Jamón and Beyond! 11 Spanish Cured Meats We’re Kind of Obsessed With

Guide to Spanish Cured Meats
An expert ham slicer at work in Madrid’s Mercado San Miguel.

Ham legs hanging from restaurant rafters. Sausage links lining the walls behind bar counters. Countertops clustered with precisely sliced hind quarters. At traditional Spanish bars and restaurants there’s no doubt that cured meats reign supreme.

Whether it’s the heavenly jamón iberico de bellota or the spicy punch of chorizo, it is unthinkable to spend time in Spain without sampling Spanish cured meats. And while ham and chorizo tend to get all the glory (and for good reason), there are dozens of other cured delights to tickle your tastebuds.

Each region in Spain has very distinct styles of spicing and curing meats. Some rely on hot smoky paprika, while others opt for the herby combination of rosemary and garlic. The vast majority of Spain’s cured meats are made from pork, although beef shares a bit of the spotlight in a few of the northern regions.

Whichever region you’re in, you’ll be sure to find a bounty of Spanish cured meats to try. Here are eleven of our favorites!

1. Jamón

Cured Spanish ham is the irrefutable king of Spanish cured meats. But not all hams are created equally. The main difference? The breed of pig. Though Spain is home to many different breeds of pigs, we generally refer to two main types of jamón: jamón serrano and jamón ibérico. The pigs used for jamón serrano, are usually common white hoofed breeds (like Duroc). The pride and joy of Spanish hams are the legs with black hooves, from the Iberian Black Pig breed, native to Spain and Portugal. And the best of the best? Jamón Ibérico de Bellota. Acorn fed Iberian Black Pig. Worth every penny!

Typical Spanish cured meats: Jamón
Delicious Iberian acorn fed ham from Huelva.

The price and quality of jamón varies enormously, from 8€ per kilo to more than 200€. That disparity stems from how the pigs were raised. The highest quality hams are made from pure-bred Iberian pigs who spend their lives feasting on wild acorns beneath the forests of southwestern Spain.

2. Chorizo

While the thickness, hardness and spiciness of chorizo varies greatly from region to region, the basics are always the same: semi-fatty pork, a healthy dose of smoked paprika and salt.

Spanish chorizo and other cured meats
Spanish chorizo: a perfect snack!

Chorizo from León is spicy. Chorizo from Asturias is often seared in local cider. Chorizo from Cantabria often has oregano and thyme. And chorizo from Salamanca is often made from the high-quality Iberian pigs. All are worth a taste!

3. Salchichón

Similar to chorizo, salchichón is made from ground or finely sliced pork and slowly cured with salt and often smoke. The difference is in the spices. While chorizo is red from the paprika, salchichón is usually a light pink spotted with black pepper. Both have salt and often garlic added in as well.

4. Lomo

This cured pork tenderloin is left whole and virtually untouched in the curing process. Besides a sprinkling of salt and paprika around the exterior, lomo retains the pure smooth flavors of the pork.

Guide to Spanish Cured Meats: Lomo
These paper thin slices of lomo just melt in your mouth!

As like jamón, there are two types of lomo, the regular lomo embuchado and the higher quality lomo embuchado ibérico or caña de lomo ibérico de bellota. The latter is recognizable by the beautiful marbling of the Iberian meat.

5. Sobrassada

Who would’ve thought that paprika-spiced spreadable pork could pair so superbly with honey? The Balearic Island of Mallorca has made these odd bedfellows a beloved specialty throughout Spain.

sobrassada from Mallorca
Savory Mallorcan sobrassada.

Sobrassada is made by finely grinding pork from the black Mallorcan pig breed, stuffing it into a wide strip of intestine and slowly curing it with a bit of salt, local Mallorcan paprika and other spices. The result is a spreadable spiced sort of pork paté that is often spread over toasted bread and drizzled with honey. The sobrassada from Mallorca is so popular that the island sells more than 2.3 million kilos of it per year!

6. Morcilla

Spanish blood sausage, or morcilla, is a very different beast depending on which part of Spain you find yourself. The most popular morcilla comes from the town of Burgos where the pork blood is mixed with rice, red pepper, salt and onion and put into casings. Medallions of morcilla de Burgos are then pan fried to create a crispy edge and creamy interior.

Guide to Spanish Cured Meats: Morcilla
Burgos style morcilla. Yum!

In León, on the other hand, morcilla is even stronger. The coagulated blood is stewed with onions and other spices and served in a pot or on a dish. Morcilla de León is typically spread onto bread.

7. Cecina

Cecina is beef’s answer to Spanish ham. Most common in León, cecina is made by curing a cow’s hind quarter for upwards of 7 months. The result is a deep burgundy cured meat that is cut in thin strips and served with a light drizzle of olive oil. The flavor is deep and rich and heartier than its pork counterpart. In León you can also find cecina de caballo/potro (cured horse), so make sure to specify!

Cecina de León: Spanish cured meats
Smoky cecina de León.

8. Botifarra

This typically white sausage is popular in the northeastern province of Catalonia. It is often served boiled, grilled or lightly cured and sliced. While botifarra comes in many different styles, the most widely recognized version is the white botifarra (botifarra blanca). In contrast to most other Spanish cured meats, white botifarra gets its pale color because it does not contain any blood.

Spanish cured meats guide.
Delicious cured botifarra sausage.

9. Chistorra

Chistorra are like mini-chorizos. These little paprika-spiced sausages are most commonly found fried atop sunny-side up eggs and a bed of fried potatoes in a dish called huevos rotos.

A heaping plate of fresh Spanish chistorra.
A heaping plate of Spanish chistorra.

10. Fuet

You can spot fuet by the thin layer of white mold that surrounds its casing. This hard sausage from Catalonia has a characteristically strong pork flavor with black pepper and garlic.

Fuet a Spanish cured mat from Catalonia.
Delicious fuet.

11. Botillo

Botillo, with its odd, lumpy, red shape, may look weird but it tastes amazing. Its said that all the little pieces of pork that the butcher doesn’t know what to do with, he stuffs them into a thick sack of intestine with a heap of paprika, salt and garlic to make botillo.

botillo a strange Spanish cured meat.
Botillo (photo by Javier Lastras on Flickr CC)

That unusual sack of meat is then boiled and sliced open to reveal a cornucopia of ribs, tail and other spiced goodies. Botillo comes from the Bierzo region of Castilla y Leon province.

Tempted yet? What is your favorite cured meat from Spain?

Recipes using Spanish cured meats

Comments

  1. It’s impossible to choose a favourite! I love the deep smoky flavour of cecina, but you can never go wrong with a simple plate of jamon! Have you tried mojama – I guess that counts as a cured meat?!

    1. I completely agree! I only hope I never have to choose between cecina and jamón. I’d always pick both! And I’d definitely count mojama as a cured meat. I’ll have to include it in Cured Meats round two…

  2. Another personal favourite is ‘morcón ibérico’, which is similar to chorizo rojo, but the slices are way bigger. Lots of paprika. Typical from Extremadura. Awesome for ‘bocadillos’.

    Now I’m hungry!

    Cheers,
    Irene

  3. So many good things to try! A friend of mine who lived in the Bierzo subregion of León province told me horror stories of trying botillo for the first time—pig tail and all fell out 😛

    I just tried botifarra for the first time when I was hanging out in Barcelona’s Gràcia neighborhood last month and was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and peppery it was.

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