Friday, October 9, 2009

Homemade Chorizo - Oaxacan Style

Oaxacan Chorizo

While we were in Oaxaca, we fell head-over-heels in love with the chorizo there. Here in San Diego, despite the wide availability of Mexican food products in general, we've been unable to find a chorizo that tastes as good.

The chorizo we bought from our local carniceria in Oaxaca had a deeper color to it and a more complex and tangy flavor. Plus, we missed the pretty bolitas of chorizo we would see hanging amongst other lovely bits of meat:

Oaxacan Chorizo

Our solution to this problem (which will come as no surprise to regular readers of this blog) was that we would have to try to make it ourselves.

After a bit of experimentation, our recipe is something of a combination of a version from The Food and Life of Oaxaca, by Zarela Martínez and one from Rick Bayless' Authentic Mexican.

At its base, this chorizo starts like most pork sausages: a mixture of ground pork meat and fat (we use shoulder and belly). Where it differentiates itself is in the seasoning. The dark color comes from lots of chile - in both amount and variety. For this batch we used ancho, paprika, chipotle, guajillo and cayenne. Most of it is for depth of flavor, but it also adds a nice bit of heat.

Oaxacan Chorizo

The taste gets an acid kick from some cider vinegar and is rounded out with herbs (thyme and oregano) and spices (peppercorns, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg).

Into the sausage stuffer it goes:

Oaxacan Chorizo

And the "after" shot, with the lovely, fatty, burnished-orange afterglow from the chorizo meat.

Oaxacan Chorizo

We were very pleased at how the bolitas of chorizo turned out:

Oaxacan Chorizo

After stuffing it was into the magic fridge to hang for a couple of days (that's some saucisson sec hanging in the background).

Oaxacan Chorizo

After it has tightened up a bit it is ready to go. The uses are endless. Just grab a few bolitas, toss them in a frying pan and cook them until they burst and spill out.

Oaxacan Chorizo

Then add it to your dish of choice. We have a growing number (such as our recipe for Chori-Migas), but one of the simplest and most satisfying is to use it as a topping for some breakfast memelitas:

Memelitas with Chorizo

The day just starts off better when it starts off with some chorizo.

Oxacan-style Chorizo

You'll want about 2 1/2 oz of whole dried chiles (anchos, guajillo, chipotle or another mixure of fairly mild chiles). If using ground chile, substitute with about 1 1/2 oz. Keep the meat very cold at all times to improve the grinding and stuffing process.

6-7 ounces pork belly
9-10 ounces pork shoulder
2 or 3 medium ancho chiles, seeded and stemmed
1 guajillo chile, seeded and stemmed
1 to 2 dried chipotle chiles, seeded and stemmed
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 whole cloves
1/2 inch cinnamon stick (preferably canela)
3/4 teaspoon mexican oregano or marjoram
1/4 teaspoon thyme
generous pinch ground nutmeg
2 teaspoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt (mortons)
1 garlic clove, whole
1 garlic clove, minced
1/3 cup cider vinegar
water for soaking chiles
Hog casings
Kitchen twine

Cut the pork belly and shoulder into finger shaped pieces 2 to 3 inches long (remove any tough or stringy gristle). Coarsely grind the meat with a meat grinder. Place into the refrigerator to chill while you prepare the seasonings.

Tear the chiles into large, flat pieces. In a hot, dry pan, quickly toast the chiles a few pieces at a time, just until they start to change color and/or blister. This will only take a few seconds - do not over cook or burn. Place the toasted chiles into a bowl, cover with hot water and soak until softened, about 20 minutes.

Place the peppercorns, cloves, cinnamon, oregano and thyme into a spice grinder and grind finely. If you do not have a spice grinder, add these to the blender in the next step, but run it much longer.

Drain the chiles (reserving the liquid) and place into a blender along with the ground spice mixture, the nutmeg, paprika, cayenne, salt, and 1 garlic clove. Add the cider vinegar and 5 tablespoons of the reserved chile soaking liquid, then blend until smooth.

Using a large spoon, thoroughly mix the seasoning and minced garlic into the ground meats. It will be quite loose. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare hog casings for stuffing by soaking in warm water at least 30 minutes. Change the soaking water and run fresh water through them to remove traces of salt. Stuff the meat into the casings, but leave each piece of casing unstuffed at least 6 inches at each end. Keep the long sausage link quite loose rather than densly packed (if too tight, the casing may burst while creating the small links). Starting in the center and working toward the ends, use kitchen twine to tie the sausage into short, tight rounds the size of a golf ball.

Hang the links in a cool airy place (50-60 degrees) for 36-48 hours or until they have firmed up and are dry to the touch. Be sure to put a baking tray lined with paper towels underneath the sausage to catch the drips. Cut the finished sausage into shorter sets of links, then wrap in plastic and refrigerate or freeze until ready to use.


  1. I've never thought about making my own sausages but this one has me seriously considering it. I have the equipment to do it, even grinding my own meat so it's not like I have any excuses. :) The chorizo would be awesome for breakfast tomorrow.

  2. We live near Toluca Mexico, which is supposed to be the chorizo capital of Mexico, and I have to say the chorizo is great there. We like it in a sandwich (torta). the chorizo is fried in crumbles then put in little round white bread rolls with chopped jalapeños, tomato, onion and crema (thick cream). It is great.

  3. cabcooks - definitely go for it. Beware, however, that making sausage may turn into an obsession...

    Shayne - that torta sounds awesome!

  4. What a wonderful job you did, I love Oaxacan Style Chorizo. I have some Oaxacan Friends that get shipments in from Oaxaca but you have inspired my wife and I to possibly take a stab at this.

  5. Am I missing something? The quantities of meat seem to be really small. (ounces - not pounds?) Thanks to your blog, we are trying our hands at sausage making. Curing meats is next. I love the fact that you're here in San Diego. We are familiar with most of the places you visit. Thanks for the inspiration!

  6. Masa, thanks for the kind words. Getting shipments straight from Oaxaca would be cool - I'm jealous!

  7. Looks amazing. ive been thinking of trying a oaxacan chorizo.

  8. Hi Valerie, No, you're not missing anything - this recipe only makes about a pound of sausage. We were making fairly small batches while experimenting with the recipe.

    The pictures may be little misleading, however, since we took them when we made a two or three pound batch.

    Good luck with the meat curing - it's a perfect companion to sausage making.

  9. Aldo, definitely give it a try if you can find it or make it yourself of course. It's quite different from the Mexican chorizo you find here in supermarkets.

  10. Made the chorizo. I love the extra bite that the vinegar adds to the flavor. We ended up not stuffing it and just cooked it loose. This stuff made the best sopes ever!
    We have bacon curing in the fridge now. It should be good for smoking soon.

  11. Hi Valerie - glad to hear you made the chorizo and that it worked well. The vinegar is indeed key - it really brightens up what are otherwise pretty earthy ingredients.

    Good luck with the bacon!

  12. Am I reading your recipe right? 2 1/2 oz of dried peppers is ALOT. And I like spicy food but I am nervous as I am trying to make a double batch and the amount of peppers just seems way overboard. Am I missing anything?

  13. Maybe my scale sucks because the amounts in the ingredient list and the weights aren't even close. . . Should I go by amount of chiles or by weight?

  14. Hi Mattyg, Sorry you're having trouble with our recipe - I'll try to clarify, and will modify the recipe intro. We use a lot of chile here, but only the very mild ones in any quantity.

    The ancho and guajillo chiles I get are both quite large and have nearly zero heat (although the chipotle can be hot). The 2 1/2 oz amount includes all of them whole, before being seeded or stemmed. If you've torn them up, only use about 1 1/2 oz of the mixed, mild chile pieces.

    I only get paprika pre-ground, and it's measured by the teaspoon. Same thing for the spicy cayenne.

    The resulting sausage has a bit of a kick, but shouldn't be terribly fiery. Hope this helps!

  15. I'll give it a shot with 3oz total for a double batch. The dried guajilo chiles that I found were pretty full of seeds so I assumed that they were pretty hot. I will report back after it's done. Thanks a lot for the feedback.

  16. This turned out great! I was impressed by the look & the flavor. Just the right amount of heat. Thanks guys.

  17. ok, after reading post after post I realize that this is a blog I've got to get to know. Now, with this post, I realize you are my hero. first the head cheese, now this! I love you.

  18. Hi WANF - glad you are enjoying the blog!

  19. Replying to an old post, but really glad I found your blog. I made the chorizo according to your recipe, and everything turned out well - mixed fresh sausage with egg and it was a hit. I got a bit confused with the hanging. I saw the great picture of your magic fridge, but wasn't sure of the temperature. I've seen one site that suggests hanging uncured sausage at room temp for 1-2 hours to tighten up a bit and then chilling. What's your recommendation? Thanks

  20. Hi Android - the hanging for a few hours sounds like what we do before smoking sausages. While there are smoked chorizos, our version is not.

    I would suggest hanging the stuffed sausages in a cool, dry place for a few days. The goal is to dry them out somewhat and let excess moisture drip off. Be sure to use a drip pan underneath!

  21. Well that looks wonderfully spicy and similar to a recipes I have been using for years... but didn't realize it was perhaps Oaxican style.

  22. Mike I'm new to the charcuterie sene and have a question about hanging meat. Your recipe has no cure (pink salt) in is this safe to hang? Like I said I'm new and am just wandering


  23. Hi Brandon - a lot of factors go into whether or not you need to use curing salt. In this case, there is a lowered pH from the vinegar, a relatively short hanging time and, most importantly, the end product will not be eaten raw.

    In contrast, if you are making a Spanish-style chorizo (which is dried longer, often smoked and intended to be eaten raw), then you would want to use curing salt.

  24. Delicious recipe ! Labor intensive but so worth with!


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