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Spanish Chorizo substitute for Paella

My mom says Spanish Chorizo is made with pig brains. She fears the diseases pig brains have and knows you can't kill the bacteria/virus even with cooking. I'm like "the USDA would've already notified people of eating pig brains". I'm about to just get myself Italian sausage and toss it to the Paella. Any suggestions for a substitute for Spanish Chorizo?

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  1. What brand of Spanish Chorizo are you talking about?

    She might be confusing this with the cheapest Mexican style chorizo which lists pork salivary glands as an ingredient.

    You don't have to use any chorizo or sausage in paella. Italian sausage is flavored with fennel seed, which isn't a common flavor in Spanish sausages.

    4 Replies
    1. re: paulj

      Frankly, I don't know any brands for Spanish Chorizo. Im guessing my mom doesnt want to by from the stores, but I really dont know where to get them.

      1. re: chuttney1

        I have found an American made spanish chorizo at CostPlus World Imports (which is in California), and a Spanish brand at high end groceries (deli), e.g. Whole Foods. These are vacuum packed dry sausages that don't need frigeration till they are opened.

        The fresh chorizo in ordinary groceries are most likely Mexcian style.

        1. re: chuttney1

          La Espanola Meats has a large selection of imported and their own domestic Spanish-style chorizo.

          La Espanola Meats
          25020 Doble Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90710

        2. re: paulj

          Not all Italian sausage is flavored with fennel. Where I grew up in New York, you certainly had the option of buying sausages with or without fennel. You may be able to find some without it, pre-packaged, or, if you live near a store that actually makes sausage, just buy it without it. I have used the hot sausage without fennel as an emergency substitute in paella, and my guests actually really liked it. Frankly, the mild, without fennel, might work fine too. Haven't tried that yet.

          The OP can also consider using andouille in a pinch. That works well too, as it has a similar texture. The spices are different, since andouille doesn't usually have smoked paprika, but it works. I have used that too.

          Getting back to the "pigs' brains" comment -- My advice for the OP is to just read the labels and buy a quality chorizo from Spain. Those would be already cooked, highly spiced, smoky, and somewhat firm. Avoid Mexican chorizo if this concerns you, as it is usually an uncooked sausage and, depending upon who is making them (just like anything else), it might contain by-products and things you don't want to eat. Totally different texture from Spanish chorizo too.

        3. chinese sausage (lap cheong) is actually not bad in paella. ymmv.

          1. "... She fears the diseases pig brains have and knows you can't kill the bacteria/virus even with cooking..."

            Fear mongering. The above claim is without any substantial scientific evidence to back it up. Pigs are NOT host animals for prion-based disease. Cow, sheep and deer, yes; but pig, no.

            When I was last in Spain (and that was 3 weeks ago), the people weren't exactly keeling over from a nation-wide outbreak of spongiform encephalopathy. The porcine chorizo, lomo, and jamon all remain fantastically good, safe, and available.

            1. Portuguese Sausage or Linguisa is another name for it...Sam's Club has the more oily one than the ones from Hawaii at Marukai..

              1. If you really don't want to use it, then get some "hot links" (Johnsonville), they work well, too. But I'd go with the Spanish chorizo. NOT Mexican.

                1. well, not only you don't put pig brains in Spanish chorizo - that I know of, but on top of that, normally you don't put chorizo in paella. Besides, I believe (but I'm not sure) that all "Spanish" chorizo in the US is made here and not imported, and you can have it at la Espanola, order it online through La Tienda, and the La Espanola-made ones are available at Whole Foods and also at Surfas. But really, no chorizo in paella is not only fine, it's how it's traditionally done.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: bad nono

                    There are as many ``authentic'' recipes for paella as there are people in Valencia, and some, although not most, of them include chorizo. The imported Palacios brand, not bad, is widely available, even at some Mexican markets (who also tend to carry the excellent local La Espanola chorizos), but definitely at Surfas.

                  2. Kielbasa works for me and is available in most supermarkets.

                    1. for something that definitely has NO brain and NO spinal cord tissue in it:

                      once you take it out of the casing, though, it will lose it's shape.
                      DON'T get the Trader Joe version of this stuff, get the name brand.
                      available lots of places, i normally buy it at Whole Foods.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: westsidegal

                        How is it spiced? Mexican or Spanish style?

                        1. re: paulj

                          mexican. it's a good product.

                          1. re: linus

                            It tastes pretty good, but it's mushy and refuses to get un-mushy, unlike Mexican chorizo which will form firm clumps eventually. That alone should disqualify it from going into a paella, even if the flavor didn't.

                            I can get several different kinds of Spanish-style chorizo at my Baja Ranch market (formerly King Ranch). It's a dry, solid sausage, whatever shape or formula is used, more akin to salami than to Mexican chorizo. One dominating flavor is smoked paprika, which goes so well with saffron that those paellas I've had with it are the most memorable ones.

                      2. If your mother is under the impression that pureed brains are what give Spanish chorizos their zip, she is likely to be afraid of eating of Mexican chorizo or Italian sausage too, which is just as well since they have strong seasonings that would otherwise throw off the flavor of your paella. If you want to capture the taste of chorizo, it is little more than cured pork with the bite of pimenton and garlic. You can substitute by adding a little ham to your seasonings along with smoked paprika and a little more garlic.

                        1. Your mother is likely thinking of Mexican chorizo, which is completely different. Mexican chorizo is made from various innards, including brains and salivary glands, and is quite loose. It's only a sausage in the sense that's packed inside of a casing, the texture is extremely soft, and it doesn't hold any kind of shape at all.

                          Spanish chorizo is a dried, cured meat product, like salami, which is not made from organ meats.

                          Paella can have a lot of different ingredients as far as the protein component goes. You can simply skip the chorizo and nobody would know the difference.

                          It's important to understand the difference between Spanish and Mexican chorizo. Mexican chorizo in a paella would be a disaster. Mexican chorizo turns to a soupy consistency when heated. That's why it's commonly served mixed in with eggs.

                          3 Replies
                          1. re: Josh

                            What Josh1 writes is true about one style of Mexican chorizo, commonly the cheapest in California groceries. It should have those ingredients on the packaging. Bulk sausage packed by the meat market probably has the same meat content as their fresh Italian and breakfast sausage - just different seasoning. But those seasonings probably won't be compatible with your Spanish style paella (assuming that's what the OP is trying to make).

                            1. re: paulj

                              Yes, there are many carnicerias where I live that make their own Mexican-style chorizo in house and they're a far cry from what Josh describes. Here's rworange's tasting report of some local favorites,

                              1. re: Melanie Wong

                                That's an interesting post. I've tried El Savadorean dried chorizo, Northgate Markets have them, and while they are dried, they're nothing like Spanish chorizo. Spanish chorizo is dense and hard, like salumi. None of the dried Latin American chorizos I've seen have this kind of consistency.

                                In any case, not sure how this is relevant to the OP's original post, since he's talking about his mother's desire to avoid consuming pig brains. Mexican chorizo is going to be a dicey proposition in that regard unless the OP finds someone who makes their own chorizo and can reveal the list of ingredients.

                                Spanish chorizo rather obviously doesn't have brain matter in it.

                          2. I think this answers all my questions. Thank You, you definitely cleared up everything I needed to know.