What is Portuguese Chouriço Sausage?

Four links of Portuguese chouriço

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.

Clockwise from top left: Sausages at Lopes Sausage Co.; Herminio Lopes; pork being cut at Lopes; more sausages at Lopes. Photo © Bryan Anselm for the NY Times

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.” Originally published October 25, 2003

Source

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

Recipe

Portuguese Sausage Frittata

David Leite's signature

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Comments

  1. My great-grandfather was from Stockholm, Sweden and upon emigrating here to the US his journey via ship landed him on Terceira Island in the Azores where he met and married my great-grandmother prior to coming to the states. He died ten years before I was born and my great-grandmother died when I was 5-6 years old but I spent a lot of time with her before her passing and remember so well the wonderful pots of Portuguese kale soup that she made and also my grandmother who lived next door to her also made quite often. The recipe was handed down to my mother and eventually to me. I grew up eating both Gaspar’s linguica and chourico. One of my favorite things that my mother made was chourico with peppers and onions in a sauce that I believe she added some ketchup to. Sometimes we would have it with rice or on soft grinder type rolls from Grand Central Mkt’s bakery. (Tiverton, RI) I recently made a pot of kale soup with linguica and my 94-year-old mother loved it. Brought back some memories for her. Next on the list is to make the same dish she used to make with the peppers and onions. Thank goodness I’m able to find both Gaspar’s linguica and chourico at our local Publix grocery stores here in south Florida and I really don’t care much at all for the taste of Spanish chorizo that is most commonly sold here. Tonight I’m chopping up some linguica for my pizza and tomorrow morning it will be scrambled eggs, potatoes, onions and the remaining stick of linguica. I guess you could say that I’m a big fan of Portuguese sausage!

    1. Those are some amazing food memories, Suzie. Thank you so much for sharing them with us. Love hearing that you’ve kept them alive by making the dishes again.

  2. Even though ethnic pride gets in the way, and both the Portuguese and Spaniards claim their versions are the best, in the end, the two are quite similar in both appearance and taste. It’s definitely not apples vs. oranges in the chorizo–or–chouriço wars!

  3. I am Portuguese, from Cape Cod, my family has lived in Provincetown for several generations. I have never met anyone who considers chourico and linguica to be the same thing…? We put both in some dishes, like kale soup. They are quite different in flavor, certainly not synonymous.

    1. You are SO right. I grew up in New Bedford (where Gaspar’s Linguica originated & thank God, Stop & Shop stocks in their NY stores!). The other thing is that it’s pronounced shure-ee-sso (no Z or T people!) & leen-GUI( as in guido)-ssa. I think eating linguica is the only Portugese thing my daughter got from me. OK, Pasteis de Nata, too.

    2. I agree. I grew up in the Southcoast in Massachusetts. The linguica referred to a pork casing and chourico to the beef casing and the spicing was greater in the chourico (also the fat content). Having not been to my hometown in several years, I was surprised by the reduced fat content that changed the taste significantly.Oh well, I still have several pounds of chourico and morcella shipped every year to my home. Breakfast, lunch, and dinner are frequently accompanied by chourico insome form.

      1. Charles, they both tradionally use pork casings. Linguiça uses the small intestine while chouriço uses the large intestine. It’s a tradition that was established many generations ago with the annual matança, or pig slaughter. And here is how Gaspar’s, a Southcoast manufacturer, describes the difference between their sausages. The only difference is chouriço is hotter. Yet they also offer a mild version, which simply confuses matters more. As you can see even they don’t have clear distinction between the two products!

    3. Liz, how do you think of them as different? I’m truly curious because they call for the very same ingredients. Some places make their linguinça hotter, others make their chouriço hotter. Linguinça is usually smaller in diameter than chouriço.

      1. I have the same strong memory–that Portuguese chouriço and linguiça are two very different sausages. My grandmother was from Madeira, and so we had linguiça frequently–just grilled as a main course or with eggs for breakfast. (I remember that orange oil so well!) Chouriço not as much, but I remember it as less spicy and as a fatter (not fattier, just bigger!) sausage.

        I just checked Gaspar’s site for ingredients, and while I couldn’t find an actual ingredient list, they say: “It is the made with the same recipe as linguiça but has more of a “kick” to it. Chouriço is a spicy sausage with a heartier spiced flavor and with different spices that are known to “kick it up a notch.”

  4. I lived in New Bedford for a few years and I have a couple of friends who are of Portuguese descent. They say that chourico is actually pronounced “sure-eece” as if the o got left off the end. But maybe that’s just a local thing.

    1. My Mom always called it that. “sure-eece.” I actually came here looking for that and this website popped up. So chourico is cerece?

        1. My father who was Portuguese from Newark NJ always pronounced them Shadisa & Linguisa. I used to go nuts trying to find them outside of Newark where it apparently is still pronounced that way.

    2. I grew up calling it “sur-EE-ce” up here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada and from what I was able to put together at least here was the islanders (the Azores) called it “sur-EE-ce” and the mainlanders pronounced the “o”. Either was you pronounce it it’s delicious.

    3. Kelcie, it’s both a local Portuguese-American pronunciation and something called “clipping.” It’s similar to how we drop the final G when we say “goin'” or “hopin'” when speaking quickly. I wanted to provide the full correct so people are informed. After that, they can drop all they want!

  5. Hi! I am from Providence but moved to Kansas City for 30 years. I’m back now! Anyhow, Gaspar’s and Amaral’s and maybe Mello’s will ship sausage. I was so homesick for it! So for those who can’t find it locally, look online. You also can get sweet bread and other classic Portuguese foods that way. Also Autocrat coffee syrup, lol. I just made kale soup yesterday. So happy to be back.

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