How Hernán Cortés Brought Chorizo Sausage to Mexico

Discover the history and evolution of chorizo in Mexico, from its introduction by Hernán Cortés to its status as a beloved staple in Mexican cuisine. Learn about traditional chorizo-making techniques and the various ways this flavorful sausage is used in dishes.

How Hernán Cortés Brought Chorizo Sausage to Mexico
A plate of chorizo tacos, a classic Mexican dish that highlights the spicy and smoky flavor of this beloved sausage.

Chorizo is a popular sausage in Mexican cuisine that is used in a variety of dishes, from breakfast burritos to enchiladas. But did you know that the history of chorizo in Mexico dates back to the time of the Spanish conquest? In this article, we will explore the origins of chorizo and its evolution into a beloved food in Mexico.

The Introduction of Pigs in Mexico

The story of chorizo in Mexico begins with the introduction of pigs by Hernán Cortés in the Toluca Valley. Cortés was a Spanish conquistador who arrived in Mexico in 1519 and quickly established pig farming to produce chorizo, a sausage he was particularly fond of. According to Bernal Díaz del Castillo, when Cortés accompanied Diego Velásquez in the conquest of Cuba, the first thing he did in Baracoa, the first village founded on the island, was to develop pig farming.

Cortés was known to be particular about the pigs' diet, and he ordered a person to be in charge of making them run every day so that they would not get too fat and the meat would be of optimum quality for chorizo production. The pigs were fed with corn, which likely affected the flavor of the sausage.

Over time, the production of chorizo grew considerably in the Toluca region during the XVII, XVIII, and XIX centuries, until it became a tradition. The Toluca region is still known today for its high-quality chorizo, both artisanal and industrial.

Traditional Chorizo-Making Techniques

Artisanal chorizo is made using traditional techniques that have been passed down through generations. The process begins with grinding the meat, which is usually pork, and mixing it with various spices, such as paprika, garlic, and oregano. The mixture is then stuffed into casings made from natural materials like animal intestines, which give chorizo its characteristic curved shape.

The sausage is then hung to dry and age for several days or weeks, allowing the flavors to develop fully. The resulting chorizo is flavorful, with a distinct smoky and spicy taste that is perfect for a variety of dishes.

Chorizo in Mexican Cuisine

Chorizo is a staple ingredient in many Mexican dishes, including breakfast burritos, tacos, and enchiladas. It is often used as a filling for quesadillas or served on its own as a side dish. Chorizo is also a popular ingredient in traditional stews like pozole and menudo.

In addition to its use in traditional Mexican dishes, chorizo has also found its way into fusion cuisine. It is often used in recipes that combine Mexican and American or European flavors, such as chorizo burgers or chorizo mac and cheese.

Artisanal chorizo hanging to dry, made using traditional techniques passed down through generations.
Artisanal chorizo hanging to dry, made using traditional techniques passed down through generations in the Toluca region of Mexico.

The Different Types of Chorizo

There are many different types of chorizo, each with its unique flavor and texture. Some of the most common types of chorizo include:

  • Mexican chorizo: This is the most common type of chorizo in Mexico. It is made with ground pork, spices, and sometimes smoked paprika. Mexican chorizo is typically cured and smoked, and it has a strong flavor.
  • Spanish chorizo: Spanish chorizo is similar to Mexican chorizo, but it is typically made with a higher proportion of fat. Spanish chorizo is also typically not smoked, and it has a milder flavor than Mexican chorizo.
  • Portuguese chouriço: Portuguese chouriço is made with pork, garlic, and spices. It is typically smoked, and it has a strong flavor.
  • Argentinian chorizo: Argentinian chorizo is made with ground beef, pork, and spices. It is typically not smoked, and it has a mild flavor.

How to Cook Chorizo

Chorizo can be cooked in a variety of ways. It can be fried, grilled, or baked. Chorizo can also be added to soups, stews, and sauces.

To fry chorizo, heat a pan over medium heat. Add the chorizo and cook until it is browned and cooked through.

To grill chorizo, preheat a grill to medium heat. Add the chorizo to the grill and cook for 5-7 minutes per side, or until it is browned and cooked through.

To bake chorizo, preheat an oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the chorizo on a baking sheet and bake for 15-20 minutes, or until it is browned and cooked through.

Tips for Cooking Chorizo

  • When cooking chorizo, be sure to cook it thoroughly to kill any harmful bacteria.
  • Chorizo can be added to a variety of dishes, such as tacos, burritos, and soups.
  • Chorizo can also be used as a topping for pizza or pasta.
  • When cooking chorizo, be sure to use a large pan or grill so that the chorizo does not stick.
  • Chorizo can be a delicious and versatile ingredient in your cooking.

How to Store Chorizo

Chorizo can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. It can also be frozen for up to 3 months.


Chorizo is a beloved food in Mexico, with a rich history dating back to the time of the Spanish conquest. Its evolution into a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine is a testament to its delicious flavor and versatility in a variety of dishes. Whether you prefer artisanal or industrial chorizo, one thing is certain: this sausage has earned its place in the hearts and stomachs of food lovers everywhere.

In-Text Citation: Rosita Sánchez, Rosita and Estado de México. Conversación En La Cocina, Gastronomía Mexiquense. 1st ed., Mexico, Estado de México, 2006.