Smoky, mildly spicy roasted poblano peppers are stuffed with a warm & savory fall fruit and vegetable filling, and bathed in a creamy walnut sauce. It’s vegan Chiles en Nogada! A lightened up version of a traditional Mexican dish.
This dish has been on my to-do list for a long time. I just love the way the parsley and pomegranate arils have a jewel-like contrast on top of the stark white walnut sauce. The colors represent the colors of the Mexican flag, and the dish appears in Mexico around early fall, when pomegranates are in season and celebrations of national independence occur. For me, I think the dish has a Christmas-y appeal, even the stuffed poblano is somewhat reminiscent of a gift package.
There seem to be a number of rumors about who actually invented the dish, but the general consensus is that it was created sometime in the early 1800’s, to celebrate Mexican independence. Another reason I chose to make this dish is because it is not at all like the Mexican food you can usually get here in the US. Chiles en Nogada is not spicy, or fatty or sprinkled with cilantro and cheese. You’re not likely to find it in your neighborhood chain Mexican restaurant. The flavors of this dish are complex and subtle, sweet and savory. The recipe has a long list of ingredients and the preparation can be a chore. It is heavily influenced by European cuisine – the dish traditionally utilizes a meat and fruit stuffing.
There are lots of variations of this dish with substitutions in both ingredients and preparation, so I don’t feel terribly guilty for not only excluding the animal products, but also simplifying as much of the process as possible. The only labor-intensive task I kept in the recipe is the peeling of the walnuts, which can be somewhat difficult given the bumpy ridges of the nuts, but it’s also sort of pleasingly repetitious.
This recipe serves two, it’s a great dinner to make for someone you really care about, given all the work involved. I like to serve this with warm black beans.
Print Recipe Chiles En Nogada Yum
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
On parchment-lined baking sheet, roast chiles in the oven for 10 minutes, then flip and roast another 10 minutes. The skin should be black in spots and blistered. Remove from the oven and place in a large glass bowl. Cover the bowl with foil and set aside to steam, 30 minutes or until cool.
Drain the soaking water and peel the brown skin off the nuts. It helps to break the walnut in half, then slowly peel the skin off at the breaking point. Discard the skins.
Combine the peeled nuts with the rest of the sauce ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onion, celery, pear and apple, cook for about 4 minutes, or until the onions become translucent. Add the garlic, kale, tomatoes, raisins, pine nuts, pepitas, and spices. Stir, coating all ingredients in the spices. Next add the tomato puree and vegetable stock. Continue to cook, stirring frequently as the liquids begin to thicken. Cook until the tomato/stock mixture is fully reduced, sticking to the fruit/veg with no more liquid remaining. Remove from heat and set aside.
Remove the chiles from the bowl and using the side of a spoon or back of a knife, gently scrape the black/translucent skin off the chiles, being careful not to tear the flesh of the chiles. While keeping the stem on and intact, make a gentle vertical incision in the side of each chile, leaving about an inch or so of space at the top and bottom of the cut. The goal is to cut a hole wide enough to stuff the chile, without cutting the entire chile in half. If your chile tears, do not worry, you can still use it. Remove all the seeds inside.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Set the chiles in a 8x8 (or similar size) baking dish with the cut side up. Stuff the chiles with the filling. You can turn your chiles to make the cut side face down, which gives a smoother final appearance, but I like the cut side up so the sauce goes into the filling. Your choice. Cover the baking dish with foil and bake until warm, about 15 minutes. While your chiles are warming, gently heat the walnut sauce in a small saucepan over medium. Be careful not to scorch your sauce, and stir frequently. Your sauce should thicken slightly.
Once the chiles are warm, transfer them to plates and spoon the sauce over. Garnish with chopped parsley and pomegranate seeds.
As mentioned above, the treatment of the walnuts is labor-intensive. However, all the components of the dish can be made ahead of time. The walnuts must be peeled, or else the sauce will taste bitter. If you're seeking an even simpler nut sauce, use cashews instead, which do not require peeling. This recipe is written to make two Chiles en Nogada, serving two.