Ever since I saw the movie Like Water for Chocolate I have always wanted to make chiles en nogada. The film is about love, tradition, passion, communication, and food. At the end of the movie Tita and Chencha roast chiles, shell walnuts, and tear open pomegranates in preparation of this very traditional Mexican dish. This dish intrigued me and ever since I saw the movie I told myself I wanted to make this dish, but unfortunately never did. This year I finally committed, and it was worth every hour (three to be exact).
Something came over me as I was in the kitchen – as the chiles were roasting and while I was opening a pomegranate I just started to sob uncontrollably. These ingredients bring back so many memories for me and when I see or smell them I miss my grandma. Maybe I just needed a good cry, but after my tears stopped I felt happiness and love envelop me.
On this blog I try to share recipes that are easy to make with readily available ingredients, but sometimes that is not the case when it comes to complex Mexican recipes like chicken mole, rosca de reyes, and these chiles en nogada. I actually had to go to three different stores in order to find every ingredient needed. Thanks to Tony’s Market for the ground pork and some fresh produce.
To be completely honest I had never eaten chiles en nogada, I know, shame on me. Although my grandma was born in Mexico she never made this dish. She was born in Chihuahua, far away from Puebla, Mexico where this dish originated. I’m not sure if she ever experienced this dish.
Chiles en nogada are full of Mexican history. Puebla nuns invented the dish in 1821, to honor a visit by Mexican General Augustín de Iturbide. The dish features the colors of the Mexican flag: white creamy walnut sauce sprinkled with bright red pomegranate seeds and fresh green parsley. This dish is commonly served to celebrate Mexican Independence Day on September 16. My daughter said the flavors tasted like Christmas, and now has inspired me to make this again as an elegant Christmas dinner.
I researched different recipes and adapted this recipe I found on YouTube by Cocina al Natural. There are hundreds of recipes for this dish. Most of the recipes I found say that in order for it to be “authentic” the chiles need to be deep fried in an egg batter, but I wanted to keep the chiles fresh and light, just like I saw in the movie.
This dish is labor intensive. First, you have to roast the chile peppers, steam them, and then peel them. I roasted them in the broiler. Check out my video to learn how. And then you have to peel fresh fruit and chop all the ingredients. And of course you need to open a pomegranate. Watch my video to see how I cut and de-seed a pomegranate. This is not a dish you can race to make. It takes time and patience. As Tita said, “The secret is to make them with lots of love.”
The moist filling of ground pork is seasoned with garlic, onion, tomatoes, a variety of fruits fruits, almonds, raisins, and aromatic fall spices like nutmeg, cloves, and cinnamon.
Traditionally the sauce for this dish should be made with freshly shelled walnuts that are soaked in milk overnight, but I skipped this step and made the sauce with shelled walnuts I purchased. I had no idea what to expect but the sauce exceeded my expectations – it was velvety, nutty, and flavorful.
Making this dish made me appreciate the history and thoughtfulness. I can just imagine nuns making this dish with all the wonderful ingredients that were in season. This dish is so special, unique, and memorable. If you have ever wanted to attempt making this dish I encourage you to try it. It’s worth it!
My grandma, Jesusita!
How I miss her cooking…
the smell of her kitchen…
her talking while she prepared meals.
She’ll continue to live as long as someone cooks her recipes.
Chiles en Nogada (Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Walnut Sauce)
- 12 chile poblanos
- 3 roma tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ white onion, finely chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1 pound ground pork
- 1/4 tablespoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground pepper
- ½ tablespoon dried oregano
- ½ tablespoon ground cloves
- ½ tablespoon ground cinnamon
- ½ tablespoon ground nutmeg
- ½ tablespoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon white vinegar
- 4 firm peaches, peeled and chopped
- 2 gala or golden delicious apples, peeled and chopped
- 2 Bartlett pears, peeled and chopped
- 1 ounce white cooking wine
- ¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped
- ½ cup raisins
- 1/2 cup blanched almonds, chopped
Nogada (Walnut Sauce):
- ¼ cup milk, plus more if needed
- 1/2 cup crema Mexicana
- 1 ounce white cooking wine
- 4 ounces cream cheese, softened
- 1/4 cup goat cheese, softened
- 1 cup shelled walnuts
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- Pomegranate seeds
- Fresh parsley
- Preheat broiler.
- Rinse pepper thoroughly to remove dust particles. Place peppers evenly in a single layer on a foil-lined cookie sheet. Pierce each chile with a knife.
- Place under broiler. Watch them closely as the skin will blister and turn black within minutes. Turn the peppers after 3 to 5 minutes to blister all sides evenly. When done, the pepper skins should be evenly blistered and mostly black.
- Place roasted peppers in a plastic bag, and when cool, peel off blackened skin. Using a small sharp knife, carefully slit roasted chiles open along one side. Remove seeds, leaving stems attached. Set aside to fill later.
- Boil tomatoes for 5 to 10 minutes and peel. Let cool and chop.
- In a large skillet, over medium heat, add oil. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 2 minutes add garlic and continue to cook for another minute.
- Add ground pork and add all spices and vinegar.
- After 8 minutes of stirring and breaking up meat and meat is cooked add chopped tomatoes, peaches, apples, pears, wine, and parsley. Stir and cook for 5 minutes uncovered. Cover and cook for an additional 5 minutes to steam and soften fruit.
- Add raisins and almonds and combine and let cook for an additional 10 minutes uncovered.
- While mixture is cooking make the sauce. In a blender place milk, crema, wine, cream cheese, goat cheese, walnuts and blend. Add more milk as needed to make mixture creamy. Add sugar and blend.
- Assemble poblanos by stuffing with filling.
- Pour cream sauce over the poblanos and ganish with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
I’d love to see what you cook!
Tag #MUYBUENOCOOKING if you make this recipe.
Disclosure: The ground pork and some of the produce was sponsored by Tony’s Market.