July 1, 2021 | By Ernesto M. Becerra

All the Differences Between Mexican Chorizo and Spanish Chorizo

Whether it is Spanish or Mexican, chorizo is a delicious sausage that contains a robust flavor.

Dating back to 15th century Rome, the pork sausage links, otherwise referred to as botellos, were introduced to the Spaniards who later evolved the idea of chorizo and took this to Mexico during the early expansion in the 1700s.

Thanks to the combination of Mexican spices and Spanish cuisine, the sausages evolved to the raw and cured chorizos that we know and love today!

What is chorizo?

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Whether Mexican or Spanish, chorizo is made with chopped pork meat and pork fat (sometimes replaced by beef or a combination of other types of meats) heavily seasoned with a variation of spices that give it its vivid red color.

Once this combination of meats is compacted, it is then stuffed into a natural gut or a plastic depending on the type of chorizo. Chorizo is so versatile that it can be eaten by itself as an appetizing snack, mixed into your eggs for a savory breakfast meal, or added into your sandwich for an additional layer of flavor. Spanish chorizo is usually available in the deli or charcuterie section.

Spanish chorizos can be purchased sliced, by the pound like other deli meats, or may be available by the whole chub (the entire sausage). Some manufacturers also make smaller, more reasonable chubs that are six to twelve inches in length.

Mexican chorizo is often sold with other refrigerated meats and sausages and is usually packaged in 1 1/4-pound or 5-link packages. Which chorizo is the right one for your next meal?

Spanish Chorizo

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The Spanish chorizo begins its trajectory by focusing on choosing the right meat: the Ibérico (Iberian) pig! Popular in Seville, Spain, the Ibérico pig is fed an acorn-based diet giving the pig lean, healthy fat and a stronger core for a tougher muscle.

The pigs are commonly raised in the Andalusian dehesas, an open field of Mediterranean forests and shrublands, as the specific ecosystem is only found in southern Spain.

The chorizo is then prepared by cutting the Iberico meat into thin slices, mixing the pork fat, salt, pimentón (paprika), garlic, oregano and other spices to give it its coloring and taste.

Depending on the level of spice, the seasoning is adjusted to taste whether you’re looking for an original flavor, a sweet spice, or a picante chorizo. The sausage is finally stuffed into pork guts making the outer lining of the sausage.

Finally, the mixture is kneaded and left to stand and be cured for 24 to 48 hours. Because it is cured, Spanish chorizo can be consumed as is and is typically paired as an appetizer, like tapas, or mixed into more complex Spanish dishes.

You might be asking yourself by now: is pork the main differentiator between Mexican and Spanish chorizo?

Mexican Chorizo

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While both chorizos have the similar primary ingredient of pork, Mexican chorizos are continuously becoming more diverse as they include a number of meats from chicken, turkey, and beef.

Additionally, each casing contains a liberally seasoned fatty sausage that’s ground or minced finely, rather than chopped, before wrapping it. Mexican chorizo is also often more robust and spicy due to its different ingredients leading to a darker complexion compared to the brighter red color from the Spanish chorizo.

In some parts of Mexico, you might even find a twist to the chorizo by consuming green chorizo, where the color is derived from heavy use of cilantro! Lastly, Mexican chorizo typically comes uncooked, which is why it’s predominantly found in dishes rather than being accompanied as an appetizer on its own.

Because the Mexican chorizo is most commonly sold raw, you will find the chorizo with or without a sausage casing that might need to be removed before cooking. Mexican chorizo is often sold with other refrigerated meats and sausages and is usually packaged in 1 1/4-pound or 5-link packages.

Better meat departments may even make their own fresh Mexican chorizo available for sale by the pound or link. Some lower quality Mexican chorizos are sold in tubes rather than natural casings and contain a high amount of fat, artificial coloring, and seasonings.

Which one is your favorite?

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As you can see, chorizo has a rich global history. The possibilities for utilizing both types of chorizo are pretty much endless, but some of our personal favorites are chorizo con papas (with golden potatoes) and eggs, wine tossed chorizo with crackers, and queso fundido (melted cheese) with Mexican chorizo as a melted cheese dip.

If you haven’t ever tried Mexican or Spanish chorizo, you owe it to yourself to give it a try the next time you see it at the grocery store or try the authentic Spanish chorizo from TerraMar Imports. ¡Buen provecho!

1 comment

  • | Isidro Quiroga

    One of the major differences between the Spanish chorizo and the Mexican chorizo is that the latter contains Chilli Powder. Spanish corizo uses roasted paprika but zero Chilli Powder. This is very important to recognize, especially when cooking Paella.
    Thank you very much.

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