Portugal’s Chouriço Sausage is Ready for its Close-up

Portuguese Sausage Frittata
My sausage is suffering from an identity crisis, and it irks me. Mention chorizo, and what springs to mind are pungent Mexican links filled with ground meat that’s redolent of garlic and chile powder. But mention chouriço (pronounced sho-ree-zoo), the musky smoked sausage of Portugal, and “Isn’t that just another kind of Spanish chorizo?” usually follows. Well, I’m tired of this culinary confusion, and I’m not going to take it anymore.

I was weaned on chouriço (sometimes called linguiça), as every good Portuguese child should be. The sausage held sway at every meal. At breakfast it was served instead of bacon. At lunch it insinuated itself into soups and tortilhas (frittatas). And at dinner whole meals were orchestrated around it: favas guisadas com chouriço (fava bean and sausage stew), cozido à Portuguesa (Portuguese boiled dinner), and the inflammable chouriço à bombeiro — sausage that had been doused with brandy and set afire at the table with a great whoosh. Accompanying it were fat, orangish batatas fritas, potato wedges that had been fried in corn oil infused with the sausage’s flavor and color. All that was needed to begin was a quick prayer, then a nod from my father.

But after a lifetime of insensitive comments from others, I began having doubts: Was chouriço merely a chorizo knock-off — a Portuguese Payless to a Spanish Manolo Blanhik?

To settle the matter once and for all, I called Herminio Lopes, owner of Lopes Sausage Company in Newark, NJ. Besides making some of the best chouriço I have ever tasted, he plays both sides of the Iberian border by also selling Spanish chorizo.

According to Lopes, both sausages are made with pork shoulder, paprika, garlic, black pepper, and salt, but an astonishing 20 percent of Spanish chorizo’s weight is paprika. Chouriço, on the other hand, has considerably less paprika and much more garlic and black pepper. In addition, lots of Portuguese red wine is splashed in to round out the flavor. In short, it’s got a bigger bite that can hold its own in lots of dishes.

Feeling a superiority dance coming, I called back and asked a clerk which sausage is more popular.

“In terms of sales, chouriço,” she said.

Yes! Portugal rules, even if no one knew it but me. But my smug self-satisfaction was short-lived. Lopes got on the line and told me that one of his biggest chorizo customers was none other than the White House. (Was that swagger I heard in his voice?) Apparently, Bill Clinton had some of Lopes’s chorizo at a fundraiser in 1996, and from then on he ordered 50 to 60 pounds a month, used to impress world leaders. When George W. Bush took office, he kept the chorizo coming. All I have to say is, “That’s okay, Washington. My campaign to put a chouriço in every pot has just begun.”

Source
Lopes Sausage Co.
304 Walnut St., Newark, NJ 07105
(973) 344-3063
(They ship nationwide)

Recipe
Portuguese Sausage Frittata

Article © 2003 David Leite. Photograph © 2009 Nuno Correia. All rights reserved.

Comments
Comments
  1. Pat Motta says:

    Wait to go David. You tell them who the boss is. Chorizo is very popular down in NC here because we do have so many Mexicans, but I have turn a few of our neighbors onto Chourico and Linquica and they will never go back. They love the patties especially at breakfast. Portuguese Food RULES!!!!!

    Good luck on the sale of your new book. It’s been a long time coming, I can’t wait to get my copy. Need to order more meats from up north to enjoy the flavors and favorites.

  2. Hrm, where I grew up (Southeastern New England), we pronounced it “sher-eece.” Possibly an Azorean pronunciation?

    • David Leite says:

      I grew up in Fall River, and we called it “sher-eece,” too. That’s the Americanization of the Azorean pronunciation: “shah-rdeece.” The proper (meaning the standard dictionary) pronunciation is “show-rdee-soo.”

      • Kyle says:

        David, I’m late to this conversation, but this is exactly the answer I’ve been looking for. My family has always pronounced it “shah-rdeece”, but recently I began to question whether our pronunciation is correct. My great grandparents were born in the Azores, but my grandmother was born in the U.S., so I wondered if our pronunciation had changed over time. That being said my grandmother speaks fluent Portuguese and the pronunciation in general is strange. Google translate pronounces it like “shoriso” and another site has it as “shoreece”, but this is the first place I’ve seen with the d sound. I live in Boston now, where the only brand I ever see is Gaspar’s, but I have a lot of family around Bristol and Warren.

        • David Leite says:

          Kyle, my family is from the Azores, too. That complicates things because even today in Portugal there’s a significant difference in accents and dialects between the islands and the mainland. Add to that how American-born folks of Portuguese descent further change the pronunciation, and well, you have a very different-sounding language!

          As far as buying chouriço, think of Lopes Sausage Co. in Newark, NJ. You have to buy a largeer quantity to make the shipping worth it, but it’s some of the best sausage (and linguiça, paio, etc.) I’ve had state side.

        • Beth Price, LC Director of Recipe Testing says:

          Hi Kyle, I had to jump into this discussion. I’m not Portuguese but lived in Bermuda for a number of years. There is a large population from the Azores and to my untrained ear, it always sounded liked they were saying sha-deesh. When I moved back to states and tried to find this sausage, no one knew what I was looking for as the spelling didn’t correspond to the pronunciation to which I was accustomed. Dialects are a funny thing.

          Beth

  3. Kathleen Gonsalves says:

    Dear David, my husband and I were in Portugal last fall and loved it, the people and the food. I am confused though by your reference to the fact that chouriço is often referred to as linguiça. I live in North Attleboro, MA, and we can buy chouriço and linguiça as two seperate items. Isn’t that correct? We do love them both. Thanks.

    • David Leite says:

      Kathleen, some stores, especially in non-Portuguese communities, call all Portuguese sausage chouriço while others call them linguiça. And what makes it even more confusing, as I mention in my book, is that there’s no nationally accepted distinction between the two sausages—here or in Portugal. In the U.S., different manufacturers have their own definition of what each sausage is. To some, linguiça is lean while chouriço is fatty, or vice versa. To others, chouriço is spicy while linguiça is mild, again, or vice versa. Some even have several types of chouriço: lean, fatty, very fatty as well as mild and spicy! So my point, both in the article and in the book, is that any kind of distinction, as you have in the stores in North Attleboro, and I had in Fall River, are really community-based differences. The one consistency: linguiça is smaller in diameter. I hope this helps!

  4. Lizzie says:

    David, I grew up in Fall River, too! I like Gaspar’s sher-eece! Can’t wait to get the new book!

  5. Susan says:

    David, my husband grew up in Fall River, and we go back to see family often. I always overdose on Portuguese food and chow mein when there.

    When we lived in Florida we were able to find a lot of Portuguese food in the stores, or we would have friends going back to Mass. bring us back some things. Now that we live in Texas we are having to order everything.

    I told my husband I want your book for my birthday.

    • David Leite says:

      Susan, I hope you like the book. There are recipes in there for some of the staples you now order, but there’s no substitute for smoked chouriço—and one of the finest suppliers, I think, is Lopes Sausage Co. in Newark, Nj.

  6. Sofia says:

    David, I’m so glad I came across this article! Now I know where to find Portuguese chouriço. I was born in St. Michael, Azores, but moved to Fall River at the age of two. Growing up I remember my mom and my aunts making chouriço….so many links!……..we never ran out! My family in the Azores still makes it and smokes the chouriço at their own shop/store. I’ve been living in NYC for about two years and miss my mom’s cooking, and have been looking for portuguese chouriço. I’ll have to make my way to Newark!

    BTW, we would pronounce it as “sho-ree-so”.

    • David Leite says:

      Sofia, you’re more than welcome. I think you’ll find a lot of other things you love at Lopes. He has linguiça, paio, rabbit, whole baby lamb, lupini beans, Portuguese cheeses, and much more. Tell Herminio I said hello!

  7. Cindy says:

    Dear David,

    I am half Portuguese and LOVE chouriço. I would love to make a few of my vova’s dishes, but can’t. I now live in Tucson, AZ (I am originally from Rhode Island).
    Here in Tucson they only sell the Mexican chorizo.I can’t stand the tase. It’s minced not cubed. It’s very greasy and way too spicy. When cooked it diminishes down to barely nothing, I wish they sold the Portuguese kind here. I am on a very tight budget. Being disabled and can’t afford to buy it through the Internet/mail. Do you have any suggestions to solve my problem?

    Thanks,

    Cindy Nolan
    Tucson, AZ

    • David Leite says:

      Hello, Cindy. I’m sorry to hear you’re having problem finding Portuguese chouriço. It is a real challenge I know. You could try andouille sausage. It’s different from Portuguese chouriço but closer than Mexican chorizo. Also, have you looked into Spanish chorizo? It’s the closest to Portuguese sausage that I have found.

    • Don says:

      Sam’s Club sells a sausage which is labeled Linguica produced by a Hawaiian company. It is like a cross between Chourica and Linguica. I find it to be excellent.
      By the way, my grandmother was from the mainland and my grandfather was from the Azorez. They both pronounced it “Chereece”. We lived in Pawtucket RI

      Don Marshall

      • David Leite says:

        Hey, Don. I grew up in Swansea, MA–not too far away! We called it Charisse, too. We pronounced it like the last name of the dancer Cyd Charisse.

  8. Robert says:

    Hi, I also grew up in Fall River and love chouriço my family always called it “chereece” also! I live in Florida now, and I found that some Publix supermarkets here carry it. I buy it every time I see it. Glad to know Fall River is known for something other than Lizzie Borden lol.

    • David Leite says:

      Hi, Robert. When I was growing up and the dancer Cyd Charisse was mentioned on TV, I’d giggle. “Her hame means Cyd Portuguese sausage,” I’d say to my parents.

  9. Elle says:

    Chourico and linguica are very similar. But chourico has a spicier flavor. The islanders prefer linguica. The mainlanders prefer chourico. This is especially true once they migrated to New Bedford/ Fall River, MA.

    • David Leite says:

      Hi, Elle. There are some linguiça that are spicier than chouriço. I think this is something that varies from family to family, town to town, region to region, and even personal taste to personal taste.

  10. Ang says:

    Hi, my family is from Newport RI (Grand parents are from Cape Verde Is.) and I remember them pronouncing it Chereece too. I live in western NY now and I use to be able to buy it in one of the grocery stores here but then the Spanish Chorizo took over so I tried it but, it in no way tasted the same. I would like to make my own (found some online) but don’t know which one is closest to Chourico. Have you tried making it and if so did you have any luck and would you share the recipe? =^)

    • David Leite says:

      Ang, thanks for writing. I don’t have a recipe for chouriço. My aunt makes it, and it’s fantastic, and I’m hoping to learn from her. I plan to build a smokehouse and make my own some day. There is a recipe in “Portuguese Homestyle Cooking” for chouriço. I’ve never made it, but Ana is quite good.

  11. Ana says:

    Hello David!

    I’m a lisboeta who has recently discovered your site. I’m very happy to see that my beloved chouriço is not only known, but also loved outside of our little rectangle. I am firmly in the chouriço camp, although if I manage to catch a linguiça unawares, its fate is sealed.

    My thoughts on the chouriço vs linguiça comparison:

    * Linguiça is straight, thin (at least, not much thicker than a lady’s finger), and somewhat long (20-30cm). It is usually fattier than a chouriço.

    * Chouriço is much thicker than a linguiça and usually has a U shape, with a little string holding both ends together. There is also chouriço corrente, which is straight and made in links like sausages, but these are generally cheaper and of lower quality (and more fat).

    * There are few things more delicious than a chouriço roasted until crispy over burning aguardente on a traditional clay pig-shaped assador (I hope you brought one home with you after you were here!).

    I’m also partial to a good alheira and farinheira…And now I’m hungry!

    • David Leite says:

      Hi Ana,

      Never have truer words been spoken. I’m so glad that you are in agreement with me about chouriço vs. linguiça. Now….farinheira is something different. Don’t really like it. Too soft.

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