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What Are Chiles Rellenos?
Chiles rellenos are Mexican stuffed peppers, typically battered, deep-fried, and served with salsa. There are many types of chiles rellenos, but the version found in most Tex-Mex and Mexican restaurants is made from large, mild poblano peppers (sometimes incorrectly labeled pasilla peppers) stuffed with Oaxacan cheese and served with tomato sauce or salsa roja.
Chiles rellenos can also be made with Anaheim peppers, jalapeños, or—a favorite in New Mexico—Hatch chiles. Some variations on chiles rellenos include:
- Chiles en nogado, from Puebla, Mexico, which are covered in walnut sauce and topped with pomegranate seeds.
- Chiles rellenos con picadillo, which are stuffed with spiced beef and raisins.
- Chiles rellenos de puerco, which use pork as a stuffing.
- Chiles rellenos divorciados, which are served with both a red sauce and a green sauce.
5 Tips for Making Chile Relleno
There are a few secrets to making restaurant-quality chiles rellenos.
- Broil the poblanos. When charred, poblano peppers take on a deeper sweetness, and their skins are easier to remove. Since deep-frying them barely cooks the peppers, you’ll want to char them first on a grill, a gas burner, or the simplest method: in the broiler.
- Use cheese that melts easily. Traditionally, chiles rellenos are made with Oaxacan cheese, which melts easily and becomes stringy. If you can’t find Oaxacan cheese, try substituting another cheese that melts well, such as low-moisture mozzarella, mild cheddar cheese, or Monterey Jack cheese. Queso fresco and cotija won’t melt and are better as toppings, added after the chiles are cooked.
- Shallow fry the chiles. At restaurants, chiles rellenos are often deep-fried. If you don’t have a deep-fryer at home, you can achieve similar results by shallow-frying in a deep pan. Work in small batches of two to three chiles at a time to avoid lowering the temperature of the oil.
- Bake instead of frying. Baked chiles rellenos won’t have the same crispy crust as the deep-fried version, but they’ll have a wonderful roasted-poblano flavor and the same melty cheese.
- Freeze peppers after stuffing. One of the hardest parts of making chiles rellenos is preventing the delicate stuffed peppers from falling apart. To make the peppers easier to fry, try freezing them. After stuffing the peppers, arrange them in a single layer on a parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet and freeze about 20–30 minutes.
Authentic Mexican Chile Rellenos Recipe
Prep Time30 min
Total Time40 min
Cook Time10 min
- 4 fresh poblano peppers
- 3 large eggs, separated
- ¼ cup all-purpose flour, plus 1 cup for coating
- 5 ounces grated Oaxacan cheese (or other melting cheese such as low-moisture mozzarella or cheddar)
- Vegetable oil, for frying
- Cilantro, roughly chopped
- Queso fresco, crumbled
- Salsa roja (tomato salsa)
- Preheat the broiler and arrange peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet. Broil until blackened, about 2–5 minutes, then use tongs to flip and broil the other side, about 2–5 more minutes. Cover the peppers with a clean kitchen towel to lightly steam them. Alternatively, place the peppers inside a sealed plastic bag or lidded dish to steam. Once the peppers have softened, about 10–15 minutes, use a paring knife to peel the skins off. Make a slit from the stem end of the pepper about halfway down, creating an opening just large enough to remove the core and seeds and to stuff the peppers. Use the paring knife to carefully remove the core, membranes, and seeds.
- Fill peppers with shredded Oaxacan cheese, sealing closed with toothpicks if needed.
- In a large bowl, whip egg whites to stiff peaks by hand or using an electric mixer. In a separate bowl, beat egg yolks with ¼ cup flour to combine. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold yolk-flour mixture into whites. Place 1 cup flour on a plate or in a shallow bowl and lightly coat peppers in flour. Dip floured stuffed chiles in egg batter.
- In a large sauté or frying pan, heat ½ inch vegetable oil over medium-high heat. Test the oil by dropping a tiny spoonful of batter into the oil. If it sizzles, the oil is ready. Fry chiles, seam-side down in hot oil until golden brown, about 2–4 minutes. Use tongs to flip chiles and fry until the other side is browned, about 2–4 more minutes. Blot excess oil with paper towels.
- Meanwhile, warm up salsa roja on the stovetop over low heat and pour onto individual plates or a large casserole. Serve peppers on a bed of warmed salsa roja, sprinkling with cilantro and queso fresco, if desired.
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