This Is What Chorizo Is Actually Made From

Maybe you noticed the word on a brunch menu, came across it listed in a recipe, or spotted it while browsing the aisles of your favorite grocery store. At first glance, chorizo is pretty obviously sausage, but what is it made from? Mayaco explains that the term chorizo simply refers to spiced pork sausage. They claim that while there are many different types of chorizo, the two most popular and common varieties you will come across are Mexican chorizo and Spanish chorizo.

Epicurious asserts that even though the two types of chorizo do look similar, you need to make sure you know which type of sausage you need before you start cooking, as they are not exactly interchangeable. While both are usually spicy, pork-based products, the Spanish version is cured while the Mexican version is raw and needs to be cooked. You cannot substitute Mexican chorizo for Spanish chorizo, but in a pinch, you would be able to swap Mexican chorizo for Spanish chorizo, although they do not advise it if you can avoid making the substitution.

What ingredients make up chorizo?

The Kitchn notes Mexican chorizo can be purchased fresh and uncooked, either ground or in a casing, and can usually be found with the other raw meats in your grocery store. They state that Spanish chorizo is sold dried or cured in a casing, and is normally kept with the other ready-to-eat meats like pepperoni or salami. Spanish chorizo can be either smoked or unsmoked, and comes in both spicy and sweet varieties. 

According to Mexican Please, Mexican chorizo's vivid red color is caused by the dried chili peppers used to make it. They list the most commonly used ingredients for Mexican chorizo as ground pork and Guajillo, New Mexican, or Ancho chili peppers. The Spruce says Mexican chorizo also contains added pork fat, spices, and vinegar. They list the ingredients for Spanish chorizo as chopped pork and paprika (either spicy or sweet), which is where Spanish chorizo gets its red color from. Other ingredients are sometimes added to this version of the sausage, such as garlic, herbs, or white wine.