Chile en nogada, vegetarian style

Plates of Chile en Nogada will be served all over Mexico on September 16, Mexico’s Día de la Independencia, and some of them may be vegetarian. Every large city in Mexico has vegetarian restaurants. In fact, a plate of beans, rice and tortillas, eaten by countless campesinos through the years, is comida vegetariana. For the carnivores, here is an earlier meat version of Chile en Nogada.

Chile en Nogada was first prepared in the city of Puebla in honor of the visiting Emperor Augustin de Iturbide in 1821. The green cilantro, white cream sauce and red pomegranate seeds, representing the Mexican flag, make for one of Mexico’s most colorful dishes. Nogada refers to the walnut cream sauce. Most recipes call for skinning the walnuts, something that seems beyond tedious to me. Skin the nuts if you wish, but the sauce is delicious with unskinned nuts.

To peel the chiles, first char them over a grill or a gas stove burner. You could also use a broiler, but I haven’t tried that. See complete instructions on roasting and peeling poblano chiles.

Chile en Nogada serves 4

  • 4 large poblano chiles, roasted and peeled
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup (2 oz/60 g) walnuts
  • 9 oz (260 g) drained (reserve juice), canned tomatoes or chopped, fresh tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup (2.8 oz/80 g) chopped dried peaches and pears or other dried fruit
  • 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils (about 18 oz/510 g cooked)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt or to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) crema or sour cream
  • 34/ cups (75 g) walnut meat
  1. Slit one side of each chile, and remove seeds. Set aside.
  2. Saute onion and garlic in olive oil.
  3. Add cooked lentils, tomato, dried fruit, bay leaves, oregano, cinnamon and salt.
  4. Simmer for 10 minutes, adding reserved tomato juice or water to prevent lentils from becoming dry.
  5. While lentils and simmering, make sauce by combining crema and walnuts in blender until smooth. If too thick, thin with milk
  6. Fill chiles with lentil mixture.
  7. Spoon walnut sauce over chiles, and garnish with chopped cilantro and pomegranate seeds. Serve at room temperature.

Notes ~

~ If you cut into pomegranates the way I have for years, you may have found it a messy job, with juice everywhere and stained clothing. After some internet research, I found an efficient method to section the fruit.

  1. First, cut out the small spot where the flower was, cutting at an angle, but not through the skin into the seeds. Remove this “button”.
  2. Now notice the ridges that run from the flower end to the stem end. Make very shallow slits along these ridges through the skin from the flower end all the way to the stem end, being careful not to cut through to the juicy seeds. The slits should meet at the stem end of the pomegranate. If you see drops of juice, you are cutting too deeply.
  3. Holding the pomegranate, place both thumbs at the flower end and firmly pull out a section, releasing it along the slits. Now you are ready to pull out the individual seeds. It’s still not a good idea to wear white when you do this.

~ This recipe is adapted from a meat version, Chile en Nogada with Fresh Fruit, and published here in 2011.

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6 thoughts on “Chile en nogada, vegetarian style

  1. Linda Frakes

    Your original version of Chiles en Nogada is my favorite. I follow each step exactly as you’ve written and have success every time.

    1. The recipe with roasted tomatoes from 2010? After all these years I’m glad to hear this! My favorite, too. I’ll be following each step on Wednesday also, though this vegetarian version has been a nice switch from the standard. Buen provecho!

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