Mexican chicharrón is a popular crispy fried pork rind snack in Mexican cuisine. It is made by deep frying strips or cubes of pork skin until they become bubbly, crispy, and golden brown. Chicharrón has a delicious salty, porky flavor that makes it an addictive snack or taco topping. Its irresistible crunch comes from the layer of fat underneath the pork skin that renders out during frying, leaving behind a crispy pork rind.
What cut of pork is used for chicharrón?
The most common cut of pork used to make chicharrón is pork belly. Pork belly contains a thick layer of fat under the skin which renders beautifully when fried, resulting in super crispy chicharrón. Other fatty cuts like pork shoulder or pork butt can also be used. The key is to choose a cut with a good amount of fat marbled throughout to ensure a crispy end result after frying. Lean cuts won’t yield the same crispy texture.
How is chicharrón made?
Making chicharrón involves a few simple steps:
1. Cut the raw pork skin into strips or cubes. Pork belly is often scored in a crosshatch pattern before cutting into portions.
2. Simmer the pork rind pieces in water for 1-2 hours until the skin is tender. This step softens up the skin so it can puff up properly during frying.
3. Pat the boiled pork rinds dry thoroughly with paper towels.
4. Fry the pork skin pieces in hot oil (around 350°F) until puffed up and golden brown. The fat renders out, leaving behind super crispy chicharrón.
5. Drain excess oil and sprinkle with salt to taste while still hot. Cool completely before storing.
What type of oil is best for frying chicharrón?
The best oils for frying chicharrón are ones with high smoke points that can withstand the high heat of frying without burning. Good choices include:
– Refined peanut oil
– Vegetable oil
– Canola oil
– Avocado oil
Avoid olive oil or butter which can burn at high frying temperatures. The key is choosing an oil with a neutral flavor that won’t overwhelm the porky flavor of the chicharrón.
What are some serving suggestions for chicharrón?
There are many delicious ways to serve and enjoy Mexican chicharrón:
– Chopped up as a crispy topping on tacos, burritos, sopes, and tortas
– Paired with guacamole and salsa as an appetizer
– Sprinkled on salads or soups for texture
– Eaten as a snack on its own, straight from the bag!
– Used as a crunchy garnish for ceviches or seafood cocktails
– Crumbled up and used to garnish chilaquiles or tortilla soup
– Served with lime wedges and hot sauce as a bar snack
Part of the appeal of chicharrón is its versatility – it adds delicious crunch and flavor to all kinds of Mexican dishes!
What types of chicharrón are there?
There are a few different varieties of chicharrón found in Mexico:
Chicharrón Preparado – The most common type, made by deep frying strips or cubes of pork belly or skin.
Chicharrón de Cerdo – Pork rind chicharrón, made solely from the thick skin of the pork belly.
Chicharrón de Pollo – Chicken skin chicharrón, prepared by frying strips of chicken skin until super crispy.
Chicharrón en Salsa – Pork rind chicharrón that is cooked and then simmered in a tomato-chile salsa.
Chicharrón de Res – Beef rind chicharrón, made by frying up crispy beef skin.
Each variety has a distinct texture and flavor that adds its own appeal. Part of the fun is trying the different types!
Is chicharrón healthy?
Most nutritionists would agree that chicharrón is not the most healthy snack choice. Since it is essentially pure pork fat that is deep fried, chicharrón is very high in saturated fat and calories. Just a small handful can contain over 10g of fat.
However, chicharrón does have some redeeming qualities:
– It contains no carbohydrates, so it’s keto-friendly
– Has a good amount of protein since it is pork skin
– Provides some minerals like zinc, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium
– Contains collagen which supports skin health
When eaten in moderation as part of an overall healthy diet, chicharrón can be enjoyed guilt-free. But it’s still a treat that should not be over-consumed. Going for a leaner chicken chicharrón variety is slightly “healthier” too.
Is chicharrón the same as pork rinds?
Chicharrón and pork rinds refer to the same basic thing – deep fried pig skin. However, there are a few differences:
– Chicharrón is the Mexican Spanish name, while pork rinds is the English name.
– Chicharrón often refers to homemade-style fried pork skin. Pork rinds can mean mass-produced packaged versions.
– Chicharrón is often made from pork belly and is therefore thicker and fattier. Pork rinds can be made from leaner skin.
– Chicharrón may refer to rinds fried in their original irregular shapes. Pork rinds are usually mechanically cut into uniform chip-like pieces before frying.
– Chicharrón sometimes includes some attached pork meat too. Pork rinds are more pure skin.
But in general, they are both crispy fried pig skin that can be used interchangeably in recipes!
Where can you buy chicharrón in Mexico?
Chicharrón is ubiquitous in Mexico and can be purchased from all kinds of places, including:
– Street food carts and taquerias – Many vendors sell bags of freshly fried chicharrón.
– Local markets – Look for vendors specializing in fried snacks and pork products.
– Carnicerías – Butcher shops often sell chicharrón either pre-fried or raw to take home and cook.
– Supermarkets – The chips and snack aisle will have various packaged chicharrón products.
– Specialty shops – Some stores just selling different chicharrón varieties and seasonings exist.
The most authentic chicharrón experience is buying a hot, freshly fried bag from a street vendor. But it can easily be found pre-made in any Mexican grocery store.
What are some popular chicharrón brands in Mexico?
Some of the major mass-produced chicharrón brands found across Mexico include:
– Sabritas – Their “Crujito” line features various flavored chicharrón chips.
– Barcel – Makes chicharrón in different cuts like strips, crackers, or spirals.
– La Norteñita – Known for their seasoned chicharrón in large snack bags.
– Rudy’s – Specializes in chicharrón in salsa and mole flavors.
– Charras – Makes chicharrón crackers in flavors like chili and lime.
– Chaparritas – Offers an array of dried chicharrón bagged snacks.
– Don Rudy – Known for their extra thick-cut chicharrón chips.
These industrial brands mass produce chicharrón to meet demands all across Mexico. But the homemade, handmade kind from street stalls is still considered superior.
What are some popular street foods featuring chicharrón?
Some classic Mexican street foods featuring chicharrón include:
Tacos – Small corn tortillas filled with chicharrón as the protein. Often just seasoned with onion, cilantro and salsa.
Gorditas or Sopes – Thick, fried masa cakes split open and topped with chicharrón, lettuce, cheese, and salsa.
Tortas – Chicharrón is a popular protein filling for Mexican sandwiches along with refried beans, cheese, avocado and jalapeños.
Tostilocos – Crazy snack consisting of chicharrón, jicama sticks, cucumber, peanuts, and chili-lime seasoning on top of tortilla chips.
Molotes – Thick masa pockets stuffed with chicharrón, cheese, beans, salsa, and other fillings.
Cemitas – A sesame seeded bun piled with chicharrón, avocado, chipotle peppers and melted cheese.
No matter how you try it, chicharrón adds delicious texture and flavor to Mexico’s incredible street foods!
What drink pairs well with chicharrón?
Here are some classic Mexican drink choices that pair deliciously with crispy chicharrón:
– Cerveza – An ice cold Mexican beer is the perfect match to cut through the saltiness of chicharrón.
– Michelada – For an elevated experience, rim a beer glass with chile-lime salt and mix in tomato juice and lime.
– Horchata – The sweet rice milk drink balances the rich pork flavors beautifully.
– Agua Fresca – Cooling aguas frescas like tamarind, jamaica, or hibiscus are refreshing counterparts.
– Coca de Piña – This tropical pineapple refreshment plays off the chicharrón’s savory qualities.
– Margarita – A crisp margarita with a salted rim draws out the salty essence of chicharrón.
Any cold, refreshing Mexican beverage makes the perfect pairing for irresistibly crispy chicharrón!
What are some fun facts about chicharrón?
– Chicharrón likely originated as a way to make use of leftover pork skin from butchering in rural Mexican households.
– The Nahuatl (Aztec) word for chicharrón was “cuechcómitl” – roughly meaning “curled up pork rind”.
– Chicharrón is a staple snack served at all kinds of Mexican events like fútbol games, fiestas, weddings, bars and more.
– Flavored chicharrón with varieties like chili lime, paprika, or spicy chipotle are popular modern twists.
– Chicharrón is sometimes used as the “squeaky” crunchy topping on popular Mexican candies.
– Pre-Hispanic Mesoamericans were rendering and frying pork fat long before the Spanish arrived.
– Chicharrón is served on most Mexian airlines as one of the free inflight snack options.
– Small Mexican towns like San Luis Potosí and Villahermosa are famous for prize-winning chicharrón.
– The pork skin bubbles while frying as its collagen matrix contracts – forming the puffy texture.
With its irresistible crunch and deep Mexican roots, chicharrón is so much more than just a humble fried snack!
What is the ideal thickness for chicharrón?
When it comes to the perfect chicharrón texture, thicker is often better. Some guidelines on ideal thickness:
– Chicharrón Preparado – Around 1/4 inch thick is ideal, made from pork belly skin.
– Chicharrón de Cerdo – Can be around 1/2 inch thick since it’s pure pork skin.
– Chicharrón de Pollo – Chicken skin is thinner, so around 1/8 inch thick.
– Bagged Chicharrón Chips – Usually around 1/16 inch, thinner for even frying.
The thicker the raw skin, the puffier and more dramatic the bubbling effect will be during frying. Thin chicharrón can end up overly crispy and stiff. Thick cut rinds fried low and slow yield the perfect light and crispy interior encased in a shatteringly crisp outer shell. Just be sure to cut uniform thickness so it cooks evenly!
What is the origin of the word chicharrón?
The word chicharrón comes from the Spanish word “chicharro” meaning a kind of small fish or sea bream. It refers to the crunchy sound the fried pork skin makes when chewed – similar to eating the crispy bones and head of a fried fish.
The Nahuatl (Aztec) word for chicharrón was “cuechcómitl”, derived from “cuechco” meaning to crunch or crumple up. This stems from the action of frying up the pork rind into a crispy texture.
In some regions the fried pork rinds are called chicharrones, derived from the plural Spanish spelling. In parts of Central America they are also referred to as chicarrones.
Regardless of the exact spelling or origin, the word chicharrón beautifully captures the satisfying sensation of biting into irresistibly crispy fried pork skin!
With its rich porky flavors, puffy bubbled texture, and satisfying crunch, Mexican chicharrón is an iconic and addictive street food snack. The simple combination of fried pig skin with a squeeze of lime and dash of hot sauce crosses all regional and social boundaries in Mexico.
This crispy fried delicacy is the perfect beer partner, taco topper, or anytime snack. It can be crafted using various cuts like pork belly, shoulder, or skin – each yielding its own appealing characteristics. Tracking down piping hot chicharrón from street vendors offers the most authentic experience. But convenient packaged versions also bring the crunch to households across North America.
Part of chicharrón’s timeless appeal is its versatility – the crispy rinds enhance all kinds of Mexican antojitos and comfort foods. From humble market stalls to upscale restaurants, the sizzle and aroma of frying chicharrón permeates Mexican cuisine. With its indulgent flavors and textural delight, this crispy pork treat is an essential part of the culinary fabric across Mexico.