Here’s what you need to know.

By Corey Williams
Updated March 19, 2020
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Have you ever wondered what makes chorizo so wonderfully smoky, spicy, and absolutely irresistible? You’ve come to the right place.

What Is Chorizo?

Chorizo is a type of spicy sausage that is generally sealed in a casing made from animal intestines. While many Latin American, European, and Asian cultures have their own versions of chorizo, the meat is usually separated into two categories: Mexican and Spanish.

Mexican vs. Spanish Chorizo

Credit: ©fitopardo.com/Getty Images

©fitopardo.com/Getty Images

Spanish chorizo makes good use of paprika, which gives it a bright red color and makes it taste deeply smoky. It’s most often dried, cured, and sold in a casing.

Mexican chorizo, meanwhile, is sold as fresh, uncooked ground sausage. It is usually made from pork, but it can also be made from beef. Highly seasoned with vinegar and chile peppers, Mexican chorizo is typically spicier than its Spanish counterpart.

Chorizo Ingredients

Credit: ©fitopardo.com/Getty Images

©fitopardo.com/Getty Images

Again, the ingredients used to make chorizo depend on what type it is.

Spanish chorizo is usually made from chopped pork and pork fat. Seasoned with smoked paprika, garlic, and salt, it can be spicy or sweet depending on what kind of paprika (pimentón) is used.

Mexican chorizo can be made from fatty pork, beef, poultry, or venison. Vegan and kosher versions also exist. It’s usually minced, not chopped, before it’s put in the casing. It can be made with all types of ingredients, including cilantro (which results in a special kind of green chorizo).

Is Chorizo Keto?

Dieters, rejoice! Like many other meats, chorizo is extremely low in carbs—so, yes, it’s keto-friendly.

Where to Buy Chorizo

Both types of chorizo should be available at your local grocery store.

Mexican chorizo will most likely be found with the other raw, refrigerated meats. Spanish chorizo, meanwhile, is usually located in the deli or charcuterie section.

If you can’t find it at your local grocer, check butcher shops and ethnic markets.

Chorizo Substitute

Credit: GMVozd/Getty Images

GMVozd/Getty Images

Still can’t find it? No worries.

For the closest match, cook another type of sausage according to the recipe. Add smoked paprika, other seasonings, or peppers to match the type of chorizo you’re hoping to replicate.

If the recipe calls for cured Spanish chorizo, try salami with added paprika for smokiness.

How to Cook Chorizo

One of the most common ways to use the Mexican version is chorizo and eggs (a ground meat, scrambled egg breakfast dish).

Looking for more ways to enjoy chorizo? Check out one of our favorite recipes that spotlights the spicy meat:

Chorizo Recipes

Fried Burrata Ball With Chorizo: Next time you’re craving mozzarella sticks, make this warm, comforting meaty, and crunchy burrata ball instead. Get the recipe here.

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Food Styling: Paige Grandjean; Prop Styling: Audrey Davis

Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup with Chorizo: This easy Instant Pot meal is basically autumn in a bowl. Spicy, smoky Mexican chorizo and sweet butternut squash balance each other out perfectly. Get the recipe here.

Credit: Photo: Caitlin Bensel; Prop Styling: Sarah Elizabeth Cleveland; Food Styling: Marianne Williams

Sheet Pan Nachos with Chorizo and Refried Beans: Incredibly easy and incredibly tasty, these sheet pan nachos put every other appetizer to shame. Get the recipe here.

Credit: Photo: Victor Protasio; Prop Styling: Mindi Shapiro Levine; Food Styling: Torie Cox