towel, and your chorizo should keep for up to 6 months.