Homemade Chicharon (a.k.a. Cracklins, Pork Rinds) in Belize

As a kid one of my favorite snacks was a big bag of pork rinds. Sometimes barbecued, sometimes plain, I often craved the salty crunch and porky essence of those fatty little pig curls. It wasn’t until several decades later that I was introduced to real chicharon and learned to appreciate the cultural significance of deep-fried pig skin. (Not to mention the extreme positive difference in flavor and texture compared to the ubiquitous gas station variety.) My first attempt at homemade chicharon could have gone better, but it was a learning process which I’m sure will improve with future attempts.

homemade chicharon

This is what my pig fat looked like after I cut it into pieces. If you look closely you can see a little hair sprouting out from the skin. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

The Belizian Version of Homemade Chicharon

I was hoping to find some homemade chicharon at the outdoor market in San Ignacio, but unfortunately, I did not. So I stopped by our local meat shop instead and decided to make my own. The proprietor there knew exactly what I wanted and quickly pulled out a bag of pork fat with remnants of meat and skin attached to some – but not all – of the strips. She said that was what she supplied to the lady in town who makes and sells chicharon. So from that exchange I surmised that at least in Belize, chicharon consists mainly of pork fat, but that some meat and skin were thrown in for good measure.

homemade chicharon

My recipe called for me to soak my pork pieces in salted water for one to two hours before cooking. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

The Recipe I Used for My Homemade Chicharon

I researched a little and found several recipes. Some were pretty elaborate, requiring a baking soda drench and overnight rest, while others basically said to render out the fat until the pieces were of preferred firmness. Since the product I had was 95 percent fat, the simple recipes seemed to be the most appropriate. (Other ones had additional steps to prepare the skin, but my strips didn’t really have much skin to worry about.)

homemade chicharon

After rinsing the pork, I covered it with fresh water and began boiling it. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

 

homemade chicharon

After the water all boiled out, only the fat was left. I continued frying the chicharon in its own fat for about another half hour. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

I used this homemade chicharon recipe, but fair warning – although the fat and meat tasted wonderful, the skin was really too hard to chew. I’m guessing I cooked it for way too long.

homemade chicharon

This is my finished product. The meat and fat tasted wonderful, but the skin was so hard you could barely chew it. Image credit: Cherri Megasko

Interesting Facts about Chicharon

• Most people think of chicharon as a pork product, but in fact it is sometimes made from beef, chicken, duck and fish as well.
• The original chicharon was born in the Andalusia state of Spain – not Mexico.
• In the past 40 years multiple companies have branded successful versions of vegetarian “chicharon.”
• Although some may argue that the existence or proportion of meat, fat and skin determine what the end product is called, for the most part pork rinds, chicharon, cracklins, gratton and scrunchions are all the same thing.
• Chicharon is a popular snack throughout the world, including multiple countries in Europe and Southeast Asia.
• The light and airy type of chicharon can be pulsed in a food processor to make a dredge for other fried meats or veggies.