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Pozole is one of the most popular dishes among Mexicans. This article will teach you everything you need to know about this traditional Mexican soup. Not only will you learn about the history of pozole as if you were an expert, but you will learn how to prepare it like any Mexican abuelita (grandma). Let’s get started!
A Short Story about Pozole
Pozole is one of the emblematic dishes of Mexican gastronomy, and is a favorite among locals. There is never a time where pozole wouldn’t be a good meal. Traditionally, it is eaten on special occasions like weddings, celebrations, holidays and during winter; there’s nothing else that compares to this heavy, thick, hearty and filling soup, but what is pozole?
Today, there are different types of pozole: green, white and red – just like the Mexican flag. One can add pork, chicken or just veggies; it is served with cabbage, onion, lime, oregano, radishes, sour cream, and tostadas. Can you almost taste it?
Pozole rojo is consumed in Mexico City, Sinaloa, Nayarit, and Jalisco; it is made from chiles rojos and guajillos, giving it the bright red color that distinguishes this soup. This pozole includes pork and pork feet and can be topped with cabbage, radishes, and chicharron (pork rinds).
Pozole verde is made of poblano peppers, tomatillo and jalapeños; it is usually cooked with chicken instead of pork and the recipe includes pumpkin seeds.
Pozole blanco is the least spicy; it gets its flavor from oregano, garlic, onion and the chicken you put inside the pot.
But, where did pozole come from and why is this dish so tasty? Pozole has very unique origins that are linked to Mexican heritage. The word pozole comes from the Nahuatl word “pozolli” which means “hominy”, describing perfectly the cooking process – hominy is dried corn that has been soaked in a mineral bath to make it double in size – and that is the reason why the dish got its name.
This is an ancient meal prepared by the Aztecs during pre-Hispanic times. According to, The General History of the Things of New Spain, it was a sacred dish consumed only by priests and emperors, featuring the meat of human sacrifice victims. This ceremonial dish represented the duality of life and death, since it included human meat from the sacrifices; it was supposed to create a direct connection with the gods.
There is another version of pozole’s history that says that tepezcuintle meat was used; tepezcuintle is a lowland rodent found in Central and South America – nobody eats them anymore.
After the Spaniards arrived, the pozole recipe changed to include other European ingredients like chicken, pork, and spices. This created the fundamentals of how we know Mexican cuisine nowadays: a complex and ancient cuisine with symbolism and a strong social relationship with the country’s culture, which is one of the reasons it was named an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.
Now that you know the history of pozole, keep reading to discover how to make it at home.
This recipe is perfect for six to eight servings. Also, you will have to be very patient because it will take you around 3 hours to finish the whole process, let’s start!
- 3 lb. pork shoulder, cut into chunky pieces
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 large sliced white onion
- 6 garlic cloves
- 1 tablespoon whole cloves
- 1 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 tsp. oregano
- 2 bay leaves
- 4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 dried chiles de arbol, stem and seeds removed
- 2 dried ancho chiles, stem and seeds removed
- 6 dried guajillo chiles, stem and seeds removed
- 3 cups of hominy, drained and rinsed – you can usually find this in the Mexican section of your grocery store.
- Sliced radishes
- Sliced cabbage
- Sliced cilantro
- Tostadas (crispy tortillas)
- Sliced limes
- Chopped onion
- Some dried chiles
If it is your first time making pozole, the best thing you can do is to prepare your area by putting all the ingredients very close by; we call this mise en place. Now, let’s start with these steps, that are done in separate pots at the same time:
Prepare the Chili Base
- Remove the stems, seeds, and veins from all the chiles and throw them away – use a plastic bag or plastic gloves and avoid touching your face – especially your eyes.
- Place the chiles, the cloves of garlic, and the white onion in a pot and add water to cover the ingredients (approximately 3 cups).
- Bring to boil
- Turn off the heat
- Let the chiles sit for 15 minutes; notice how they have expanded from sucking the water in.
- Blend the chiles, onion, garlic, oregano and some of the boiling water until it gets very smooth. Do this in 2 parts or batches.
- Strain the blended chili base. Press the pulp with the back of a spoon to get as much as you can and throw away the pulp that remains.
- Heat 3 tablespoons of oil over medium-heat and pour in the chili base (this is called seasoning). This will add extra flavor to your pozole.
- Simmer for around 30 minutes or until the base has thickened and darkened in color.
Cook the Pork
- Place the pork, garlic, the bay leaves and half a white onion in a large pot and cover with enough water.
- Bring the water to boil and reduce the heat to simmer. Cook for 45 minutes.
- When the pork is done, you will notice how easy it is to pull it apart with your fingers or a fork.
- When the pork is done, remove it from the water and set it aside.
- Strain the boiling water into a bowl and set aside.
Cook the Hominy
- Drain the hominy and rinse.
- Put the hominy in a large pot and cover with water.
- Simmer while you prepare the chili base and cook the pork
Put All the Pieces Together
Now, it’s time to put everything together!
- Add the chili base to the hominy
- Add the pork broth and the shredded pork
- Add sea salt and pepper. I recommend starting with 3 tablespoons of salt so you can adjust to your preferences. Try the soup and continue until the flavor and the saltiness is right for you.
- Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
When the pozole is ready to serve, it will have a bright red color.
Time to Prepare your Garnishes
While your pozole is simmering, get the garnishes ready. The traditional garnishes are: cabbage or lettuce, white onion, slices of radish, oregano, limes, and some chopped dried chiles. Also, get some tostadas, if you can’t find any, you can make them too:
- Heat some vegetable oil in medium, deep skillet
- Once the oil is hot, place one corn tortilla in the oil at a time and cook
- Flip the tortilla once it gets golden brown
- Place the fried tostada on a paper towel to soak the extra oil and sprinkle some sea salt.
Now, Add the Garnishes!
- Start with a bowl of pozole
- Add the sliced cabbage or lettuce
- Add the sliced radish
- Add the chopped white onion
- Add the oregano
- Add some lime juice and dried chiles on top to bring all the flavors together.
We all know that pozole can be very hard and time consuming to prepare, but it’s definitely worth waiting for the delicious combination of spices, chili, and broth. Next time you visit Mexico, remember to add this traditional dish to your bucket list and let us know what you think.