Soyrizo: Even Better Than The Real Thing?

The reason I first started eating Soyrizo had nothing to do with health concerns or the welfare of the animals that were going into the tasty Mexican sausage with the trademark bright-orange grease. No, it was a much more selfish reason than that.

I was living in a small town during college and simply couldn't find any real Mexican chorizo anywhere, no matter where I looked. Yes, there were "Mexican" restaurants in Waco, but while I was there, none of them had chorizo, even the more authentic establishments like the amazing coastal Mexican place that served up plump pulpo al vino.

Resigned to only eating chorizo on rare weekend trips back to Houston, I was surprised to see something called Soyrizo in the aisles of the brand-new H-E-B that opened up during my junior year of college. The H-E-B was absolutely immense; locals and Baylor students alike referred to it as "Taj Ma-Heeb." And it stocked foods we'd never previously had access to in the dusty Hill Country, foods like chorizo made from soy.

I grabbed a packet and tried it on a whim. And I've never looked back since.

Soyrizo is one of those exceptionally rare soy-based food products that actually tastes better than the real thing -- not exactly the same, but that's why I like it. Missing is the neon-colored grease, the fat and the cholesterol (and, yes, a hint of meatiness). Soyrizo also has 60 percent fewer calories than chorizo. Not missing are the spices, the vinegary tang, and the delectable way the stuff crumbles slightly in the pan when you mix it with scrambled eggs.

I've fooled even the most devout meat eaters and Mexican meat connoisseurs with Soyrizo, including my hyper-carnivorous Mexican father. It's that good. But more than just tasting as-good-or-better than meat, Soyrizo proves that it's possible to just enjoy soy or other meat substitutes on their own merits: I don't enjoy Soyrizo because I'm seeking a meat alternative, I enjoy it because it tastes so damn good.

There are several different brands of Soyrizo on the market--even one made by Trader Joe, which we aren't yet lucky enough to have in Houston. I prefer El Burrito, which you can find at Whole Foods for $3.99 for two large links. (Remember to remove the Soyrizo links from the plastic casing before cooking. Plastic is not edible. Yet.) If you see the Frieda's brand at H-E-B, it's also good and slightly cheaper.

Mix up the Soyrizo with some eggs, or even Egg Beaters (they work well, too), and add some diced, pan-fried potatoes for a filling breakfast. Or fluff it into a tortilla with a spread of refried black beans for a breakfast taco you can feel good about. You might never buy real chorizo again.

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Katharine Shilcutt