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What Are Chicharrones?

A delicious, crunchy stack of fried chicharrones in the palm of your hand

February 03, 2021 3 min read

In 1492, Christopher Columbus sailed across the ocean blue from Spain. Upon arriving in the Americas, his first question was: "Where is the bathroom?"

His second question: "Where are my chicharrones?"*

Suffice to say, Chicharrones have been around for a while.

Want to learn more? Read on.

What are chicharrones?

Simply put, chicharrones is the Spanish word for a salty, savory, and crunchy snack known as pork rinds in the United States.

What's a pork rind? We've got you covered.

Pork rinds, or chicharrones, are fried pig skin. Pretty simple, right? Not so fast.


Paul Hollywood shakes his finger knowingly at a contest of Great British Bakeoff

How are chicharrones made?

Before entering the fryer, chicharrones are called pellets. Modern pellets go through a smoking and drying process that imparts a rich bacon flavor. Next, the dried pellets are rendered to remove excess fat.

Once processed, the finished chicharrones pellets look and smell like dreamy squares of bacon. When added to the fryer, the pellets expand like popcorn into the crunchy, voluptuous snacks available on PorkRinds.com

A chicharron pellet expanding into a pork rind with text that reads "pork skin"



Chicharrones are traditionally fried in lard, but adventurous chefs (like Southern Recipe Small Batch) use modern alternatives, such as frying in sunflower oil. More recently, baked chicharrones have been made available, which omit the frying process altogether!

After the cooking process, chicharrones are often seasoned with salty, spicy, sweet, or vinegar flavors. Some bags of chicharrones even include a hot sauce packet! How cool is that?

The history of chicharrones

Chicharrones have many different names across cultures and languages: pork rinds, scratchings, torresmo, and flæskesvær, to name a few.

Who invented chicharrones? The history is contested. One bizarre story is that a Spanish farmer discovered chicharrones in the 1700s after his hog rubbed its skin off while using a tree as a back scratcher. The skin baked in the sun and smelled of delicious bacon. After one tentative taste, the farmer was hooked!

 


A bear using a palm tree to scratch his back

Sometime in the 17th or 18th century, Spaniards introduced chicharrones to Central and South America. Google Ngram data shows us that the written use of chicharrones accelerated in the mid-1800s:

Google Ngram data shows the increase of chicharrones usage over time

Post World War II, Americans were hungry for comfort food, and chicharrones fit the bill. The word entered the American English vocabulary in the 1940s, and the rest is history!


A man sarcastically leaning on his fist with the caption "Hi, my name is Doug. I like long walks in the rain and bags of pork rinds."

While chicharrones' origins are debated, we can be certain that pork skin has been consumed by humans throughout Europe and Asia since antiquity. Modern chicharrones continue the time-honored tradition of utilizing every aspect of the pig to minimize waste. Who can't appreciate that?!

Is chicharrón the same thing as chicharrones?

The technical Spanish professor's answer is that chicharrón is the singular form of chicharrones, much like pork rind is to pork rinds.


A spanish professor leaning back in his chair with his feet on his desk and a sombrero on his head. The caption reads "I'll allow it"

However, in Latin cuisine, chicharrón typically refers to a specific entree with pork skin and sauce, rather than the crunchy snack we know as chicharrones. To minimize confusion, let's just call 'em chicharrones -- or even better, pork rinds!

Chicharrones today

In the 1990s, chicharrones went mainstream in the United States when 41st President and native Texan, George H.W. Bush, proudly proclaimed them to be his favorite snack.

Chicharrones have exploded in popularity in recent years due to their usefulness in low carb and gluten-free diets. Some practitioners of keto and paleo swear by chicharrones as a guilt-free, diet-compliant snack.

The snack is also an excellent collagen protein source, making chicharrones a tasty, crunchy replacement for carb-heavy potato chips.


Pork rinds can replace rice cereal for a unique take on puppy chow

Chicharrones aren't just for snacking, though. Many recipes use chicharrones as a bread crumb replacement, dessert, salad crouton, and even a cocktail garnish.

How do I pronounce chicharrones?




The gringo pronunciation of chicharrones sounds like chee-chah-rone-ace. But if you're feeling extra frisky, you can roll that R like Ricky Martin's living la vida loca.

Now you say it with confidence:

CHICHARRONES!

I'd like to try chicharrones, but I have an irrational fear of the grocery store. Save me!

Easy peasy. PorkRinds.com is an online store that offers chicharrones and other pig paraphernalia. Sign-up for our newsletter to get the latest updates on chicharrones, chicharrones recipes, chicharrones discounts, and other pigpourri.

*Editor's Note: There is no evidence to support either of these boarish claims



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