Chorizo is a type of spicy sausage originating from the Iberian Peninsula. It is made by coarsely chopping pork and seasoning it heavily with smoked paprika, garlic, herbs and other spices.
There are two main types of chorizo – red chorizo and green chorizo. Red chorizo is the more common variety. It uses a paprika that has been dried and smoked, giving the sausage its distinctive deep red color. Green chorizo is made with smoked paprika but without the drying process, resulting in a bright green color.
Both types of chorizo have a similar spicy, garlicky flavor. However, there are some key differences between the two:
The most obvious difference is the color. As mentioned above, red chorizo gets its color from dried and smoked paprika while green chorizo skips the drying process.
Red chorizo tends to be firmer in texture with a coarse, dry interior. The drying process concentrates the flavors and firms up the texture.
Green chorizo has a softer, moister texture since the paprika hasn’t been dried out. It can almost have a creamy or paste-like consistency on the inside.
In terms of flavor, red chorizo is often described as having a more intense, spicy and smoky taste. The drying process again concentrates the flavors.
Green chorizo is milder in flavor with fresher tasting herbs and spices coming through. It has a brighter peppery taste.
Due to the drier texture, red chorizo holds its shape better when cooking. It can be sliced and fried to add to dishes.
The softer green chorizo requires more delicate handling or the casing can burst. It is often mashed and used as a spread or filling.
In Spanish cuisine, red chorizo is more commonly used for dishes like stews, casseroles, tapas and sandwiches. The firm texture stands up well to long cooking.
Green chorizo is popular in things like tortilla Española (Spanish omelette), canapés and fillings for piquillo peppers. The creamy texture and bright flavor comes through when less cooked.
Differences in Ingredients
While red and green chorizo have largely the same ingredients, there are some variations:
As described earlier, red chorizo is made with smoked and dried Spanish paprika while green chorizo uses a paprika that is only smoked.
Red paprika provides a deeper, earthier flavor and richness. Green paprika has a fresher, livelier taste.
Both types contain garlic and herbs like oregano. However, red chorizo is sometimes spiced with hot smoked peppers for extra heat.
The fresh green version derives spice mainly from the paprika and typically doesn’t include additional dried chiles.
Red chorizo often has a slightly higher fat content, around 35-45% versus 30-40% for the green variety.
The drying process removes moisture, concentrating the fat and flavor. Green chorizo’s softer texture comes from its higher water content.
Traditionally, red chorizo is cured for several weeks to achieve the hardened texture and deeper flavor. Green chorizo has a shorter 1-2 week curing time.
The quicker curing preserves the fresh, verdant quality of the green chorizo.
In different regions of Spain, chorizo takes on unique characteristics based on local traditions and ingredients:
Andalusian red chorizo is considered some of the best in Spain. It’s made using the highest quality Iberian pig meat and seasoned intensely with pimentón de la Vera paprika.
Green chorizo is also found here, though not as common. It has a soft texture and intense, smoky flavor.
Galician chorizo gets its distinctive spice from abundant amounts of paprika. Both the red and green varieties are heavily seasoned with pimentón.
Red chorizo is dried over smoke from oak or grapevine trimmings, giving a unique smoky aroma. Green chorizo has a creamy, soft texture.
Asturias is known for chorizos made from the native Asturian pig breed. The meat has excellent marbling which provides a juicy texture.
Red chorizos are cured for a minimum of 45 days, developing intense smoky and garlicky notes. Green chorizos have a characteristic bright green color.
Extremadura produces paprika-heavy chorizos flavored with garlic and oregano.
The red chorizos are noted for their use of bell peppers in addition to paprika. Green chorizos are creamy and bright tasting.
When comparing nutritional content, green and red chorizo are fairly similar. However, there are some subtle differences:
As mentioned earlier, red chorizo tends to be higher in fat since the drying process concentrates the fat content. Red chorizo contains around 35-45% fat versus 30-40% in the green version.
Related to the higher fat content, red chorizo also has more cholesterol. A 100 gram serving of red chorizo has around 85mg cholesterol compared to 75mg in green.
Green chorizo has a slightly higher sodium content. This is because salt is used more liberally in the curing process to compensate for the lack of drying.
Traditional red chorizo production often uses curating salts with nitrates while green chorizo production tends to avoid nitrates. However, artisanal versions of both exist without nitrates.
The thicker, drier texture of red chorizo means less preservatives have to be used. Green chorizo requires more since it has a higher water content.
So in summary, while nutritionally similar overall, red chorizo may be slightly higher in fat and cholesterol while green chorizo contains more sodium and preservatives.
Popularity and Availability
Red chorizo is undoubtedly the more common and popular type. It can be found in any Spanish market and is widely exported around the world. Most people are familiar with its signature deep red color and smoky, spicy flavor.
Green chorizo is lesser known outside of Spain but is still adored by many, especially in its region of origin – Extremadura. It may require visiting a specialized Spanish grocer to track it down internationally.
In Spain, both types of chorizo are readily available. Red can be found everywhere while green is easy to find in the central and western regions. Most Spaniards grow up eating both varieties.
While red chorizo may be the global poster child, green chorizo also holds an important place in Spanish cuisine and culinary tradition. It offers a milder, fresher contrast to the intensely flavored red version.
How Green and Red Chorizo Are Made
Despite some differences in ingredients and curing time, red and green chorizo undergo a broadly similar production process:
Chorizos begin with coarsely chopped pork, usually shoulder or hind leg cuts which have good fat marbling. The highest quality use acorn-fed Iberian pigs.
The meat is seasoned with spices like smoked paprika, garlic, salt and herbs. Red uses dried/smoked paprika while green uses the fresher smoked variety.
The sausage mix cures for 1-2 weeks for green chorizo and up to 6 weeks for red. This firms up the texture and allows the flavors to mingle.
The cured sausage is stuffed into natural casings, usually pork intestines which have been thoroughly cleaned.
Red chorizo undergoes a drying process after curing which removes moisture and concentrates the texture and flavor. Green chorizo skips this drying period.
Traditionally, both types of chorizo would be cold smoked after the curing and/or drying period to develop the characteristic smoky notes.
For fresh eating, chorizo is ready after the curing/drying/smoking process. It can also be sliced and cooked as needed.
So while red and green chorizo have slightly different procedures based on the drying and curing times, they share the same basic artisanal production process.
Taste Test: How to Evaluate Green vs. Red Chorizo
To understand the nuanced differences between the two types of chorizo, a taste test is in order. Here is a process to evaluate green and red chorizo:
Purchase High Quality Samples
Seek out artisanal green and red chorizo from a specialty Spanish grocer, butcher or online merchant. Avoid mass-produced varieties.
Examine the Visual Differences
Take note of the differing colors and textures – the deep red color of smoked paprika on the red chorizo versus the fresh green hue of the green version.
Cook Them Similarly
To make the test fair, cook both in the same way. For example, remove the casings and cook the meat in olive oil over medium heat until warmed through.
Sample each variety plain without any additional seasonings first. Focus on the flavor of the meat, pepperiness, garlic notes, saltiness and overall spiciness.
Taste in Dishes
Also try incorporating both types of chorizo into tapas, stews, omelettes or sandwiches. See how their flavors differ.
As you taste, make notes on the texture, flavor, aroma, appearance and overall eating experience of each type of chorizo.
Determine which variety you prefer for different uses like cooking vs. eating fresh. You may end up liking both!
With a careful side-by-side sampling, you’ll soon understand firsthand how green and red chorizo can each shine in the right culinary context.
Substitutions and Conversions
If you can only find one variety of chorizo, here are some tips for substituting:
Subbing Red for Green
Use red chorizo in place of green in fillings or dips:
– Remove casing, crumble the meat and combine with cream cheese, onion, garlic, etc.
In recipes calling for green chorizo, reduce any other spicy seasonings to compensate for red’s higher heat level.
Subbing Green for Red
Sub green chorizo in casseroles, stews or sandwiches that would normally use red.
Add a pinch of smoked or ancho chile powder to boost the smoky spice notes.
Sauté chopped green chorizo before adding to dishes to eliminate excess moisture from its softer texture.
If you don’t have any kind of chorizo, you can emulate the flavor profile:
– For red chorizo, use spicy pork sausage + smoked paprika.
– For green chorizo, use fresh herb sausage + ancho chile powder.
In a pinch, Mexican chorizo can substitute for Spanish in most recipes.
While related, red and green chorizo offer different culinary experiences:
Red chorizo shines in recipes needing that iconic deep red color, charcuterie boards and hearty Spanish dishes wanting intense smoky spice.
Green chorizo provides a fresh, milder option perfect for dips, fillings, tapas and brightening up robust dishes.
Beyond the color difference, understanding production methods, texture, flavor subtleties and regional variations allows you to fully appreciate both types of chorizo in the Spanish kitchen.
With some side-by-side tasting and recipe experimenting, you can discover your favorite uses for each type of chorizo. Whether you prefer red or green, both deliver the quintessential flavors of Spanish cuisine.