Chile Relleno en Nogada is a classic, traditional Mexican dish. It is a roasted poblano pepper stuffed with a picadillo made of pork, nuts, fruits and veggies covered with a creamy walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranates and parsley. Kinda Pretty isn’t it? Tasty, too.
This dish was created in 1821 by the Pueblan Nuns as a festive food to honor a visit from revolutionary general Don Augustín de Iturbide. You see, Mexico had just won its independence from Spain (in a way), Don Augustín de Iturbide was victorious (at least for a little while until he was accused of being a traitor, exiled, returned and executed in 1824 – busy 3 years, eh?) and the self-anointed Emperor of Mexico. Having overthrown Spanish domination it now was necessary to have a flag which Don Augustín de Iturbide created. The red, white and green stripes on the flag are symbolic of the three guarantees of the Plan of Iguala, 1) independence; 2) supremacy of the Catholic Church; and 3) and equality of all of Spanish blood, i.e. the Criollos and the Spanish-born Peninsulares. Notice how this dish has the 3 colors of the Mexican flag? The poblano chile is green, the walnut sauce is the white and the pomegranates are the red. Pretty clever of those nuns.
Regardless of the history of the dish, Chile Relleno en Nogada is a seasonal dish. It is made in late Summer to early Fall when walnuts and pomegranates are available. It is also a very festive dish because it is in celebration of Mexican Independence Day (September 16). Once the walnuts and pomegranates begin appearing at the local mercado, you begin to see the restaurants posting “Tenemos Chiles en Nogada!” (We Have Chiles in Walnut Sauce) banners. Inasmuch as we don’t start seeing pomegranates until mid to late October, Chile Relleno en Nogada is a perfect meal for the holiday season. It is a very festive dish and the colors of the Mexican flag also work beautifully with the Christmas season. 🙂 Because pomegranates will keep whole in your fridge for many weeks (up to 2 months) and we have a pomegranate tree that produced beautifully this year, we had everything to make this dish last night, so, with a little planning, we did.
Like any traditional dish, there are numerous Chile Relleno an Nogada recipes. Some people proclaim their recipe to be “authentic.” Others take a more sophisticated approach. Still others simplify the recipe and tell you it can all be accomplished in an hour (something about which I have serious doubts). Then, there is the constant debate over whether it should be served “capeado” (battered) or merely roasted, i.e. naked. It’s kinda like the debate between cajuns and variations of gumbos (with or without okra) or the disagreement among Texans and the variations on chili (with or without beans).
I have taken a more traditional, “authentic” approach to the Chile Relleno en Nogada. Be forewarned, Chile Relleno en Nogada is not an easy dish and it takes 2 days to prepare. You even have to peel the skins off the walnuts because the skins will impart a slight bitterness to the sauce. Nonetheless, it is well worth the effort. It really is an extraordinary blend of flavors like nothing else I have ever eaten. So, if you’re looking for a festive Fall/Winter meal and you like to play with your food, give this recipe a try. You will be glad you did.
For the Rellenos
- 6 Poblano chiles, roasted, seeded and peeled
- 1 pomegranate, seeded
For the Picadillo Filling
- Step One
- 1 lb. pork shoulder (Boston Butt), cut into large pieces, roughly 2 inches x 2 inches
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
- 1/4 large white onion, sliced
- sea salt, to taste
- Step Two
- 1/4 cup lard from the pork shoulder
- 4 plum tomatoes, peeled, cored and diced
- 1/4 large white onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. raisins
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds
- 1 cup pears, peeled, cored, and diced
- 3 whole cloves
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 4 black peppercorns
- sea salt, to taste
For the Walnut Sauce (Nogada)
- 4 oz. walnuts, shelled and skinned
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk
- 4 oz. queso fresco
- 3/4 cup Mexican crema
- pinch of cinnamon
- sea salt, to taste
For the Walnut Sauce
Peel the skins off the walnuts by rubbing them vigorously in your hands. Place the walnuts in a small bowl and cover with milk, roughly 1/2 to 3/4 cup.
Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the fridge to soak overnight.
When ready to serve, pour the milk and walnuts into a blender.
Add the Mexican crema
and queso fresco
Then the salt and cinnamon
Turn on blender and gradually increase speed to highest setting.
Blend the sauce for 8 minutes at the highest speed. This will liquify the nuts and friction heat the sauce so it will be ready to pour over the rellenos.
For the Pork Picadillo
Step One. Take the pork, whole garlic cloves and sliced onions and place them in a large pot. Cover with water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil.
Once the water comes to a boil, reduce the heat so that the liquid is at a simmer. Cover and allow to simmer slowly for 40 minutes. DO NOT OVERCOOK the pork. You want the pork very tender but not dry. After 40 minutes, remove from heat and allow meat to cool in the liquid.
While the pork is cooling, take the cloves, cinnamon stick and black peppercorns and mill them in a spice mill.
When the pork has cooled, remove the meat, place the liquid into a container and place in the fridge so that the lard can coagulate. You are going to use it in step two. Chop the meat into small pieces.
I did step one the night before when I soaked the walnuts.
Step Two. Add lard to a large pot over medium heat. Add diced onions along with minced garlic, and cook, stirring, until translucent and soft, roughly 8 minutes.
When the onions are soft and translucent, add the chopped pork to the pot.
Cook over medium heat stirring frequently until the pork begins to brown, roughly 10 minutes. Now, add the tomatoes,
Add, the almonds, raisins, seasonings and pears to the pot.
Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes have broken down and the filling is dry.
For the Relleno
Slit a roasted poblano along the side edge. You will need a 1-1/2 inch to 2 inch slit.
Stuff the relleno with the picadillo filling
Gently press on the poblano to ensure the filling is evenly distributed within the relleno. Close the slit, place on a pan with the slit side on the bottom.
Cover loosely with foil and bake in a 350 F oven for 30 minutes to heat through. When done, remove chiles from oven and place on a plate.
Pour hot walnut sauce over the top.
Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds.
Finish with chopped parsley
Serve & enjoy!
33 thoughts on “Chile Relleno en Nogada (Stuffed Chile in Walnut Sauce)”
I love this dish – beautiful job.
Thanks, Holly. It is a wonderful dish. I have been meaning to make it for a while but it is rather time consuming and you need to plan ahead. I was lucky I still had a good pomegranate to use as they are no longer available at any of the markets around here. 🙂
That looks amazing, Richard! Also looks like a very time-consuming prospect. Love the history about the colors of the Mexican flag, and I’m super jealous that you have a pomegranate tree! If I visit, will you make me some?
Hi, Allison. Glad to see you made it back from St. Martin. This is a rather time consuming project but it is well worth the time and effort. The pomegranate tree was a gift to Baby Lady one year. It’s 4 years old now and produces the most beautiful orangish red blossom. It is stunning in the Spring. We got 22 pomegranates off the tree last year. I made pomegranate concentrate with some, pomegranate molasses with some, made salads with some, ate some and stained more than 1 shirt playing with them. We really like pomegranates and if you’re ever in DFW when pomegranates are in season, I will gladly prepare you this dish.
Wow! That sounds fantastic (except for the shirts, of course). You may be surprised to find me on your doorstep some day very soon…
Thanks, Stefan. It’s a beautiful and tasty dish. Those Pueblan Nuns sure knew what they were doing. Can you imagine pounding out walnuts into a creamy paste with a mortar and pestle? I have a Vitamix blender or I wouldn’t even attempt to make this. 😉
Finally made this and it was delicious! I cooked the pork sous-vide. Removing the skin from the walnuts proved to be impossible, but the sauce was delicious anyway.
I like the walnut sauce, great idea and the texture from the pomegranate seeds.
Thanks for dropping by and the compliment. Those Pueblan nuns knew a thing or two about food, didn’t they? This is a wonderful meal. Keep it in mind next fall for the holidays. Everyone will love it.
This is a remarkable dish, Richard, and your walnut sauce its crowning glory. I’ve been served chile relleno before but never did it look like this nor, I presume, taste near as good. Pity.
Thanks, John. We really like this dish. Sadly, I have never seen it prepared in any Mexican restaurant in the US. People have no idea what they are missing.
Wow! Just the filling alone is incredible. This could be my last meal.
Thanks, Mimi. It is a wonderful dish but hold on to your last meal thought. Baby Lady and I are still working on our dessert chile relleno. We’re toying with an ancho chile toasted and soaked in a simple syrup with a little grand marnier, stuffed with a chocolate mousse, topped with a little whipped cream and some orange zest. Hopefully, we will get it finished soon so we can post it. 🙂
Oh my god you guys are so creative! I cannot wait!
What a thing of beauty! Lovely presentation! The sauce sounds incredibly good.
Hi, Peggy. Thanks for your nice compliment. This is a very nice dish with a lot of different flavors.
Your beautiful dish reminds me of Christmas…lots of work but the taste must be incredible.
Hi, Karen. It very much is a Christmas colored dish and we wanted to do it during the Holiday Season. Getting everything ready for the kids at Thanksgiving and Christmas, however, is a lot of work. I was tickled I still had a pomegranate so I could finally make this recipe. It really is delicious.
It certainly sounds like it is. How wonderful to have a pomegranate tree in your own yard. 🙂
The closest I have ever had a relleno like this is in Branson, Missouri at Cantina Laredo. (I think there is one in Texas). It is filled with beef, raisins and almonds. Not sure what the sauce is, but it was very yummy! 🙂
Can’t wait to make this for the family… I purchase pomegranates seeds at Whole Foods… not the same as a homegrown, backyard pomegranate tree, but in a pinch… pretty good. 🙂
Any how… this recipe is now at the top of my cook through REM list!
Thanks, Linda. We’re glad you are having fun cooking your way through the recipes. We have fun posting them. Cantina Laredo is based here in Dallas and I know of 4 in the DFW area, although there may be more. We eat there every now and then and the food is generally good. Their relleno is not the same but good nonetheless.
It is always a pleasure to come across posts like yours: original recipe and perfectly described!!! Nice Job! Keep it up.
Thanks, we’re glad you liked it.
My wife makes this dish for me occaissonally… i love it. She often substitutes chopped strawberries for the pomegranates…. Still tastes marvelous and is eaiser i think. Wonderful dish.
Thanks for the comment. 🙂 I have never had it with strawberries but would imagine it is very tasty, indeed..
I always went to Las Cazuelas in Austin (on Lamar, no longer in existence, I think) in the 70’s for their relleno which was similar; lived decades with only the memory. A few years ago, we had the Relleno de Nogada at Frida’s in Merida. I googled it and found your great website. Used the recipe last December and it will remain as an annual staple; now off to the kitchen to cook the pork…
Thanks. Glad you liked it. 🙂