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. 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.

    1. 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.

  2. 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

    1. 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

    2. 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.

  3. 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”.

    1. My family is from St Michael (Azores) and have always pronounced it Shah-rdees. Any way you pronounce it, it’s yummy.

      1. Thanks, Connie. The “proper” way of pronouncing it is “shoo-dree-soo.” And by “proper,” I mean from the mainland/Coimbra, which is consider the national pronunciation. The pronunciation of your family (and my family, too) is an island accent. The same way we have Boston, Texan, or Georgian accents here.

    2. 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!

  4. 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.

    1. 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.

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