I get asked more often than you’d think to explain the difference between these two sausages. Everyone’s got some insight, and depending on what they grew up with or where they grew up they may have a different explanation. I always was told that it was based on the type of pig casing used: small intestine casing for linguiça and large intestine casing for chouriço. This makes sense to me considering the usual way they’re packaged. Small intestines are thinner and longer, so chouriço usually comes thicker and straighter than linguiça, which is thinner and curlier. This process was rooted in the old, handmade methods when they would slaughter the pigs and not want to waste anything. Fatty cuts and larger pieces were spiced up with hot peppers to make chouriço but linguiça used leaner cuts with less fat and little or no hot spice; that was back then.
Now you can find mild and spicy variations of both types, with most being made of pork but some made with chicken or turkey (it’s well labeled, so don’t worry about buying the wrong one!). Some vendors admit that there aren’t a lot of differences now, it may just come down to the a beef casing vs a pork casing.
So, to sum it up: there were bigger differences when each family made their own, but as production became more modernized the differences became much less distinct. Use what you like, and enjoy!
If you’re looking to buy linguiça or chouriço and but can’t find any locally, here are two sites that will ship to your home!