Pozole

I’m one of those people that doesn’t order soup when I go out to eat. I guess I feel like soup is something that I should be eating at home. While words like “comfort food” and “nourishing” are easy-to-reach descriptions to attach to soup, I try not to overthink it. It just seems like home is the right place to be, to spoon up a bowl of warm broth, a mélange of vegetables, or some sort of purée.

Pozole (or posole) has always been elusive to me, for that reason. It’s on Mexican restaurant menus, but when I got a copy of The Rancho Gordo Pozole Book, since I’m pretty hooked on Rancho Gordo’s outstanding heirloom beans, I got going on making the red chile pozole, which uses hominy, at home.

Fortunately, I’ve built up quite a stash of dried chiles chez moi, which I’ve either brought back myself from the States, or that people have brought me from the southwest or Mexico. True, there’s not much use of them in French cuisine, but man (and woman) cannot live by pâté, cassoulet, crêpes, and Brie alone. However I do make good use of them by introducing French friends to Mexican food.

It’s a cuisine that’s not especially well-represented in France, in spite of attempts to colonize Mexico in the 1800s, so people aren’t used to it. (And the flavors and seasonings aren’t necessarily part of the French culinary canon). So guests are intrigued when I make something Mexican, remarking that they weren’t expecting it when I serve something Mexican, but they like it, as long as the spiciness has been tamed. What’s not to like?

The ingredients for pozole are easy to gather. (Okay, the hominy I brought back from the States, but it’s available at Mexican food shops in France, and I’ve listed some sources at the end of the recipe.) We’ve got an abundance of very good radishes, nice avocados are available, chicken and pork are popular, and yes, you can even find tortilla chips in the salée (or apéro) aisle at many supermarchés, where the savory snacks that meant to be nibbled with drinks are stocked.

Pozole comes in various flavors and colors. Red and green versions are made, as well as white. Pork or chicken are generally used, although turkey versions are out there, and even vegetarian ones exist as well. (Steve includes nearly twenty different versions in his book.) There was a tempest in a pozole-pot when our beloved contessa added a few extra ingredients to pozole. But as some anthropologists have pointed out, the original meat in pozole was made from, well…let’s just say the unlucky few who were used as sacrifices to the gods. So authenticity isn’t always what it’s cracked up to be.

I will let others figure out how stubbornly they want to stick to tradition, but I will say that no humans were harmed in the making of this pozole. (Except when I made the chile de árbol salsa and after toasting and blending the chiles, I lifted the lid off the blender and made the mistake of inhaling contents. Yowch! My sinuses are still recovering from that one…) But Steve says he’d be proud to serve his pozole to any Mexican grandmother, and my guests were equally pleased.

Like other iconic dishes, such as paella and cassoulet, pozole is a bit of a process. If using dried hominy, you’ll need to soak it for several hours or overnight, then simmer it until tender. Canned hominy is available, but since the corn is a prominent ingredient, if you can get your hands on some good dried hominy, you’ll be rewarded, just as I was.

The upside is that you can make the components for pozole over several days. A few days ahead, you can make the red chile paste and refrigerate or even freeze it. The chicken broth is best made in advance and refrigerated; when chilled, it’s easy to skim the fat off. To assemble the pozole, you just simmer the soaked corn (or open the can, if you wish), then incorporate the chile paste, and add the chicken meat and broth. Some even say that the assembled pozole is even better the following day, so feel free the make the whole thing in advance, and – boom – dinner is ready-to-go the next evening.

Another great thing about pozole is, as Steve notes in his book, it’s a one-pot meal. You don’t need to make or serve any other dishes with it, just provide bowls of condiments – radishes, avocados, tortillas, and perhaps a little hot sauce – and let guests help themselves.

Red Chile Pozole
Print Recipe
8-10 servings
Adapted from The Rancho Gordo Pozole Book by Steve Sando This pozole isn't especially spicy but if you want to add some zip, the optional salsa at the end of the recipe, made with árbol dried chiles, will definitely do the trick. The árbol chile salsa is very spicy (and pleasantly smokey) but you might want to notify guests not used to eating hot sauce that a little goes a long way. The original recipe in Steve's book had two chicken feet, chopped, and a chicken back added to enrich the broth. None of the butchers near me had them, so I went with a split pig's foot to give the soup extra body. You can use either the chicken or pig parts, or skip them. Of course, if serving people that don't eat pork, omit the pig's foot. To prepare the hominy, follow the instructions on the package. If using dried hominy, you'll need to soak it for at least 6 hours or overnight. If you use canned hominy, drain it well and discard the liquid. To serve, offer an array of accompaniments alongside, so people can customize their own bowl of pozole. Sliced radishes, thinly sliced iceberg lettuce or white cabbage, ripe avocado cubes, dried Mexican oregano, finely-chopped white onion, crisp tortilla chips or strips (or chicharrones), chopped cilantro, and cotija cheese, are good garnishes, and definitely provide wedges of fresh lime for people to squeeze the juice into their soup.
For the red chile paste
2 cups (500ml) water
2 ancho chiles, wiped clean, stemmed and seeded
3 guajillo chiles, wiped clean, stemmed and seeded
1/2 medium onion, peeled and diced
6 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
For the soup
4 chicken thighs
4 chicken legs
1 pig's foot, split lengthwise, or two chicken feet, chopped, and one chicken back (optional)
1/2 onion, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 bay leaves
3 black peppercorns, cracked
1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt (if using Morton kosher salt, use 2 teaspoons)
8-10 cups (2l) water
5-6 cups (875g-1kg) prepared (cooked) hominy, drained (if making it yourself, save the cooking liquid)
1. To make the red chile paste, heat 2 cups (500ml) of water in a saucepan. Remove from heat, cover, and set aside. Cut the dried chiles in half. Heat a heavy-duty skillet over medium heat. Toast the chiles in the skillet, turning them frequently, until fragrant, which will take just a minute or two, depending on how hot the skillet is. (Don't let them burn.) Place the chiles in the saucepan of warm water, cover, and let stand 15 minutes.
2. Put the chiles in a blender, reserving the liquid, and puree the chiles with the onion and garlic, adding just enough of the reserved liquid to allow the blades of the blender to puree the mixture, scraping down the sides as needed. (I added about 1/2 cup/125ml of the liquid.) Pass the chile puree through a mesh strainer using a flexible spatula, into a bowl, discarding the skins and any errant seeds. Set aside. (The red chile paste can be made in advance, and either refrigerated for several days or frozen.)
3. To make the soup, put the chicken and pig's foot or chicken feet and back (if using) into a large pot along with the chopped onion, garlic, bay leaves, black peppercorns, and salt. Add 8 to 10 cups water, just enough to just cover the chicken. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a steady simmer, partially cover, and let cook for 1 hour.
4. When the chicken has finished cooking, remove the legs and thighs to a plate. Strain the stock through a mesh sieve into a large bowl and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the chicken and shred the meat into a bowl. Refrigerator the chicken until ready to use.
5. To finish the soup, skim the fat off the surface of the stock. Put the red chile paste in Dutch oven or large soup or stockpot*. Gradually whisk in 6 cups (1,4l) of the stock, then add the chicken meat and hominy. (You can start with the smaller amount of hominy, and add more if you want the soup thicker.) Bring the soup to a near boil. Once hot, taste and add additional salt, if desired. If the soup is too thick, you can add reserved hominy cooking liquid or additional stock.

Notes

*The original recipe said to heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil or lard and cook the chile paste down before adding the broth. As you can see from the 5th photo in the post, mine was already quite thick so it didn't need to be cooked down. If yours is very liquidy, you may wish to.

I'm frequently asked about where to get fresh tortillas in France. In Paris, unfortunately, the place that made fresh tortillas closed down, but you can get Mexican products at Bocamexa and Latino Market. Mail order Mexican ingredients, such as tortillas, hominy, and dried chiles are available in France from Casamex, Los Juanitos, and Mi Tiendita. If you're in the U.S., top-quality dried hominy is available from Rancho Gordo, which is what I used, which I brought back.

As for the fiery chile de árbol salsa, if you want to make to accompany the pozole, I made Steve's recipe from his book as a condiment. (You can see the photos of the smaller árbol chiles, being fired up in a skillet, in the post.) The salsa is incredibly spicy but does add a pleasant smokiness in addition to packing a punch. Be sure to make it in a well-ventilated place and don't inhale deeply when you open the blender! (Take it from me...)

The salsa is made by lightly toasting 1 cup (25g) of dried árbol chiles in a dry skillet. Place the toasted chiles in a bowl with 1/2 cup (125ml) pineapple or apple cider vinegar and the juice of 4 limes. Let hydrate for at least 15 minutes. (Mine didn't quite hydrate as well as they usually do in warm water, so you may want to warm the vinegar a bit first, or after adding the chiles if they need further softening.) Blend the chiles with 1 teaspoon ground cumin, a pinch of salt, and 2 cloves of peeled garlic in a blender with just enough of the liquid, about 1/4 cup/60ml, to make a puree. Press the mixture through a mesh sieve set over a bowl to remove the skin and seeds. Pour the sauce that's collected in the bowl into a small jar. Use sparingly.


A flavorful Mexican soup that\'s a meal in a bowl!

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44 comments

  • January 6, 2020 10:16am

    Oh wow, this looks phenomenal, David! I miss having access to good Mexican food in France and I think you’ve convinced me to get in the kitchen and try this. Happy New Year to you!

  • Tamara
    January 6, 2020 10:47am

    Yum! I love pozole and make it sometimes in France, even though my French husband says that “soup” is not a repas de midi and should be eaten in the evening.

    You can find canned hominy at Latino Market in the 15ème, or La Comer in the 19ème (they also have delicious salsas and tostadas), or La esquinita in the 2ème.

    • Tamara
      January 6, 2020 10:48am

      I see that you already recommended Latino Market, sorry :)

    • Elizabeth
      January 6, 2020 10:44pm

      Thank you for the tip re: La Comer! I’ve been dying for fresh tortillas. And La Comer is in my neighborhood. Win + win!

  • January 6, 2020 11:51am

    I long felt like you about soup, and then a Mexican restaurant in my hometown got acclaim for its chicken tortilla soup. I tried it and was a convert. Otherwise the only Mexican soup I knew was menudo, served at the little family restaurant where I had my first job and where I became addicted to Mexican food.
    I so miss Mexican food in France. I did a Cinco de Mayo party here, pointing out to my French guests the French connection). Your list of resources is a godsend. And now, knowing where to get hominy, I will try this.
    Re soup timing, there’s a reason why the evening meal is called souper.

  • Mary-Denise Smith
    January 6, 2020 1:58pm

    Thanks for this! Huntley Dent’s Posole essay in his Feast of Santa Fe is my go-to. Give it a look for a somewhat different spin than the classic Mexican bowl. I’ll eat soup any time of day or night, thanks to Daddy who made soup-n-sandwich lunches after the yardwork was done on Saturdays!

  • Liz
    January 6, 2020 2:00pm

    Frying the chile paste may seem like an unnecessary step, but it’s actually done for a specific reason. It’s not meant to thicken, but to take away the rawness and deepen the flavor of the chile. Kind of the same way you toast a roux. This is a common step with Mexican sauces.

    • January 6, 2020 2:05pm
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for chiming in. I thought it would be necessary, for the reasons you mention, but almost all the other recipes I saw just had you blend the softened chiles with some of the cooking liquid, then pour it back into the soup pot. I did ask Steve about how liquidy the chile paste should be because when I tried to fry it (he recommended frying it in 2 tablespoons oil or lard) rather than liquifying, it broke up into “blobs” which were harder to incorporate when I added the broth. So I wasn’t sure if I should recommend it to readers but did give people a head’s up that that step was in the original recipe. Appreciate your letting me know what it’s for!

      • Liz
        January 6, 2020 2:20pm

        I’m not an expert by any means, but I grew up in Mexico City, and learned how to cook there. It’s true that a thick sauce may break up when frying it, but that is usually fixed by stirring in small amounts of hot broth as you cook it, until you get a silky texture and deeper color. Cheers!

      • Jean
        January 17, 2020 2:00pm

        I fried the paste in a tablespoon of chicken fat from the stock. The soup was outstanding!

  • Gina Bisaillon
    January 6, 2020 2:11pm

    I used to make pozole regularly when I lived in Mexico and now it’s the first thing I eat when I go there.

  • January 6, 2020 2:13pm

    Joining the Rancho Gordo Bean Club was my birthday present to myself last year … I didn’t know beans could be so incredible!! Cassoulet is up next.

    • annony
      January 7, 2020 7:54pm

      This will be my birthday gift to my mother this year – thank you for the idea!

  • January 6, 2020 2:39pm

    Clarification: for the red chile paste, you say to seed the chilis and then to strain them to remove the seeds. I’m assuming the second step is a typo and no straining is necessary? Thanks!

    • January 6, 2020 3:03pm
      David Lebovitz

      As diligently as I remove the seeds from dried chiles beforehand, invariably a few make it into the finished pulp. So it’s not a typo, but just a mention there’ll likely be a few seeds in the mix (along with the skins) as well. I could add a line that there may be some lingering seeds but the recipe was getting long and I didn’t want to scare people away from making it : )

    • January 8, 2020 1:38am

      After years of wanting to try posole, I made it today, on this snowy afternoon. I used leftover turkey from Christmas, and turkey broth so thick it was like jello (when cold). Utterly delicious and satisfying and EASY. Thank you!

      • January 8, 2020 5:40am
        David Lebovitz

        I worked with an Italian chef who was particularly adept at making risotto. He told me that turkey stock was the best, likely for the reasons you mentioned. Posole is a good post-Thanksgiving and Christmas way to use leftover turkey for sure!

      • Judith Lehman
        January 17, 2020 4:24pm

        Jennifer! I read your blog post and came here. I’ve added pig foot to my grocery list now.

  • Cheri
    January 6, 2020 4:30pm

    I LOVE pazole but am extremely lazy. Is there a ready-made chili paste that can be used? Thank you.

    • Dora
      January 16, 2020 9:10am

      Try a can of Las Palmas red enchilada sauce instead of messing with dry chillies. My husband has made the red pozole and he has used the mild one can, the soup was great but if you want heat add the hot las palmas red sauce.. my husband is not MEXICAN.

  • Gayle
    January 6, 2020 5:00pm

    As a Rancho Gordo regular, I’ll echo others who say the beans are superior to any others I’ve tried. I will not buy or use any other now.

    While I applaud anything that gets people cooking, I wish folks would try using dried beans rather than canned. It’s a whole ‘nuther world!

    • January 6, 2020 5:51pm
      David Lebovitz

      When I was writing up the cassoulet recipe in My Paris Kitchen, I tested it with supermarket dried beans versus good-quality beans (several varieties) and found that the really good dried beans were so superior, it was worth tracking them down. (Rancho Gordo even has ‘cassoulet’ beans, the same variety used in France for cassoulet, which are excellent.) Canned beans are good in a pinch, I guess, but I never like the liquid they are packed in, which lends a particular taste to the beans.

  • Terrie Chrones
    January 6, 2020 5:34pm

    How yummy. We live part of the year in Canterbury, England. NO Mexican! I’ve brought ingredients also to terrorize my neighbors with tamales. Ranch Gordo is the best thanks for posole!
    I found a place in London online which also ships all over Europe. It is MexGrocer.co.uk
    Check it out, and they ship! (Go figure Poland is a huge market,). The products are excellent. We are from Oregon so I know the brands- recommend them to you and your readers who are languishing without tacos somewhere.

  • CORI ROTH
    January 6, 2020 6:27pm

    I love POZOLE and look forward to trying this recipe. An additional condiment I add to the ones you suggested above is PAPRIKA. It just adds a little something. Not that it really needs any improvement! Thank you as always David. Your blog is my favorite.

  • Jackie Headecker
    January 6, 2020 6:56pm

    Hi David, I am planning to be in Paris in the next two weeks and would like your help in suggesting a cooking school in English, I am interested in Pastry, not necessary croissant, can you suggest a school, and a reasonable hotel nearby with in a location for shopping and eating. Thanks, this is a treat to myself I have been thinking of for 10 years.

  • Helen
    January 6, 2020 7:20pm

    Okay you convinced me to try posole since I’ve been a fan of Rancho Gordo products for years. I live in an area with great access for Mexican chefs/meals and ingredients. Locally I can find organic dried beans and peppers but no dried hominy so I’m off to the Rancho Gordo website. Thanks for another great post.

  • Jamie
    January 7, 2020 12:27am

    I grew up in Albuquerque, and I make posole with New Mexico red chiles. I find they have a better flavor than other chiles. I only make red posole, but I’ve eaten green and it was also quite good. I always use pork, no chicken.

  • rainey
    January 7, 2020 3:50am

    The first time I ever had posole was in the coffee shop of a hotel chain where they called it “lettuce soup”. In fact I ordered it because I needed to find out what lettuce soup was. It was love at first bite.

    I make mine with pork butt. But it’s been much improved by following my Mexican housekeeper’s advice to start my broth first with neck bones.

  • Ann-Therese
    January 7, 2020 5:27am

    As a latina from NM, posole brings thoughts of Christmas and New Year celebrations. Posole should blossom or pop. That’s the difference between canned hominy and posole. We would never consider hominy to be substitute for dried posole. Thanks for spelling chile with an “e”.

    • January 7, 2020 7:47am
      David Lebovitz

      Thanks for your comment. I looked around online and saw the corn for posole labeled as hominy, in English, such as here and here, which is also how Rancho Gordo labels theirs. (Goya labels their giant white corn.) I couldn’t find it anywhere sold as “posole,” which I thought was the name of the soup, not the dried corn. Is that correct?

      • Robert Bowley
        January 7, 2020 9:11am

        I live in Santa Fe, New Mexico and I have never seen the dried corn called anything but hominy. The soup is posole. The only green that goes in my pork posole is cilantro.

      • Jeff
        January 24, 2020 3:24am

        Canned hominy in the US is labeled “pozole”. The soup it is used in is also called pozole. In fact, Goya actualy offers both the hominy and the complete stew in cans. I do not see the stew as often but in a pinch…. As far as soup for other meals goes, the Chinese make a rice porridge/soup called congee that is a breakfast staple. My local Asian market has containers for sale on weekends and they go fast. It is also made with pork or chicken.

  • Beverly K
    January 7, 2020 6:17am

    I quickly glanced through the previous comments and didn’t see this mentioned. After many tries of just soaking and cooking the heck out of the dried hominy, I always ended up with the tough and inedible skins sticking to the corn and had to throw them out. Then I was in a local Mexican supermarket in Concord, CA, and saw that they were selling 2 pound bags of freshly cooked hominy made from the dried corn. So I was able to ask about why the skin on mine remained. I was told the trick is to soak the dried corn in a solution of water and lye. When you boil the hominy, this helps the tough skins to release and float to the top. Then the remaining kernels are tender like in the canned versions but better. Does anyone else know about this? Thanks.

    • Margaret
      January 8, 2020 3:45am

      I had hominy like that a few years ago and had to throw it out. Rancho Gordo hominy is delicious though and very easy to cook — I’ll never buy anywhere else.

  • Vieilleanglaise
    January 7, 2020 5:08pm

    FYI, Parisiens, you can also find produce in the Columbian shop and tiny restaurant ‘La Fonda’ 4 Rue Caulaincourt
    75018, just off the place de Clichy.
    https://www.facebook.com/La-FONDA-537579576278905/

  • January 9, 2020 11:39pm

    This looks amazing. Love the mixture of texture and colors. I don’t order soup in restaurants for the same reason as you, but will have to venture out for this dish at a Mexican place soon.

  • soupgirl
    January 10, 2020 3:19pm

    I totally get it when you say you do not eat soup outside. It is usually the dish with the most added MSG and you never know what weird ingredients they can add to give flavor. Best ones are home made. Always. Plus french tend to put so much creme fraiche, it s way too heavy for the stomach.

  • Claudia
    January 10, 2020 9:00pm

    Try adding 3-4 cloves(just the berry part and not the stem) to the blender when making your chile paste. It adds a depth of flavor to the soup. My mouth waters now just thinking of it. It’s how my family has done it forever.

  • January 15, 2020 4:13am

    That was delicious. My compliments to the chef!

  • Mimi
    January 19, 2020 5:53pm

    As always, David, your instructions are clear and detailed. Thank you. I made the soup, using Rancho Gordo hominy, and salsa for dinner tomorrow to allow the flavors to meld. It promises to be delicious.

    When making the chicken and broth, I ended up with just four cups instead of six so supplemented with store bought.

    Yes for quite a powerful whiff when opening blender after pureeing peppers. I love it!

    This recipe is a time commitment.

    Another winner, David.

    • January 19, 2020 6:45pm
      David Lebovitz

      Glad you liked the pozole. (And the instructions helped.) It is a bit of steps, although people often buy the hominy already cooked and as a previous commenter mentioned, she uses prepared enchilada sauce. And yes…the fumes coming from the blender are intense!

  • Leila
    January 28, 2020 8:03pm

    En Costa Rica la receta del pozol es un poco diferente. Se hace con un maíz llamado “maíz Cartago” oriundo de la provincia que lleva ese nombre. Esta versión de pozol ve delicioso y chiloso…!

    • February 2, 2020 2:40am

      I cannot figure out how to start a new comment so this is not actually a reply but an original question – in step 4 are we also removing the pigs feet and/or chicken feet and chicken back and discarding OR will that remain in the soup. (if we used those ingredients) Thanks! Love your work!

      • February 2, 2020 9:54am
        David Lebovitz

        In Step #4, you strain the stock. The strainer should catch the pig food or chicken feet, if using and those aren’t added back to the soup. You can discard them. (Although people with a lot of patience may be able to extract some edible meat from the pig’s foot, if they wish.)