What is Chorizo?

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

Chorizo is a type of pork sausage originating in the Iberian Peninsula. Today, there are variations found in Spanish and Portuguese-speaking nations around the world. It comes in many varieties, from the cured to the fresh, from the spicy to the sweet, and holds an honored place in many cuisines.

Chorizo originated in the Iberian Peninsula.
Chorizo originated in the Iberian Peninsula.

Spanish chorizo traditionally contains peppers that give a red color and smoky flavor to the sausage. A cured food, it may be eaten plain or cooked, and the taste ranges from mild to spicy. Some varieties are only semi-cured and must be cooked before they are eaten; this type is often used in huevos con chorizo, or fried chorizo with eggs. The Portuguese version is similar to the Spanish, but it is made with wine and smoke-cured.

Chorizo is often featured in breakfast burritos.
Chorizo is often featured in breakfast burritos.

In the New World, chorizo is typically fresh, so it cannot be eaten without cooking. Both red and green varieties can be found in Mexico. Non-pork versions also exist, and may include beef or venison. Chorizo con huevos is a popular Mexican breakfast dish consisting of scrambled eggs mixed with the sausage. It may be eaten plain, with rice and beans, or in a breakfast burrito.

The Philippine version is called longaniza and made with native spices. Regional variations abound throughout the country, with garlicky, sweet, and sour versions made of pork, beef, chicken, or tuna. Chorizo can also be found in various forms throughout South America, where it is defined rather loosely. Nearly any coarsely-ground sausage may be referred to by this name in this part of the world.

Chorizo in its many incarnations is one of the world's most popular and delicious sausages. The Mexican version is easy to find in Mexican restaurants throughout the United States, while the Spanish version is often served in tapas bars. It can sometimes be found in the supermarket as well, and even kosher versions are available.

Niki Foster
Niki Foster

In addition to her role as a wiseGEEK editor, Niki enjoys educating herself about interesting and unusual topics in order to get ideas for her own articles. She is a graduate of UCLA, where she majored in Linguistics and Anthropology.

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