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Is Chorizo Healthy? Nutrition, Calories
Nutrition

Is Chorizo Healthy? Nutrition, Calories

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by Edibel Quintero, RD | Medically reviewed by Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD check
Published on October 24, 2022
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7 min

With growing popularity, chorizo is a spicy pork sausage used in Mexican and Spanish cooking. In this article, we discuss the nutritional information of chorizo and if it can be a part of a healthy and balanced diet.

is chorizo healthy

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Have you been dreaming about the popular Mexican chorizo? With its spicy sausage flavor and versatility, chorizo is tasty in dishes from omelets to casseroles to tacos and more! The list is endless. 

You can find a variation of Spanish chorizo at popular restaurants, including Chipotle Mexican Grill as one of their plant-based protein options. 

However, are there reasons to limit your consumption of chorizo or even avoid it altogether? Read on to learn more!

Is Chorizo a Healthy Food?

While it has protein, vitamins, and minerals such as iron and potassium, Spanish chorizo is a type of red meat that is high in fat, sodium, and cholesterol. Therefore, chorizo is not healthy. Instead, focus on lean meats, such as poultry, fish, or plant-based protein.

Is Plant-Based Chorizo Healthy?

Chipotle’s plant-based version of Mexican chorizo is a favorite of those looking for a healthier meat option that is both vegetarian and vegan. 

In addition to Chipotle’s sofritas (more on this later!), the plant-based chorizo is a perfect meat-free option for those looking to get the delicious flavor and spice without consuming red meat.

What Is Chipotle’s Plant-Based Chorizo Made of? Ingredients 

According to the Chipotle website, the plant-based vegetarian chorizo contains the following ingredients:

  • Vegan pea protein
  • Tomato paste
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Vinegar and red wine vinegar 
  • Seasonings: onion powder, smoked Spanish paprika, chili powder, garlic powder, chipotle chili pepper, cumin seed, black pepper, sea salt, oregano

According to the Cleveland Clinic, pea protein in this vegetarian sausage is easier to digest than red meat, is gluten and lactose-free, and is especially high in iron.

Additionally, olive oil is lower in saturated fat than tropical oils or animal-based fats and is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, beneficial fats that protect against heart disease. 

Additionally, the tomatoes in the tomato paste are a great source of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, vitamin C is beneficial in supporting a healthy immune system, promoting wound healing, and much more. 

Sofritas vs. Chorizo 

Let’s break down the key differences between Chipotle sofritas, a tofu-based vegan meat alternative, and traditional Spanish chorizo. 

Sofritas is a beloved meat alternative, available at Chipotle Mexican Grill, that resembles chicken or pork but is actually made from soy protein and seasonings. 

Calories

Beginning with caloric density, sofritas have 150 calories per 4oz (approximately 115g) compared to the 346 calories present in a 100g serving of regular chorizo. 

Compared to the high-calorie chorizo, sofritas are a relatively low-calorie option that still provides a significant amount of protein, iron, and other essential vitamins and minerals. 

Fat

While a 100g serving of chorizo has 26g of total fat with almost 10g of saturated fat, sofritas only contain 10g of total fat and 1.5g of saturated fat. 

Therefore, sofritas are the best option for a lean or low-fat protein source. 

Similarly, since sofritas contain no animal products, they are naturally cholesterol-free. Conversely, chorizo has over 100mg of cholesterol in a serving. 

Protein

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) FoodData Central, chorizo has 19.3g of protein per 100g serving. Protein is essential for building and maintaining muscle. 

Protein is also involved in every chemical reaction in the body necessary to human life. Protein is made up of building blocks called amino acids.

However, according to Harvard Health, even small amounts of red meat – such as chorizo – can increase the risk of heart disease, including stroke or heart attack, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and more. This is likely due to the saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol content that is much greater in red meat than in poultry, fish, or plant-based protein sources. 

On the other hand, a 4oz serving (approximately 115g) of sofritas contains 8g of protein. 

The sofritas also have less “bioavailable” protein with a significantly lower amount of protein. 

According to the Cleveland Clinic, animal-based protein sources can be better absorbed and used by the body. Therefore, they are considered more bioavailable than plant-based proteins, such as soy or pea protein. 

Iron

Chorizo contains 2.34mg of iron per 100g serving. On the other hand, sofritas have 2.7mg of iron in about 115g. Therefore, they are very similar in terms of iron content.

However, the iron in Spanish chorizo, or any animal source for that matter, is more easily absorbed than in plant sources. 

Since iron is a primary concern for those not consuming plant-based protein sources, add a vitamin C source, such as citrus fruit or bell peppers, to your meal to aid in iron absorption (USDA).

Potassium

A 100g serving of chorizo contains 435mg of potassium. 

According to Harvard Medical School, potassium is a mineral that is necessary for the body to regulate blood pressure and control heartbeat, support healthy cell functioning, and promote healthy muscle and nerves.

On the other hand, a 4oz serving of sofritas has 0mg of potassium. 

Still, sofritas are rich in calcium, vitamin C, and vitamin A. These vitamins and minerals are helpful in achieving a balanced diet that is sufficient in all nutrients. 

Overall, both chorizo and sofritas are foods that are very high in sodium, with about 560mg in Chipotle’s sofritas and 983mg in traditional chorizo. So, consume these high-sodium foods in moderation.

Nutritional Facts 

From beneficial vitamins and minerals to dangerous fats, let’s discuss more information about the nutritional facts of chorizo. 

Nutritional table (per 100g) 

Calories/Nutrient (per 100g)Amount 
Calories (kcal)346
Sodium (mg)983
Net Carbs (g)2.63
Fiber (g)0
Sugar (g)0
Fats (Total)26
Protein (g)19.3
Cholesterol (mg)107

Source: https://fdc.nal.usda.gov/fdc-app.html#/food-details/746781/nutrients  

High in calories 

A 100g serving of chorizo, which is just under two-thirds of a cup of meat, contains a whopping 346 calories. Therefore, chorizo sausage is a high-calorie food. 

For a lower calorie protein option, it is best to stick with poultry, fish, or a plant-based protein, such as tofu.

Low in carbohydrates 

Since chorizo is a meat and protein source, it is naturally extremely low in carbohydrates. For example, a 100g serving of chorizo only contains less than 3g of carbohydrates. 

Chorizo contains no sugar whatsoever. However, it also does not have any fiber. Fiber helps you feel full and satisfied after a meal.

If you want to add fiber to your chorizo dish, eat it with whole-wheat tortillas and pair it with fiber-rich vegetables such as bell peppers, carrots, broccoli, and more. 

High in fats 

A significant drawback of chorizo is the high total fat content, especially in saturated fat and trans fat. 

According to the American Heart Association, 100g of chorizo contains almost 10g of saturated fat, which can contribute to high cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. 

Only 5–6% of your caloric intake should be from saturated fat. For example, if you consume 2,000 calories daily, less than 120 calories should come from saturated fat. 

Is chorizo always bad to eat? Not necessarily. It can be a part of a healthy diet!

The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends consuming no more than three portions (about 3oz or 115g) of red meat three times a week. This amount would be no more than 12–18oz of red meat (cooked). 

However, of the 26g of fat in a 100g serving of chorizo, about 12g are monounsaturated fats, and approximately 5g are polyunsaturated fats. 

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, unsaturated fats are a healthier variety of fats that have been shown to decrease cholesterol levels, aid in heart health, and more. 

Yet, since the risks of saturated fat and trans fat in chorizo are much greater than the potential benefits of the unsaturated fat, it is best to stick with plant-based proteins, poultry, or fish instead of red meat.

High in cholesterol 

As mentioned above, a 100g serving of chorizo contains 107mg of cholesterol. 

Cholesterol is a type of fat naturally made in the liver of animals and humans. Since our bodies can make it, we do not need to eat any cholesterol to survive.

However, we also get cholesterol when we eat animal products, including meat and dairy. Too much cholesterol can increase heart disease risk, including high blood pressure, atherosclerosis, and more. 

While the recommendation was to consume no more than 200–300mg of cholesterol each day, the 2020–2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans now recommends consuming as little dietary cholesterol as possible, similar to trans fats. 

FAQs 

Is chorizo bad for you?

Due to high sodium, cholesterol, and fat content, including saturated fat and trans fat, chorizo used in Mexican and Spanish cooking is not very healthy. Therefore, chorizo should be consumed in moderation and in small amounts.

Is Chipotle chorizo gluten-free?

According to Chipotle’s information on their website, their plant-based chorizo is gluten-free. Therefore, it is acceptable for individuals with Celiac disease, gluten allergy, or gluten intolerance.

Is chorizo high in sodium?

A 100g serving of pork chorizo, equivalent to a little under two-thirds of a cup of meat, contains 983mg of sodium, which is exceptionally high. The American Heart Association recommends more than 2,300mg per day.

A Word From a Dietitian

Delicious sausage chorizo is best consumed in moderation due to its fat content (including small amounts of trans fat), extremely high sodium content, and cholesterol.

However, chorizo is a good source of amino acids, iron, and potassium, amongst other beneficial vitamins and minerals. Therefore, in the case of chorizo, the downsides may outweigh the benefits as you could get protein and nutrients from other more nutritious sources.

When you enjoy chorizo sausage, try to make it at home to control precisely how much salt and fat, such as oil, is added to the meal.

If you enjoy chorizo’s spicy sausage and a savory flavor, good health food is Chipotle’s plant-based variation that is vegetarian and vegan. Since it is pea protein-based, it contains significantly less fat and cholesterol but still high amounts of salt.

Conclusion

Chorizo can be a part of a healthy and well-balanced diet, as long as it is consumed in moderation in small amounts. Try to opt for more lean meats, such as poultry or fish, rather than processed meats such as chorizo. 

Add your chorizo to a meal that is plentiful in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, and dairy to have a well-rounded dish. 

I hope you found this article helpful in breaking down the nutritional information of chorizo.

HR_author_photo_Edibel
Written by
Edibel Quintero is a medical doctor who graduated in 2013 from the University of Zulia and has been working in her profession since then. She specializes in obesity and nutrition, physical rehabilitation, sports massage and post-operative rehabilitation. Edibel’s goal is to help people live healthier lives by educating them about food, exercise, mental wellness and other lifestyle choices that can improve their quality of life.
Medically reviewed by Rosmy Barrios, MD
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