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


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


Portuguese Sausage Frittata

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  1. Hello David. I found one of your cookbooks in Cape Cod and love it. I was initially drawn to your name. My son’s name if David Leites (somewhere in the immigration process my family added the “s”). Anyway, I love Portuguese food, especially my Mom’s (all of my family is from Chaves, Portugal. My wife is Italian, and always used to ask me to explain the difference between Chourico and Linguica. I’ve always told her that they are basically the same, but she never understoood until I showed her your book. Thank you.

  2. Hi, so glad i found this post, I live in turks and caicos and desperate for some chouriço, so was looking for where to buy when i’m in NY next week, can’t wait! Food just doesn’t taste the same!

    ps – i crave alheira too…

  3. 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!

    1. 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.

  4. 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? =^)

    1. 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.

  5. 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.

    1. New Beffit is more of a linguiça town, where Faw Riva is a chouriço town according to my grandmother.

      The are definitely not the same. And no one says sha-ri-zo. it’s Sha-dees. or Sha-rees.

      That’s why as a kid you giggle when Vavo asks (tells you) if you want a shitty-sandwich.

      Linguiça is lin-gweesa I don’t think I’ve heard it mispronounced before.

      Also, you can get linguiça dogs and chouriço dogs for the kids.

      1. Chip, your avó is right regarding New Beffit and Faw Riva. And, yes, you’re right about the local pronunciations, but they are just that: local. They’re based upon the Azorean accent. On the mainland, they pronounce them as I wrote them.

        And, please, tell me the difference. PLEASE!!! Even the folks at Portugalia Marketplace say they’re essential the same, with small variations in spiciness.

    2. 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.

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