Recipe: Mexican-Style Chorizo

Some of my earliest ranch memories are of the butchering/cooking sessions that followed every time we slaughtered a hog. Everything — I mean everything — was used and converted into some delicacy. The blood, heart, and liver would go to make morcilla (blood sausage). The feet were pickled. We made fabulous tamales with the cooked meat from the head and butt. As for the legs: My mother would slice one leg into thin steaks for carne adobada (made with a version of Salsa de Chile Colorado brushed on the meat to marinate before cooking — still one of my favorites). My dad would take another to make a ham. A third went to the cowboys for a great chile con carne. The fourth leg was dedicated to this chorizo.

Today I duplicate some of our ranch recipes using U.S. pork. But the quality is very different. The pork here is so lean and so bland that you have to treat it almost like veal. The only cut that really works when you need a lot of flavor and texture is pork butt. The truth is that the pork we raised had a lot more fat, which is the vehicle of meat flavor. If you must avoid it, chorizo is not for you. But in defense of the ranch diet I must say that my great-grandfather, who ate pork and beef practically every day of his life, drank to excess on occasion, smoked cigars, and rarely exercised, lived to be eighty-seven years old. 

I don't recommend trying to reduce the proportion of fat in chorizo mixture. Ask the butcher to give you a mixture of three parts lean meat (preferably butt) to one part fat. This recipe is for a large amount which is meant to be lightly cooked as soon as the mixture has rested overnight, then frozen in convenient-sized batches for later use. It has dozens of uses. Chorizo mixture is cooked with potatoes (as in the photo you see here), scrambled eggs, or cheese. In Mexico, it is also filled into casings and aged to make wonderful air-dried sausages. I think the fresh sausage mixture is a more practical option for most U.S. cooks. 

The recipe makes about 5½ lb., but can easily be halved.


5 pounds ground pork (3:l ratio of lean to fat)
3 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
l teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (coarse grind)
l teaspoon ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground true (Ceylon) cinnamon, preferably freshly ground in spice grinder, or ½ - ¼ teaspoon ground U.S. "cinnamon"
2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, crumbled
¼ cup cider vinegar
¼ cup red wine or sherry
l teaspoon sugar
4 ounces pure red chile powder stirred to a paste with l/2 - 3/4
cup boiling water
2 tablespoons minced garlic
Lard for sauteing

In large mixing bowl, combine ground pork and all other ingredients except lard. Mix with your hands to distribute all seasonings evenly. Let rest, covered, overnight in refrigerator.

The next day, prepare to cook the mixture. Melt 2 - 3 tablespoons of lard in large skillet over medium heat. (This is to get the cooking started; meat will provide its own cooking fat as you proceed.) Working in batches and, being careful not to crowd skillet, saute the chorizo mixture about 5 minutes, stirring often to cook evenly. Remove each batch to a bowl as it is done. When all the mixture has been sauteed, drain as much fat as you can from the cooked meat. Let cool to room temperature.

Place cooled mixture in heavy-duty plastic bags. (It's probably smart to use several different sizes.) Unless planning to use within a day or two, freeze at once. Can be stored up to 2 months in freezer.

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