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Charqui vs. Jerky — What's the Difference?

By Tayyaba Rehman & Maham Liaqat — Updated on May 6, 2024
Charqui, originally from South America, involves drying meat in the sun or over smoke, often seasoned with salt; jerky, common in North America, is lean meat trimmed of fat, sliced, marinated, and dried in modern dehydrators.
Charqui vs. Jerky — What's the Difference?

Difference Between Charqui and Jerky


Key Differences

Charqui is a traditional form of dried meat from South America, typically made by salting and drying strips of meat in the sun or over smoke. Whereas jerky is predominantly a North American snack made by drying thin strips of lean meat that have been marinated in various seasonings.
The preparation of charqui often does not involve marination, focusing mainly on using salt for preservation and flavor. On the other hand, jerky usually undergoes a marination process that can include a wide range of ingredients such as soy sauce, garlic, black pepper, and other spices.
Charqui is typically air-dried, which can be influenced by the natural environment and climate, making its texture harder and chewier. In contrast, jerky is often dried in controlled environments using modern dehydrators or smokers, leading to a more consistent texture and moisture content.
Historically, charqui was an important food source for indigenous peoples and early settlers in South America, providing a durable and portable source of protein. Whereas jerky has a similar historical significance in North America, particularly among pioneers and explorers.
While charqui may still be made in traditional ways in rural areas, commercial versions might mimic more modern meat-drying techniques. Jerky, however, has seen a variety of commercial adaptations, including gourmet and artisanal varieties, expanding beyond traditional flavors.

Comparison Chart


South America
North America

Preparation Method

Sun-dried or smoke-dried
Dehydrated in modern dehydrators


Typically none
Often involves a marinade


Harder and chewier
More uniform and less chewy

Historical Use

Food source for indigenous peoples
Food source for pioneers and explorers

Compare with Definitions


Traditionally preserved without modern technology.
Charqui has been made using the same methods for centuries.


Often commercially produced using advanced drying techniques.
Modern jerky brands experiment with exotic flavors and textures.


Made by salting and drying meat, usually in the sun.
Charqui is prepared during the dry season.


Served as a lightweight, high-protein snack.
Hikers often pack jerky because of its nutritional value.


Often used as a staple protein source.
In traditional recipes, charqui is rehydrated and cooked with potatoes.


A type of dried meat common in North America.
Jerky is a popular snack during road trips.


A form of dried meat originating in South America.
Charqui can be found in many Andean markets.


Available in various flavors and textures.
Smoked turkey jerky is a favorite among gourmet snack lovers.


Can be made from beef, llama, or horse.
Charqui made from llama is considered a delicacy in some regions.


Prepared by marinating and dehydrating lean meat.
Beef jerky is often flavored with a mixture of soy sauce and spices.


See jerky2.


Jerky is lean trimmed meat that has been cut into strips and dried (dehydrated) to prevent spoilage. Normally, this drying includes the addition of salt to prevent bacteria growth before the meat has finished the dehydrating process.




Characterized by jerks or jerking
A jerky train ride.


Jerked beef; beef cut into long strips and dried in the wind and sun.


(Slang) Foolish; silly
Jerky ideas about saving money.


Meat cured by jerking. Also called charqui.


Characterized by physical jerking.


Having the behavior of a jerk unpleasant person.


Lean meat cured and preserved by cutting into thin strips and air-drying in the sun.


(transitive) To cure and preserve (meat) by drying it, making jerky.


Moving by jerks and starts; characterized by abrupt transitions; as, a jerky vehicle; a jerky style.


Foolish; ridiculous; stupid.


Meat cut in strips and dried in the sun


Not having a steady rhythm;
An arrhythmic heartbeat

Common Curiosities

What is the main difference in preparation between charqui and jerky?

Charqui is primarily sun-dried or smoke-dried without marination, while jerky is marinated and dehydrated in controlled conditions.

Which type of meat can be used to make charqui?

Charqui can be made from beef, llama, or horse.

How do the textures of charqui and jerky compare?

Charqui tends to be harder and chewier than jerky, which has a more consistent and less tough texture.

What are some modern variations of jerky?

Modern variations include flavors like chili lime, honey mustard, and even caffeinated jerky.

What are typical flavors used in jerky?

Common jerky flavors include teriyaki, peppered, and barbecue.

How has the commercial production of charqui changed?

It has begun adopting some modern techniques similar to those used in jerky production.

Can charqui be found outside of South America?

Yes, but it is less common and often sold in specialty stores.

What is the cultural significance of charqui in South America?

Charqui has been a vital part of the diet and survival strategy for indigenous peoples.

Is jerky considered a healthy snack?

Yes, jerky is high in protein and low in fat, making it a nutritious option.

How long can charqui and jerky be stored?

Both can be stored for several months if kept in proper conditions.

Are there vegetarian alternatives for charqui and jerky?

Yes, there are plant-based versions of both snacks, typically made from textured vegetable protein or mushrooms.

How is charqui traditionally consumed?

It is often rehydrated and used in stews or mixed with other local ingredients.

Why might someone prefer charqui over jerky, or vice versa?

Preference could depend on taste, texture, or interest in traditional vs. modern preparation methods.

Has jerky’s popularity changed in recent years?

Yes, it has grown significantly with the rise of artisanal and gourmet versions.

What are the health considerations with consuming jerky?

While nutritious, jerky can be high in sodium, which should be considered in dietary planning.

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Author Spotlight

Written by
Tayyaba Rehman
Tayyaba Rehman is a distinguished writer, currently serving as a primary contributor to As a researcher in semantics and etymology, Tayyaba's passion for the complexity of languages and their distinctions has found a perfect home on the platform. Tayyaba delves into the intricacies of language, distinguishing between commonly confused words and phrases, thereby providing clarity for readers worldwide.
Co-written by
Maham Liaqat

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