Chicharrones, also known as pork rinds or pork cracklings, are a popular salty and crunchy snack that can be eaten on their own or paired with a variety of foods and dips. Some of the most common foods to eat chicharrones with include:
- Queso dip
The crispy and salty flavor of chicharrones complements the creaminess of dips and cheeses like guacamole and queso. They also provide a nice textural contrast and crunch when used as a topping for soft foods like tacos, burritos, tostadas, and quesadillas. Chicharrones pair well with Mexican and Tex-Mex inspired dishes in particular. Their versatility also allows them to be used as a crunchy garnish or topping for salads, soups, rice dishes, beans, and more.
What are Chicharrones?
Chicharrones are made from pork skin or rinds that are deep fried or baked until they become crispy and golden brown. They are known by many names around the world, including pork cracklings, pork crunches, and pork scratchings.
The pork skin has most of the fat rendered out during the cooking process, leaving behind crunchy pieces of puffed-up skin that are a mix of soft, chewy fat and crispy, airy skin. Chicharrones are often seasoned with salt, spices, vinegar, or other flavorings before being served.
Some key facts about chicharrones:
- Prepared by frying or baking salted pork skin until crispy
- The fat is rendered out, leaving crunchy pieces of skin and fat
- Known by names like pork rinds, pork cracklings, pork crunches
- Often seasoned with salt, spices, vinegar, or other flavors
- Crunchy and crispy texture
- Salty, savory, and umami flavor
The crispy rinds are then broken down into smaller pieces or served in large slabs or chunks. When fried, chicharrones take on the appearance of light and crunchy chips or crackers.
While chicharrones are high in fat and calories, they do provide some nutritional value:
- High in fat and calories – Up to 80% of calories come from fat
- Good source of protein – Contains over 20 grams of protein per 3-ounce serving
- Very low carb – Less than 1 gram of carbs per serving
- Source of vitamins and minerals like selenium, potassium, and calcium
The main drawback of chicharrones is their high saturated fat content, with over half the fat coming from saturated fats. Still, when eaten in moderation, chicharrones can be incorporated into a healthy diet. They make a good high-protein, low-carb snack.
Different Types of Chicharrones
There are a few different forms and textures of chicharrones available:
Pork Rind Chicharrones
The most common type of chicharron is pork rind. Pork rinds are made by slicing and frying or baking the skin of a pig. Pork rind chicharrones are light and crispy, with air pockets throughout. They are often seasoned with salt or spices.
Pork Belly Chicharrones
Pork belly makes a thicker, softer chicharron because it contains a layer of fat beneath the skin. Pork belly chicharrones have a soft, fatty center enclosed in ultra crispy bubbled skin.
Chicken skin can also be used to make chicharrones. Chicken chicharrones are extra crispy with a slightly thinner skin than pork versions. They are milder in flavor.
Some regions prepare chicharrones from beef as well, using the same frying method on salted beef skin. Beef chicharrones have a chewy texture and robust beefy flavor.
How to Eat Chicharrones
There are lots of different ways to eat chicharrones thanks to their versatile crunchy texture:
On Their Own
Chicharrones are often eaten on their own as a snack, similar to chips or crackers. Their ultra-crunchy texture paired with seasonings like salt, chili powder, paprika, vinegar, or lime make them a tasty standalone snack.
A popular way to eat chicharrones is with salsa. They are great for scooping up chunky tomato or mango salsa. The crispy saltiness contrasts nicely with the sweet and tangy flavors of the salsa.
With Guacamole or Queso
Chicharrones also pair excellently with creamy dips and sauces like guacamole, queso, bean dip, or chile con queso. The crunch stands up well to the rich, fatty textures.
In Tacos, Burritos, and Quesadillas
Crunchy chicharrones can provide texture contrast in soft tacos, burritos, quesadillas, and other Mexican dishes. They add a nice fried crunch to balance out the other fillings.
Crumbled chicharrones make a great salad topping, adding salty crunch to greens, grains, beans, and veggies. From leafy to taco salads, the pork rinds provide interest.
As a Garnish
Finely crushed chicharrones can be used as a garnish over soups, stews, eggs, pasta, rice, vegetables, and more to add crunch and saltiness.
Another tasty way to eat chicharrones is pairing crunchy bites with drinks. Their saltiness and crunch make chicharrones an ideal snack to eat with margaritas, sangria, micheladas, and cerveza.
10 Tasty Ways to Eat Chicharrones
Here are 10 of the tastiest ways to eat chicharrones:
1. Chicharrones with Guacamole
Chicharrones pair perfectly with the rich, creamy texture of homemade or store-bought guacamole. Dunk or scoop the crispy pork rinds into the creamy avocado dip for a match made in heaven. The salty chicharrones balance out the richness.
2. Loaded Nachos
For the ultimate nachos, layer tortilla chips with shredded cheese, beans, salsa, guac, and fresh chicharron bits. The mix of warm melted cheese, cool creamy dips, and crispy pork rinds takes nachos over the top.
3. Chicharonnes Con Queso Fundido
For an incredible Mexican-inspired cheese sauce, heat up a mix of Oaxaca and Manchego cheese with onions, peppers, chorizo, and cream. Add freshly fried chicharrones on top for the perfect chip-like texture.
4. Chile Verde with Chicharrones
Simmer pork shoulder in a rich, spicy green chile sauce. Shred the pork and serve it over rice, then garnish with crunchy chicharrones for added richness and crunch.
5. Chicharron Tostadas
For a unique take on tostadas, spread refried beans over fried tortillas, and add shredded lettuce, diced tomatoes, avocado, cotija cheese, and fresh chicharrons for great toppings.
6. Chicharron Carnitas Pizza
Top baked pizza crust with refried beans, shredded pork carnitas, diced onions, cilantro, cotija cheese, and chicharrones for fantastic Mexican-style pizza loaded with textures.
7. Chicharron Crust Shrimp Tacos
For an extra crispy taco shell, coat shrimp in spices, bake, chop, and wrap in small fried chicharron discs. Top with avocado, red cabbage, and Mexican crema.
8. Chicharron Caesar Salad
Make a Southwestern twist on classic Caesar salad with crunchy romaine lettuce, adobo chicken, roasted corn, pumpkin seeds, and chicharrones for amazing texture.
9. Chicharron Garnished Posole
Amp up a hearty posole stew with shredded pork, hominy, and diced onions and peppers. Garnish with crispy chicharrones, avocado, radish, and lime.
10. Michelada with Chicharrones
For the perfect beer cocktail snack, rim a pint glass with chili-lime salt and make a Latin American michelada with Mexican beer, lime, Worcestershire, hot sauce, and ice. Serve with fresh chicharrones.
Tips for Cooking Perfect Chicharrones
Making crispy, puffy chicharrones at home does take some technique:
- Start with skin-on pork belly or pork rinds and pat extremely dry
- Cut into manageable 1-inch wide strips or chunks
- Generously season all over with salt and spices of choice
- Fry in lard or vegetable oil heated to 325-375°F
- Cook low and slow, rendering fat out gradually
- Turn frequently until puffed and browned
- Drain on paper towels and season immediately
- Let cool completely before serving for ultimate crispness
Cooking low and steady while rendering the fat slowly allows the skins to crisp up perfectly without burning. Letting them cool after frying helps retain the crisp texture.
Where to Buy Chicharrones
While homemade chicharrones are best, there are more and more store-bought options available:
Latin Grocery Stores
Latin markets are a fantastic place to find freshly fried pork rind chicharrones made in-house as well as brands imported from Mexico and Central America. They have the widest selection.
Major Grocery Store Chains
Many major grocers now carry chicharrones in the chip aisle or near the deli. Look for major brands like Mac’s, Utz, and Rudolph’s for widely available chicharron bags.
More specialty chicharron brands can be found online, including flavors like Chile Lime, Habanero, and Chipotle. Large bags and sampler packs are convenient for snacking.
Carnicerias and Butcher Shops
Local carnicerias and butcher shops, especially ones with specialty cured meats, often carry freshly fried chicharrones over the counter. You can buy them by the pound.
Some pork and poultry vendors at farmers markets prepare chicharrones fresh on-site using their own raised meats. Chicharrones sold at markets are often still warm.
Chicharrones make a delicious and versatile snack pairing perfectly with salsas, dips, salads, tacos, pizza, and more thanks to their irresistible crunchy texture and salty, savory flavor. While they are high in fat and best enjoyed in moderation, chicharrones can make a tasty plant-based keto or paleo-friendly snack. With homemade andstore-bought options readily available, it’s easy to enjoy chicharronesany way you like them.