Chorizo The Popular Spanish Dish Explained

Chorizo is a popular ingredient in traditional Spanish dishes, as well as being frequently used in Mexican cuisine. Chances are you’ve often eaten chorizo in your favorite dishes without even realizing this spicy treat was helping to give it that little added pizzazz. But if you don’t really know a lot about this culinary treat, you may be wondering what chorizo is?

Traditional portuguese chourico or spanish chorizo prepared in a special clay pot cooked with burning alcohol

Chorizo is a spiced pork sausage with a coarse texture, usually manufactured using chopped pork and red peppers, which is then seasoned with paprika and chili. The chorizo gets its signature red color from the red peppers and paprika. There is a distinct difference between Spanish and Mexican chorizo, as the two use different types of pork. Spanish chorizo uses smoked pork, whereas Mexican chorizo uses fresh pork.

This is an ingredient that can be bought both raw and cooked. The softer cooking chorizo will need to be cooked before you can consume it, whereas the dried variety which is much firmer can be eaten without cooking first. You may also find it sold ready sliced down at your local grocery store.

Another distinct difference between Spanish and Mexican chorizo – beyond the fact that Mexican chorizo is often uncooked ground sausage – is that Mexican sausage can be made with other meats besides pork. Mexican chorizo can be made using beef, venison, or even chicken, and it is also much spicier than its Spanish counterpart.

What is Chorizo Made Out Of?

The traditional ingredient of chorizo is pork. This is usually highly seasoned, and often smoked for the Spanish variant. The pork is then combined with red peppers, chili, and paprika to create those classic spicy flavors.

homemade chorizo

Mexican chorizo can be made using other meats such as beef, venison, and poultry, and is often a lot spicier than Spanish chorizo. There is even a type of Mexican chorizo which features an unusual green color instead of the traditional red because of the different peppers and spices added to it, mainly tomatillo and cilantro.

What is the difference between chorizo and sausage?

So now that we know chorizo and sausage both use pork as their main ingredient, you may be wondering what the difference is between the two tasty treats. Especially when the term sausage does still technically apply to chorizo!

The key is in the fact that chorizo is generally cooked, and can be eaten ready bought from the store. Mexican chorizo will need to be cooked before you can eat it. Generic sausage will feature raw pork, along with other seasonings, and this will generally be much milder in flavor.

Chorizo pork dry cured meat sausage
Chorizo pork dry cured meat sausage

It is always important to cook raw pork before you eat it to prevent any unwanted food poisoning. There is a whole load of unpleasant parasites that can lurk in raw pork, so it’s always best to err on the side of caution with this ingredient.

Can you eat chorizo raw?

The answer to whether you can eat chorizo raw will entirely depend on the type of chorizo that you are opting for. If you are thinking of eating some classic Spanish chorizo that has already been cured and cooked before it reaches the grocery store shelf, then yes, you can eat this without cooking the chorizo.

raw chorizo

However, if you are referring to Mexican sausage which is raw, then the answer is no, you can’t eat this chorizo raw. You should always thoroughly cook your meat before you eat it, otherwise you could give yourself food poisoning. Mexican chorizo is an ingredient that is often used in cooking before it is consumed.

If in doubt, the general rule of thumb is that if you opt for the drier, firmer variety of chorizo, this will be perfectly okay to eat without cooking. The same will go for ready sliced chorizo that you buy in your grocery store. If the chorizo is softer to the touch, you will need to cook this before you eat it.

What goes best with chorizo?

Chorizo is a versatile meat that will meld well with a variety of ingredients. It works particularly well with other meats, such as beef, chicken, and other pork dishes, because it will complement their flavors well. You could also choose to pair your chorizo with citrusy flavors, which can help to balance the flavors of the spiced sausage. Eggs are another excellent choice, because the milder flavor will help to balance the spice of the chorizo.

Spanish migas with chorizo, bread crumbs and vegetables close-up on a plate.
Spanish migas with chorizo, bread crumbs and vegetables close-up on a plate.

This is a meat that will also pair well with fish. In fact, a lot of Mediterranean dishes will often pair seafood with chorizo because the flavors work well together. Cod and salmon are two of the most popular choices.

If you want to pair your chorizo with cheese, you can’t go wrong with a classic cheddar. Opt for an aged cheddar if you want to meld some delicious flavors together. Or if you wanted to continue the Spanish theme, you could pair chorizo with manchego.

Are chorizo sausages spicy?

Yes, chorizo sausages are typically spicy sausages. The level of spice may vary depending on the ingredients that have been used, and the Mexican variant is often much spicier than the Spanish chorizo. 

So Spanish chorizo is only slightly spicy because its flavor mostly comes from the chili peppers and the paprika. The level of spice in Spanish chorizo will vary depending on the type of smoked paprika that has been used, and the meat will often be classed as either spicy or sweet because of this.

Mexican chorizo, however, uses native chili peppers to give it its signature flavor, which is often why it is much spicier than its Spanish counterpart.

In summary

So there you have it! You now know that chorizo is a spiced pork sausage that comes in several different variants, and is highly popular in Spanish and Mexican cuisine. Spanish chorizo has a careful blend of smoked pork, red peppers, chili, and paprika, and can often be eaten without being cooked first. Mexican chorizo is a softer sausage that will need to be cooked first, and often packs a spicier punch.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has been an influencer in the food and beverage industry for over 20 years. He not only loves to eat and drink at restaurants on a regular basis, he also knows the business inside and out.