Spanish chorizo is one of the most iconic cured sausages in the world. We’d even go so far as to say that it’s one of the most iconic meat products in the world. It’s instantly recognizable visually and has a distinct flavor separating it from other similar products. Those who’ve tasted chorizo know it's not a flavor that can be easily mixed up with others.
Whether you’re already a seasoned connoisseur or someone who’s never tried it, you can easily get a taste if you check out Yummy Bazaar’s carefully curated collection of authentic Spanish chorizo. But if you feel like you require just a bit more information, then this blog is for you.
We’ve decided to compile answers to the most frequently asked questions about chorizo all in one place. No fluff. Just the questions people ask Google most often, all in the same place for the convenience of everyone interested in chorizo.
What is Chorizo?
Spanish chorizo is a traditional fermented and salt-cured pork sausage originating from the Iberian Peninsula. It’s somewhat similar to Portuguese Chouriço though there are several differences that make each of them a distinct product (most notably, seasoning).
There are hundreds of regional chorizo varieties across Spain, each with a distinct recipe. Chorizo can be raw, half-cured, or fully cured; smoked or unsmoked; mild or spicy, etc. Paying attention to a chorizo label is important because you might not be getting what you were planning if you don’t pay attention to details.
The most popular Spanish chorizo is a fully cured and smoked sausage sold either whole or sliced. Its color is typically bright red (though the shade depends on seasoning), has a coarse, chewy texture, and a strong meaty aroma with distinct smokiness.
What is Chorizo Really Made of?
Spanish chorizo is made exclusively from pork, a mixture of lean and fatty cuts. The ideal ratio of lean meat to fat is considered to be 3:2.
Which cut goes into chorizo, on the other hand, isn’t set in stone. Jowl, loin, belly, and Cabecero (the cut from neck to the fifth rib) are all regularly used in the production process, and if none of them are available, pork shoulder can easily substitute for either.
The one cut that’s non-negotiable is Tocino: the fat from the pig’s back that guarantees proper fat content in the sausage.
How is Chorizo Made?
While highly detail-oriented, the process of making chorizo is relatively straightforward and looks the same for almost all varieties.
First, the meat, regardless of which cuts are chosen, is coarsely chopped (more coarsely than most other sausages) and mixed together.
Then, the meat mixture is generously seasoned with the seasoning blend that’s unique to each region but always includes salt, garlic, and Pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika), which is responsible for its bright red color.
Finally, the meat is stuffed into a thoroughly cleaned pig intestine (the traditional option) or an edible non-animal-based casing (modern alternative).
Once ready, it’s hung up in an environment with tightly controlled temperature and humidity and left for at least a month to dry. If the chorizo is supposed to be smoked, it’s transferred to a smoking facility for a few hours before it’s left to dry.
What Are Common Seasonings for Chorizo?
Seasoning blends are unique first to the region and then to local artisans. Most families that have made chorizo for generations will have unique secret recipes.
You can always expect seasonings for chorizo to include salt, garlic, and either sweet (for milder varieties) or spicy smoked paprika Pimentón.
Other than that, chorizo is often seasoned with oregano, thyme, cumin, chili powder, coriander, and cloves in various combinations. It’s rarer, but not uncommon, for chorizo to be seasoned with cinnamon, bay leaves, and wine.
What Types of Chorizo Are There?
Spanish chorizo can be roughly separated into three types: fresh, half-cured, and fully cured. The fresh variety can itself be split into loose and encased types.
Chorizo Picadillo is a fresh pork sausage. It’s loose (not stuffed in a pig’s intestine). It’s spicy, flavored with crushed red pepper and paprika.
Chorizo Fresco is an encased sausage flavored with a generous amount of smoked paprika and garlic.
Chorizo Semicurado is the half-cured chorizo. The meat has been cured with salt and smoked but has yet to dry.
Chorizo Curado is the traditional fully cured variety; the one most people imagine when thinking about chorizo.
What Are Regional Varieties of Chorizo?
There are hundreds of regional varieties across Spain, but some have curved special places in people’s hearts.
Note: despite these chorizo varieties being referred to by the name of their origin places, neither has either Protected Designation of Origin or Protected Geographical Indication. They can be made anywhere in the country. It’s the distinct flavor that sets them apart.
Chorizo Navarra is a Northern specialty. It’s mild and sweet, seasoned only with Pimenton Dulce (sweet paprika), garlic, and salt.
Chorizo Castellano originates from North and Central Spain. It's seasoned with both Pimenton Dulce and Pimenton Piccante (spicy paprika), oregano, and garlic.
Chorizo Riojano is another distinct Northen variety, traditional in the La Rioja region. Similar to Castellano, it’s seasoned with both types of Pimenton and garlic (but no oregano). It can be either Curado or Semicurado.
Chorizo Andaluz is a Southern specialty. It’s more heavily seasoned than most chorizo varieties. The seasoning blend includes both types of Pimenton, black pepper, garlic, cloves, and white wine, along with other herbs unique to local artisans’ recipes.
Do You Need to Peel Chorizo?
Not unless it has a plastic or paper skin on top of the sausage casing. The intestine (and the plant-based alternative) are perfectly safe for consumption.
On the other hand, if you feel like the skin is too tough, you can slice it off with a sharp knife leaving only the chewy inside.
Can You Eat Chorizo Raw?
Fresh Chorizo (Chorizo Picadillo and Chorizo Fresco) is unsafe for raw consumption.
Half-Cured Chorizo, or Chorizo Semicurado, is also unsafe to eat raw despite the curing. Curing simply prolongs its shelf life compared to fresh chorizo.
Fully Cured Chorizo, or Chorizo Curado, is perfectly safe to eat raw.
How Do You Cook Chorizo? Do You Leave Chorizo Casing On When Cooking?
Yes, you should leave the chorizo casing (the edible one, not paper or plastic) on when cooking. The heat will soften it and make it less chewy than the casing of cured chorizo. If you find you still dislike the texture even after chorizo is fully cooked, you can peel it off then, no problem.
Fresh or half-cured chorizo is typically pan-fried (especially with Chorizo Picadillo), but grilling is also a popular option for encased sausages. Lately, broiling has also become one of the go-to methods since more and more households have ovens and find it more convenient than standing over a pan or a grill. If grilling or pan-frying, it’s recommended you trap the heat (cover them with a lid) to ensure the sausage is cooked through.
While pre-boiling sausage before grilling or pan-frying is a common tactic, chorizo shouldn’t be boiled. It’ll melt out a large chunk of fat and leave you with a dry, largely tasteless sausage.
How Long Does it Take Chorizo to Cook?
Depending on your chosen method, chorizo can take between 10 and 30 minutes to cook. If you have a food thermometer, it’ll be easier: chorizo is fully cooked when its internal temperature hits 160°F.
If you’re pan-frying on medium heat, chorizo should take around 10-12 minutes to cook from both sides. Turn the sausage a few times to ensure even frying.
If you’re grilling, the chorizo should take around 15 minutes to cook through. Turn the links every few minutes to ensure high heat doesn’t burn it on either side.
If you’re broiling, get ready to wait a little longer. Depending on your oven’s specific settings, it can take between 10 and 15 minutes on each side. So, around 20 to 30 minutes in its entirety. But you’ll only need to flip the sausage once.
What Do You Eat Chorizo With?
Chorizo is a popular option for tapas, so it's often served either by itself or with other Spanish meats like jamón and salchichon, accompanied only by slices of bread or crackers (ex. Tortas and Picos).
It’s also one of the more popular deli meats, used liberally in wraps, sandwiches, and as a pizza topping. It pairs well with most cheeses but goes best with softer cheeses with mild, creamy flavor (like mozzarella) and zesty fruits like citrus that balance out the fattiness.
Since the chorizo flavor is so strong, it can be used in various complex dishes. The trick is using more neutral ingredients as a base so that chorizo doesn’t overwhelm the dish. Eggs, corn, potatoes, rice, and beans are all excellent options. If you wish to pair it with other meats, stick to blander choices like poultry and white fish.
Chorizo is frequently added to soups (bean soup is a particular Spanish favorite), salads (both savory and sweet), pasta, egg-based dishes like frittatas, scrambles, and omelets, etc.
Can Chorizo Give You Food Poisoning?
Yes, you can get food poisoning if you eat raw or half-cured chorizo without cooking it first since you risk a parasitic infection.
Cured chorizo can give you food poisoning if it’s past the expiration date and has gone bad or if it wasn’t stored properly and has been contaminated with bacteria.
How Long Does Chorizo Last?
The shelf life of chorizo depends on several details:
- Its type (raw, semi-cured, fully cured);
- Whether the packaging is sealed or open;
- Where it’s being kept (pantry, fridge, freezer).
Raw Chorizo can only be kept in a fridge or a freezer. In a fridge, it’ll last for about a week with a sealed package or a couple of days if the package is open. It can last for about six months in a freezer.
Semi-cured Chorizo can be kept in a pantry at room temperature for 2-3 days if the package is open and up to 3 weeks if it’s sealed. It can last for over two weeks in a fridge with an unopened package and for a couple of months if it’s sealed. In a freezer, it can last up to a year.
Cured Chorizo can last for up to 3 months in a pantry, up to 6 months in a fridge, and up to 12 months in a freezer.
How Do You Store Chorizo to Prolong its Shelf Life?
Either keep the packaging sealed if you don’t intend to use the chorizo in the next few days, or transfer it to an airtight container and keep it in a freezer. Frozen chorizo can last up to 12 months, though it’s best consumed within 6, as after that, flavor quality will slowly start to decline.
Can You Leave Chorizo Out Overnight?
You can leave half-cured or fully cured chorizo out overnight unless you’re dealing with extreme heat. In case of extreme heat, check if the meat has gone bad by doing a taste test and if you feel something is off, dispose of it immediately.
Raw chorizo shouldn’t be left out of the refrigerator for more than 2 hours, as per FDA guidelines for perishable foods.
How Do You Recognize if Chorizo Has Gone Bad?
As cured chorizo isn’t likely to drastically change the visuals when gone bad, you’ll need to perform a couple of tests to check if it’s gone bad:
- Do the sniff test: check the smell, and if you notice the smell has gotten too pungent or catch rancid notes, dispose of it immediately.
- Check the packaging: if you notice packaging has been damaged and aren't sure if the chorizo was properly stored, contact the manufacturer.
Why Does Chorizo Go White Over Time?
The white powdery substance on the chorizo casing is mold. But don’t worry; it’s completely safe as long as it’s happening to a fully cured chorizo. The mold is of penicillin species and chorizo developing it is a good sign, as it indicates that curing is successfully fighting off bacteria.
On the other hand, if raw or half-cured chorizo develops mold, it’s gone bad and should be immediately disposed of.