In the US, chicharrón refers to either the Mexican dish consisting of fried pork belly and/or pork rinds, or the US-style fried pork rinds commonly eaten as a snack. It is usually called cracklings, a reference to the sound it makes when you take a bite at it.
- Robb Walsh, in the book The Tex-Mex Cookbook: A History in Recipes and Photos, calls chicharron “crunchy fat.”
- The Guinness World Record for the largest cazöla was set in Ossona, Italy on 24 August 2002, weighing 931.46 kg. The ingredients of this traditional Italian dish include cracklings or chicharron.
- According to Maria Kijac, in the book The South American Table, the “Bolivians serve chicharrón with pataska (hominy) or tunta (dried white potatoes).”
Chicharrón Buying Guide
- Where to buy chicharron? Mando Rayo and Jarod Neece, in the book The Tacos of Texas, wrote: “Chicharrones are fried pork belly or skin. You can buy them at local meat markets.”
- Always buy freshly cooked or freshly-made chicharron. The worst type of chicharron is a tough chicharron that is difficult to chew. When you eat it, chicharron should break apart easily without so much effort. When buying chicharron in a sealed pack, make sure the pack is completely sealed because if there is any tear or hole in the packaging, the chicharron inside has turned tough and will be impossible to chew. A good test is by pushing the chicharron with your fingers. If it easily breaks apart, it means that the chicharron is still crunchy.
- Chicharron is made using pork rinds from different parts of the pig. The preparation also varies; some chicharrones contain fat and pieces of meat, while others are just puffed-up pig skin, which is usually cheaper.
Chicharrón Production & Farming in Texas
If you are looking for cracklings, here’s where you’ll find one: What’s Crackalackin in Cypress, Caws Homemade Style Cracklin in Houston, and Kettle Corn King in Houston. They also serve cracklings at The Manhattan Project Beer Company in Dallas, at the Union Bear Brewing Co. in Plano, and Ancelet’s Cajun Market in Port Arthur.
For authentic Mexican chicharron in Texas, visit the following locations:
Calles De Mexico Taco Shop in The Colony has chicharron molcajeteado
Carnicería La Potosina in Dallas
Carnitas y Chicharrones El Tacubayo in Pasadena
Chicharrones El Guero in Houston
El Rodeo Meat Market in McAllen
El Valle Tortilleria Factory & Grocery in Port Isabel
La Michoacana Meat Market in San Antonio
Production of chicharron in Texas goes hand in hand with the pig and pork industry in the state. There are many farms and ranches here that raise pigs for meat (pork). Making chicharrones or cracklings from pork rinds is a good way to make something useful, proof that almost every part of a slaughtered pig is utilized and nothing goes to waste. Steve Gagné, in the book Food Energetics: The Spiritual, Emotional, and Nutritional Power of What We Eat, wrote: “The pig is held by many cultures as the number one food source among animals, both for its nutritional qualities and for the simple reason that it is used in its entirety. In pig-eating cultures, no part of the pig is thrown away.”
Pesticides, Additives, and Chemicals
Chicharron may contain artificial food color, artificial flavor, and food preservatives.
The ideal base ingredients of chicharron are pork skin, pork fat, and salt. But expect to find many additives in a bag of chicharrones or cracklings sold in the store, including wheat, tapioca starch, corn starch, sodium diacetate, monosodium glutamate, citric acid, sodium citrate, fish sauce, hydrolyzed soy protein, lactic acid, FD&C Yellow No. 5, Disodium inosinate, disodium guanylate, and TBHQ.
Chicharrón is found in many countries, and each country has its own version of the chicharrón. There is chicharrón in Brazil, Bolivia, Canada, Colombia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guam, Guatemala, Mexico, New Mexico, Peru, Philippines, Puerto Rico, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela, although you will notice that the chicharrón in one country is slightly different from chicharrón in another country.
María Herrera-Sobek, in the book Celebrating Latino Folklore: An Encyclopedia of Cultural Traditions, Volume 1, wrote: “The word “chicharrón” is merely a name for what, in many parts of Latin America, is almost a major food group.” The author also pointed out that “the rich complexity of the pig, specifically, in its form as the Latin American delicacy chicharron, is layered by a unique history that has been both maintained and altered by the diverse peoples of the Americas.”
Chicharron is sold in sealed or resealable polypropylene or plastic packs/containers.
Mexican chicharrón is great for lunch or dinner – breakfast too. Bonnie Walker and John Griffin, in the book Food Lovers’ Guide to® San Antonio: The Best Restaurants, Markets & Local Culinary Offerings, wrote: “For something different at breakfast, try the chicharron and eggs at breakfast.”
It is even served as an hors-d’œuvre.
US-style chicharrón is a great food to have for snacks. It is also a great bar food. You can dip it in vinegar or sauce. As a snack, it is very convenient to eat. The downside is finding crumbs on your fingers, shirt, or lap, so make sure to tidy up after eating.
While chicharrón is very delicious, make sure to eat it in moderation. Pork can be high in sodium and saturated fats and too much sodium and saturated fat are not good for your health. Jozi Maldonado, in the book Quick and Easy South Texas Favorites, wrote: “Deep fried pork skins or “chicharrones” are high in fat, but low in carbohydrates. This is not a breakfast choice to have daily, but it is a real treat.”
Leftover chicharron or cracklings should be stored in a sealed pack or food container to keep it from becoming tough or rubbery and thus, undesirable to eat. Cooked chicharron in sauce should be stored in a food container with a lid and stored in the refrigerator.
There is a variety of different and combined techniques involved in making different versions of chicharron. But the essential task here is frying pork rind in oil. Other techniques involve seasoning, drying, and/or boiling the pig rind to achieve the desired outcome.
While it is common to eat chicharron or snack on chicharron alone, chicharron is also used as an ingredient in other foods, as a topping or a filling (e.g. tacos), for example. Andrew F. Smith, in the book Food and Drink in American History: A “Full Course” Encyclopedia [3 Volumes]: A “Full Course” Encyclopedia, wrote: “Pupusas are fatter than tortillas and contain a variety of fillings such as chicharrón.” Chicharrones are cooked to make chicharrones en salsa verde or fried pork skins in tomatillo sauce, or chicharones con chile. Once cooked with sauce or added to a sauce-based dish, the crunchy chicharrones turn soft and gelatinous. You can mix this with rice or scrambled eggs.
Chicharron is also used as stuffing when making arepas in Colombia. It is also an ingredient of the Costa Rican dish chifrijo, combined with red beans, rice, and pico de gallo.
Pork is a great source of protein. It also contains niacin, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, iron, phosphorus, selenium, thiamine, and zinc. Eating a healthy amount of pork can help in blood cell formation. It can also help in brain health and brain function, as well as in thyroid function. Protein helps create new muscles and enhance muscle performance.
The upside of pork rinds is that it is a carb-free snack, but the downside is its high sodium content.