Chiles Rellenos — poblano chiles stuffed with cheese and served with tomato sauce — a Mexican classic

A Classic Mexican Recipe

Chiles are the essence of Mexico. Vibrant in color and intense in flavor, they are found in many Mexican dishes. Chiles Rellenos a Mexican classic, feature poblano chiles stuffed with cheese, dipped in egg, then fried and served in a shining pool of tomato sauce.

Chiles Rellenos
Makes 6

  • 6 thick-walled poblano chiles
  • 1/2 lb. (230 grams) cheese of your choice, cut into 6 wedges
  • 1/2 cup (50 grams) all purpose flour
  • 2 lbs. (900 grams) fresh tomatoes (or canned tomatoes — see note)
  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
  • salt to taste

  • 3 large eggs, separated
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • mild vegetable oil for frying

First,  grill poblano chiles until blackened and blistered.

While poblanos are steaming, cut tomatoes into quarters or eighths, depending on their size, and squeeze out seeds. Strain seeds, saving the juice. Roughly chop onion and garlic.

Purée tomatoes, juice, onion and garlic in blender. Fry the sauce. (Yes, you read it right. “Fry” is the verb used in Mexican cookbooks to describe making a cooked salsa.) Bring 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a moderately high temperature in the  skillet, add the tomato mixture, and stand back — it will spatter and spit a bit, but will calm down as you stir it. Add dry Mexican oregano (not Greek oregano) and stir occasionally while simmering  for 15 minutes. Salt to taste, but don’t skimp on the salt. Too little will result in a flat-tasting sauce.

While the sauce is simmering, peel and seed chiles and stuff with wedges of cheese. If the piece of cheese is not too large, you can slightly fold the flap of chile over the other side of the slit, sealing the cheese in. The cooked egg batter will hold this flap closed.

For egg coating: beat egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon of salt until stiff but not dry. Fold in egg yolks, one at a time. This is the chile coating. There is no flour added.

Between the previous photo and the next, I have a pictorial gap. My fingers were so covered with egg that I couldn’t pick up the camera to document the steps between these two photos. But here is what you need to do to finish the Chiles Rellenos: holding the flap closed, roll each chile in flour, without getting flour inside the chile. The idea is to completely coat it so that the egg has something to stick to. Then dip each chile in the beaten egg to completely coat it.

Use enough oil in your skillet for a depth of 3/4″ – 1″. Heat oil to 350 deg. F. (180 C.). While cooking the chiles, keep the tomato sauce hot.

Cook only two at a time. If you try to do more, the first chile in the pan will start to burn while you are coating the others. (I learned this the hard way.) Turn the chiles over after 30-45 seconds in the oil, or until they are golden brown on all sides. Place on several layers of paper towels to absorb oil. Keep warm on a hot plate or in a 200 deg. F. (95 C.) oven while you batter and cook the remaining chiles.

When all are done, spoon hot tomato sauce into individual dishes or a large platter and arrange chiles rellenos on the sauce. Garnish with cilantro sprigs or chopped cilantro.

Notes:

Mexican cookbooks recommend a variety of cheeses for Chiles Rellenos, including Oaxaca string cheese, Mozzarella and Monterey Jack. A good cheddar is assertive enough to stand up to the flavorful chiles and tomato sauce. For this recipe, I used Tillamook Extra Sharp Cheddar from Costco and was very pleased with the flavor combination.

To make the preparation of this dish more manageable, make the sauce and blister and peel the chiles the day before.

Poblanos are generally a mild chile, but every now and then they veer off the heat scale. Have cold beer at the ready if you find yours are extra hot.

When selecting poblanos, look for those that are flat with two sides, rather than three sides. This shape allows for less cooking time when blistering and frying.

In the winter, it may be impossible to find fresh tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes. If this is the case, you will do better using canned tomatoes, which usually have a good flavor.

There are no rules in cooking (baking is a different matter). If you want to fill your chile relleno with crab and mornay sauce, or well-seasoned black beans and shrimp, please invite me to dinner.

Leftover chiles rellenos, re-heated, make an excellent sandwich filling. In the market of a small town, we had tortas de chiles rellenos — bolillos, the common bread roll of Mexico, filled with cheese-stuffed poblanos. With this memory to prompt us, we had  left-over chiles rellenos in bolillos for lunch. Split the bolillo horizontally and pull out the soft center to make room for the chile. Spoon some hot tomato sauce onto both sides of the roll. Muy delicioso!

Today’s Spanish lesson: This dish is often misspelled as “Chile Rellenos”. If Chile is singular (without an “s”), so too is the descriptive word, “relleno”. Chile Relleno or Chiles Rellenos are the correct spellings.


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  1. #1 by Lakotalady on October 24, 2010 - 11:34 am

    Epazote (eh-pah-SO-tay): Dysphania ambrosioides, a pungent, bitter herb used in beans and quesadillas

    This herb is used in Mexican and Native American cooking: where an ingredient in a dish, such as beans amoung other ingredients, causes a person to get gas).
    You want to use it sparingly, for a pot of beans, maybe a teaspoon as it is a bitter herb.

    *If you can’t find this herb, you can put 1/4 to1/2 teaspoon of baking soda in your soaking water or 1/4 teaspoon to the cooking will kill the gas
    Buen Provecho!

    • #2 by Cooking in Mexico on October 24, 2010 - 2:30 pm

      Thank you for sharing this information. The baking soda may help dispel gas, but will not add the unique flavor of epazote.
      Thank you for visiting and please come again!

  2. #3 by Amanda on January 5, 2011 - 5:19 pm

    Loved the recipe it was easy and delicious. I would love to try some other recipes. My Husband is from Mexico and he hasn’t been home in many years so I want to know how to cook authentic recipes not ” taco bell Gavacho food”. So thank you.

    • #4 by Cooking in Mexico on January 5, 2011 - 9:23 pm

      I’m so glad you tried Chiles Rellenos. It really is a good dish that represents the best of Mexico. For more traditional recipes to try for your husband, look under “Cloud Topics on the right of the page and click Classic Mexican Recipes and Mexican Tradition. Buen provecho!

  3. #5 by joe6lupe1@aol.com on February 14, 2011 - 10:25 am

    I loved your recipe because is very close to what I grew up with. I am from Mexico City and I hope one day to go back and spend some time back home.
    My sister who is from Mexico city told me to add a little pinch of cinnamon to the tomato sauce (caldillo), it was the best I have had. Of course with cinnamon less is more.
    Thanks for this recipe.
    Maria

    • #6 by Cooking in Mexico on February 16, 2011 - 11:16 am

      I will try adding cinnamon the next time I make this. Thank you for the tip.

  4. #7 by Sindy Salazar on March 8, 2011 - 12:08 pm

    I just discovered your blog about ten minutes ago, and already I’m in love!! You have plenty of all my favorite foods here and tantalizing recipes to make them all! Thank you and please, please, keep posting! I can’t wait to try your recipe for chiles rellenos!

    • #8 by Cooking in Mexico on March 8, 2011 - 2:01 pm

      I’m glad you found Cooking in Mexico. When you make the chiles rellenos, let me know how they turned out.

  5. #9 by Sara on April 17, 2012 - 5:00 pm

    Hi, I just found your blog and it’s exactly what a newly arrived Swede eager to try out some Mexican recipes needs. Your blog is so beautiful and well edited and I was very happy to see that you are emphasizing organic and non-processed food. I immediately tried out the recipe for chiles rellenos using a flavorful Mennonita cheese and the result was very satisfying although I had some troubles with the egg coating. I only had a fork to beat the egg whites and didn’t quite succeed, but my Mexican boyfriend says that is how it’s usually done here so I guess it’s just a matter of practicing. Looking forward to trying out more of your recipes!

    • #10 by Cooking in Mexico on April 17, 2012 - 7:11 pm

      Your boyfriend is right — usually a fork or hand whisk is used, but that requires a lot of wrist work. I use an electric mixer and get foamy egg whites in no time. Try looking for a whisk. It will get the job done more quickly. I bet this was good with Mennonite cheese. We don’t have that cheese in our area, but I have had it before and remember it being very tasty. I hope you try more recipes. And enjoy your stay in Mexico!

  6. #11 by Marcus Toole on June 23, 2012 - 11:00 pm

    I have poblano and other peppers which may work well with this in my garden. How ripe should I let the poblano get. Would it work as a fully ripe red pepper? Thanks

    • #12 by Cooking in Mexico on June 24, 2012 - 1:55 pm

      Hi Marcus,
      A fully red poblano would be very good for Chile Rellenos. It may taste sweeter than a green one and would certainly have a nice color.
      Buen provecho!

      • #13 by Marcus Toole on June 24, 2012 - 7:20 pm

        Thanks, hopefully I will get to experience a fully ripe poblano in a chile relleno soon. God bless.

        Marcus

        • #14 by Cooking in Mexico on June 24, 2012 - 8:25 pm

          I wish you a very successful garden this summer, with a bounty of chiles!

  7. #15 by Aurora Alcantar on January 29, 2014 - 9:38 am

    Excellent step by step explanation of how to do Chiles Rellenos. Add side with Mexican rice,fried beans and a lettuce salad in.

  8. #17 by Alicia jimenez on May 19, 2014 - 11:57 am

    Great recipe! I made these this past weekend and they were delicious. The sauce was really good. I had a little trouble with my first chile since I didn’t coat much egg on it, but by the third one, they looked great. I used mozzarella in a few and white cheddar cheese. The mozzarella tasted better.

    • #18 by Cooking in Mexico on May 19, 2014 - 12:05 pm

      So glad you made these, Alicia. Each time I get a comment about one of the recipe, it inspires me to make it again. I guess Chile Rellenos is what’s for dinner tonight. Thanks!

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