Learn how to make Chiles En Nogada, the Mexican Stuffed Poblano Peppers with white walnut sauce and pomegranate topping that are traditionally served around Mexican Independence Day every September.
What are Chiles En Nogada?
Chiles en Nogada are poblano peppers that are stuffed with a ground meat, fruit, and nut filling, covered in a white walnut sauce, and topped with pomegranate arils.
It is a traditional Mexican dish associated with the city of Puebla, where it is said nuns first invented this recipe to serve the future emperor Agustín de Iturbide after gaining Mexico's independence from Spain.
To this day Chiles en Nogada are usually served only in the month leading up to Mexican Independence Day on September 16th. Because this is also the time that pomegranates first become available in the markets.
The stuffed poblano peppers of Chiles en Nogada are representing the Mexican flag.
Green - of the poblanos as well as parsley topping
White - the creamy walnut sauce
Red - fresh pomegranate arils
How to Make Chiles en Nogada
Making Chiles en Nogada is a time consuming process. No wonder it only gets served once a year!
But in my opinion it's totally worth it. Try to get at least one kitchen helper or make it with the whole family.
I first learned how to make this dish in a cooking class here in San Miguel de Allende (our chosen hometown at the moment). Shortly after that I visited my family in Canada around September 16 and decided to treat them to this Mexican specialty.
My aunt helped me with all the chopping, browning, and clean up while I took care of the poblanos. Then I made Chiles en Nogada a second (!) time to take these pictures for you and to take better recipe notes.
That time my mom helped with the kitchen prep. And even with all the help I was rather exhausted after cooking!
Preparing the Poblano Peppers
Start by cutting around the stem of the peppers to remove the stems, as well as the seeds and veins from inside the peppers.
Then you want to remove the outside skin from the poblano peppers. This is done by charring them.
Here in Mexico pretty much everyone has gas stoves. In my mom's house in Canada I used the gas burner from their outdoor BBQ grill.
Place the poblano peppers near the gas flame and turn them often with tongs until they are evenly charred all around. The skin only removes easily from places where it has been charred, so really try to get into all the little nooks as well.
Next you need to sweat the charred poblanos. Let the heat and moisture work to help you release the skin.
Here in Mexico plastic bags are used for the sweating process. Just place the poblanos inside the bag and close it up. Then let the peppers sweat for 15-30 minutes. You can work on the stuffing or sauce in the meantime.
If you prefer not to use plastic, you can also sweat the poblanos in a shallow container - like a baking dish with a lid.
Then finally you can remove the skin off the poblano peppers. I place them on a cutting board and use a butter knife or the dull back of any knife to scrape off the skin carefully without cutting or tearing the poblano flesh.
If you have any old dish towels that you don't mind getting stained, you can also rub off the charred skin with a towel.
Making the Stuffing
The Chiles en Nogada stuffing is a unique sweet and savory mixture of ground meat, chopped fruit, and nuts. Start by browning the meat in a little oil.
Then add the onion and garlic and sauté these for a few minutes. Now you can add all remaining stuffing ingredients.
For fruit I am using an apple, peaches, and dried pineapple.
Substitute for Acitron Biznaga
Originally the Chiles en Nogada recipe calls for acitron biznaga, which is candied, crystallized cactus.
But Biznaga cacti are on the verge of extinction and therefore protected. Trading them is a federal crime in Mexico. So other types of acitron (crystallized fruit) are now used in its place in Chiles en Nogada.
There are also 3 types of nuts in the stuffing. Walnuts (or pecans), almonds, and pine nuts. The walnuts and almonds need to be chopped finely, but the pine nuts can stay whole. You can also pulse the nuts in a food processor to help you with chopping.
For spices there are salt and pepper, as well as cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. These warming spices are a great compliment to the fruit in the stuffing.
Finally add some tomato puree and broth for liquids, and let everything simmer together for 7-10 minutes.
Although Chiles en Nogada is traditionally served at room temperature, I prefer my savory meals hot. So once the stuffing is finished cooking, I fill it into the cleaned poblano peppers.
I put the stuffed peppers on a baking dish and place them in a 350°F oven until they are heated through. And then I keep them warm in the oven until I finish making the sauce and the Chiles en Nogada are ready to be served.
White Walnut Sauce
Chiles en Nogada are named after the white walnut sauce they are smothered in. Walnut in Spanish is nogal. But I have also seen pecans frequently substituted for walnuts, and the results are just as delicious.
The sauce is very easy to make in a blender or food processor. Add heavy cream, milk, white wine, goat or cream cheese, together with the walnuts and spices.
Then blend everything until the nuts are finely ground and smoothly incorporated into the sauce. Again, traditionally the sauce is added cold as is after blending.
But I prefer to transfer it to a saucepan to simmer it for a couple of minutes. So that it is heated up before adding to the stuffed poblanos.
To serve Chiles en Nogada place one stuffed poblano pepper onto a plate and pour a generous amount of the walnut sauce all over the poblano. Let it pour around the plate as well.
Now you have your canvas ready to recreate the green, white, and red of the Mexican flag.
Sprinkle green chopped parsley over the left third of the poblano. Red pomegranate arils over the right third. And some finely chopped nuts over the white center third.
My family in Canada who is otherwise not used to traditional Mexican recipes (I am not talking TexMex here) absolutely LOVED Chiles en Nogada!
Although the poblano peppers were a new flavor, after removing the seeds and veins they are not particularly spicy. And the entire dish is completely mild and pleasing to taste buds from around the world!
So whether you are familiar with Chiles en Nogada or are now reading about them for the first time, this dish is absolutely worth the effort.
If you are not making it for Mexican Independence Day, it would also be perfect for a Mexican night of cooking and eating together with family or a group of friends. Make sure to have a Mexican cocktail ready too.
More Mexican Recipes You'll Love:
- Roasted Salsa Verde
- Whole Wheat Tortillas
- Blender Salsa
- Instant Pot Pulled Pork Adobo
- Prickly Pear Juice
- Coconut Flour Tortillas
- Black Bean Quesadillas
Chiles en Nogada (Stuffed Poblano Peppers)
- 6-8 poblano peppers
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- ½ pound ground beef
- ½ pound ground pork
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves minced
- 1 small apple peeled and diced
- 2 small peaches peeled and diced
- ½ cup chopped dried pineapple or dried mango
- ¾ cup chopped walnuts or pecans
- ¾ cup chopped almonds
- ¼ cup pine nuts
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ¼ teaspoon black pepper
- ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
- ½ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup tomato puree or sauce, not paste
- ¼ cup broth chicken or beef
Mexican White Walnut Sauce:
- 1 cup heavy cream
- ½ cup milk
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- ¼ cup goat cheese or cream cheese
- 1 cup walnuts or pecans
- ¼ teaspoon cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ½ cup pomegranate arils
- ¼ cup finely chopped walnuts
- ¼ cup chopped parsley
- To prepare the poblano peppers, carefully cut out the stem part to be able to remove the seeds and veins from the inside. On a gas burner char the poblanos until blackened and the skin starts to release.
- Place the charred poblanos in a plastic bag or a bowl with a lid and let them sweat for 15-30 minutes. After that, use the back of a butter knife to remove and scrape off the charred skin from the poblano peppers.
- To make the stuffing, heat a large pan. Add the oil. To the hot oil add the ground meats and cook until well browned. Add the onion and garlic and sauté for another 4-5 minutes.
- Now add all remaining stuffing ingredients (apple, peaches, dried fruit, chopped walnuts and almonds, pine nuts, spices, tomato puree, and broth). Let everything cook for 7-10 minutes.
Mexican White Sauce:
- To a blender or food processor add all sauce ingredients (milk, cream, wine, cinnamon, white pepper, salt, goat or cream cheese). Blend everything together until well combined.
- Then transfer the sauce to a saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Then turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer for 2 minutes.
- Fill the stuffing into the cleaned poblano peppers. (If necessary you can add them to a baking dish and heat them in the oven at 350°F until heated through).
- Plate one stuffed poblano at a time. Cover the top and the plate with the white sauce. Sprinkle the the left third with chopped parsley, the right third with pomegranate arils, and the middle third with chopped nuts to represent the Mexican flag.
Chiles en Nogada typically use poblano peppers and are stuffed with a mixture of meat, fruit, and nuts, while chile relleno can vary in its stuffing, including cheese or other ingredients.
Chiles en Nogada translates to "Chilies in Walnut Sauce" in English.
Chiles en Nogada is popular in Mexico, especially around Mexican Independence Day, due to its historical significance and the use of seasonal ingredients like pomegranates.
While Chiles en Nogada is a beloved Mexican dish, the "national dish" of Mexico is a matter of debate, with options like mole and tacos also being considered iconic.