Who else Googles “20 minutes or less” recipes every week?
I rarely have enough time to cook for longer than 20 minutes, which is where yummy items like tofu and chorizo come in handy.
Chorizo is the ultimate quick protein. Like longaniza, chorizo comes in many different forms depending on what part of the world you reside in.
Depending on the variety you use, it takes between zero to ten minutes to prepare, and is still super flavorful!
So, if you’re looking for a new lunch meal or are ready to switch things up, chorizo could be your new best friend.
Spanish Chorizo vs. Mexican Chorizo
Although there are several varieties of chorizo out there, we’ll stick with the two main forms: Spanish chorizo and Mexican chorizo.
Traditional Spanish chorizo is a semi-cured or cured dried pork sausage. Like salami, it comes ready to go! This makes it great for charcuterie boards, tapas, or a quick protein-heavy snack.
Mexican chorizo, on the other hand, is raw, ground sausage in a non-edible casing, so you have to cook it to enjoy it.
While the ingredients are similar, these two are sadly not interchangeable. So, if you were hoping to sub that Spanish chorizo in your chorizo with scrambled eggs, you might want to reconsider.
In this article, we will focus mostly on how to cook Mexican chorizo, since it's raw, whereas Spanish chorizo is already cooked.
How to Prepare Spanish Chorizo
Of course, there are many kinds of Spanish chorizo, but I’m going to assume you’re buying the cured ones at the store.
Since Spanish chorizo is cured and dried, it’s completely safe to eat right out of the package. The curing process “cooks” it, so you won’t be eating it raw.
Preparing Spanish chorizo is just as tricky as grabbing a knife and slicing it up! Throw it on a beautiful spread for a nice charcuterie board, or pair it with some manchego cheese and olives.
You could also slice it up ahead of time to throw into a soup, stew, rice dish, or baked pasta, such as this Cheesy and Meaty Baked Pasta. Or, if you want to take your pizza game up a notch, substitute your pepperoni with Spanish chorizo for a spicy twist!
How to Cook Mexican Chorizo
Okay, now this is where it gets interesting.
There are several ways to prepare Mexican chorizo, but they vary based on what type you buy: beef, pork, and soy.
More often than not, I pan-fry my Mexican chorizo to serve in tacos, over rice, or with scrambled eggs (or tofu). You could also use it in a stew to replace ground beef or pork.
However, for the sake of this article and my sanity, we’ll only cover how to sauté Mexican chorizo and how to know when it’s ready to plate.
What to Look For
There are two main things to look for when cooking chorizo:
- Change in color
- Fat rendering
Of course, this will vary based on what type of chorizo you’re cooking with, but those two are great signs that it’s almost done.
Now, this may seem obvious, but the most important step of this process is to read the label. Yes, you have to read the label!
Depending on what brand you buy, the chorizo may come in either an edible or inedible casing.
I wouldn’t want to eat plastic, and I’m sure you wouldn't either!
If you’re cooking with meat, you’ll want to know if you’re cooking with a leaner variety of chorizo as that will inform the cooking process.
As I mentioned above, there are two main signs to look for: change in color and rendering fat.
It takes around 5-8 minutes to cook pork chorizo on a stovetop over medium-high heat.
As the sausage cooks, it should brown. However, this is not always the case, as some varieties are bright red due to the spices and chilies within.
If it’s a red variety, it won’t brown, but the red will darken once it’s close to being done.
Since pork chorizo is traditionally made with fattier cuts, it should also render as it cooks. Once the meat has separated from the liquid fat, you’ll know it’s almost there.
If you have a meat thermometer on hand, aim for an internal temperature of 160°F.
You’ll know it’s not done if the chorizo is still moldable and sticky. It should be breaking apart, not forming new shapes!
Beef chorizo, like pork chorizo, should brown or turn darker in color when it’s ready to eat.
Again, it will render fat as it cooks, which is another clear sign that it’s almost done. As it cooks, the meat will break up, so it should resemble ground beef by the end.
It only takes around 6-9 minutes to cook beef chorizo on the stove, so it’s very similar to pork chorizo in that sense.
For those with a meat thermometer, the beef should have an internal temperature of 160-165°F to be safe to eat.
Although soy chorizo is plant-based, you can still use that meat thermometer!
Throw it in a skillet and cook for around 6-10 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 165°F.
Obviously, this won’t render as it cooks, so watch for color and internal temperature instead.
It does dry out while it's cooking, so stir it frequently and keep an eye on it so it doesn’t get too dry.
How Long to Cook Chorizo
Generally, you’re going to cook your Mexican chorizo, whether that be plant-based or not, for 5-10 minutes. Make sure to stir for an even cook!
If you’re using homemade chorizo or a fresher variety, chances are it’ll brown as it cooks, letting you know it’s done. If your chorizo is very red, cook it until the fat starts to render and the red coloring darkens.
Cooking Chorizo to Perfection
When cooking chorizo, make sure to remove the casing before browning it to perfection. Occasionally, the casing will be edible, but you should always read the label first.
Generally, you’ll want to stir the chorizo as it cooks in the pan. It will break apart on its own (like ground beef), but you can always assist with a wooden spoon! This also helps ensure an even browning and lack of raw bits.
More often than not, you won’t have to use oil when cooking chorizo, as the fat in the meat should render as you cook. However, this is not true for soyrizo or leaner varieties of beef and pork chorizo.
If you’re cooking with regular chorizo, you may want to drain the excess fat before adding anything else.
Say you’re making scrambled eggs and chorizo – try cooking the chorizo ahead of time, draining the excess fat, and then adding in your eggs. Of course, if you’re using a leaner brand, that won’t be an issue.
Psst – I highly recommend investing in a meat thermometer. It’ll save you an upset tummy and prevent dry chorizo!
Other Frequently Asked Questions
What is Chorizo Made Of?
Traditional Spanish chorizo is made of garlic, pork (ground or smoked), and smoked paprika. Spanish chorizo will sometimes have white wine in it too.
Mexican chorizo replaces some of those key ingredients with local chilis and peppers.
Importing Spanish smoked paprika is, as you might imagine, very expensive, so many cultures used peppers instead.
Mexican chorizo is most often comprised of pork, vinegar, and red chilies.
What is Beef Chorizo?
Beef chorizo is like your average, store bought chorizo aside from one key difference: it’s beef!
Most brands include similar flavor profiles in their beef chorizo: vinegar, chilies, and garlic. So if you don’t eat pork, this could be a great option for you!
What is Soy Chorizo?
Soy chorizo is a meat-free alternative to traditional Mexican chorizo! Made with textured soy protein, this version is also pre-seasoned, so you don’t have to worry about that.
It does come in an inedible plastic casing, so be sure to remove that before cooking! It is generally “healthier” than pork chorizo–less fat but around the same amount of protein!
Is Chorizo Gluten-Free?
Yes! In general, chorizo is gluten-free. You should always check the label before purchasing, though, if you are gluten-free.
Is Chorizo Vegan?
Nope! There are many plant-based varieties out there (like Frieda’s “soyrizo”), but it is not a traditionally vegan dish.
Can You Freeze Chorizo?
Yes, especially if it’s homemade. You can freeze chorizo for up to three months in an airtight container or freezer-safe bag.
How Long Does Chorizo Stay Good For?
Chorizo can last up to two weeks in the fridge, so long as it’s still in the original packaging. If you’ve already cut into it, it will only last a maximum of seven days in the fridge.
If you’ve cooked it and have leftovers, toss them in the fridge for a few days. So long as they’re in an airtight container, they should last for a couple of days.
Chorizo, like most things, comes in many different shapes and styles. Whether you’re feeling Spanish or Mexican chorizo, there are plenty of options out there to choose from.
If you’re looking to add a quick protein staple into your lunch routine, go ahead and give chorizo (or its plant-based varieties) a try! Just be sure to cook it to the proper internal temperature to avoid food poisoning.