Containers of chorizo san miguel seasoning

At its 20,000-square-foot facility, Chorizo de San Manuel sells its sausages, spice blends, and more.

Odds are, if you’ve scattered chorizo across a breakfast taco or indulged in gooey strands of choriqueso at a restaurant, the smoky protein at the heart of the dish was produced by Chorizo De San Manuel. Arguably the Rio Grande Valley’s most iconic brand, it can now be found on grocery store shelves from Hawaii to Maine—and even overseas. But before it became a worldwide phenomenon, the spicy breakfast favorite was the specialty of a small general store in San Manuel, a town about 30 miles north of the border.

Created by Adolfo “Shorty” Guerra during World War II, the chorizo was sold solely over the counter at his shop as customers perused the dry goods. Made from high-quality pork shoulder, vinegars, and house-ground spices, the culinary sideshow quickly became the star attraction. Today, Guerra’s trademark links are so popular they’ve became synonymous with the region. They might not have been branded as such in the beginning, but soon they were simply known as “Chorizo de San Manuel” by locals.

The exterior of a building

Packs of bright red sausages

The vision to sell the popular chorizo outside of South Texas came from one of the general store’s original employees, Luis Flores Jr. After purchasing Guerra’s business in the mid-1970s, the Flores family aimed to transform the company into a true generational enterprise. Flores’ children, Luis Flores III and Patricia de los Santos, recall being dropped off by the school bus stop in front of the store, where they would labor until close. “We were definitely involved in the process of it all since we were kids,” Flores III says. “If someone didn’t show up for a shift, you had to be ready to put in some work.”

Operational until 1985, the Guerras’ landmark general store finally gave way to a new USDA processing plant as the brand grew. Equipped with the latest technology and an on-site retail space, it served the company as it expanded from a mom and pop enterprise, delivering goods via an old milk truck, to a national brand with a presence inside Kroger, Walmart, and H-E-B. And that prominence has only amplified under Flores III, who took over for his father in 1989.

An illustration of a hand dipping into a bowl of cheesy dip

Illustration by Kate Wong

Get the Recipe

Chorizo Cheese Dip

The exterior of a white refridgerator case reading

A leather stamped logo for Chorizo de San Manuel

Now based out of a 20,000-square-foot factory on State Highway 186, Chorizo de San Manuel has been able to expand its line of products to include several varieties of sausage, prime steaks, spice blends, and more. Quality has never suffered for the sake of its stratospheric success, though. According to Flores III, at no time have lesser cuts of meat been considered. Chiles, black peppercorns, and other spices are still ground from scratch. At the end of the day, it’s very much a small-batch process that yields a distinct product unchanged from its humble beginnings.

“It gives us satisfaction that we’re doing the right thing and making a product that people love,” he says. “It makes us want to never stop doing what we’re doing.”

Golden brown chorizo cooking in a pan

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