Pozole is one of Mexico’s traditional dishes there are, and it is also one of the most popular cuisine among the Mexican people. It is a thick, hearty, and satisfying soup that is actually a whole meal in itself. It is also the go-to dish for any kind of soiree or celebration you can think of - birthdays, festivals, reunions, holidays, or just any typical Sunday dinner.
But what exactly is pozole? Well, I could tell you that it’s just a soup, but it’s really more like a soup with a salad in it or a stew. Does it make sense if I tell you pozole is a salad-soup-stew combination? Because that’s really what it is and there is nothing else quite like it!
WHAT IS POZOLE?
Pozole is basically a cross between a stew and a soup and is famous around the Mexico country, especially on grand events such as Mexican Independence Day and at Christmas, and most people associate it with any big family gathering. Pretty much all kinds of pozoles contain the base ingredients of pork, large hominy kernels (cacahuazintle), and garlic, although there are several versions that use other meats instead of pork such as chicken, plus the extra additions of shredded lettuce, diced onion, thinly sliced radish, hot sauce, avocado slices and a healthy squeeze of lime. It’s often served with tortilla (tostadas) and crema.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF POZOLE
There are three types of pozole which rather appropriately reflects the colors of the Mexican flag – red (rojo), white (blanco) and green (verde) – and all these contain minor alterations to that base recipe. White pozole doesn’t incorporate any red or green salsas, as you would imagine, whereas green pozole can contain ingredients like Mexican husk tomatoes (tomatillos), cilantro and even jalapeños. Red pozole depends more heavily on chilies such as ancho, guajillo, or piquin.
The recipe for pozole is different depending on which region in Mexico you are located. The red pozole comes from the Northwest, the green pozole is made in the Southeast, while the white pozole is typical of Central Mexico. The western coastal region even have their own seafood pozole. All of these recipes are slightly different in taste and flavor, but they all share the same base ingredients.
HISTORY OF POZOLE
The origin of Mexican pozole has ancient roots. Many centuries ago, it was the Aztecs that invented the dish, although their pozole was almost certainly very different back then. The word comes from Nahuatl (historically known as Aztec) word pozolli or pasole, which means “frothy“, while others claim it means “hominy”. This word perfectly describes the dish because the corn ingredient cracks open like foam bubbles when it is cooked. That’s probably how the dish got the name.
Xipe Totec, the spring god
Some say pozole also has some macabre roots. During the 16th century, Friar Bernardino de Sahagun, a Spanish missionary, wrote his famous work The General History of the Things of New Spain where he mentioned that pozole was a dish served in honor of Xipe Totec, the spring god. It was a sacred and ritual meal, fit only for priests and emperors, that featured the meat of human sacrifice victims. Pork was eventually used as a substitute because of its striking similarity in taste to human flesh.
Friar Bernardino de Sahagun
Another narrative regarding pozole’s origin tells that the dish was actually made using the meat of the famous Mexican dogs, xoloitzcuintles. They were a hairless kind of Aztec dog that was raised and bred mainly for consumption. That may sound extremely creepy, but it’s a well-known fact these little dogs were considered supper back then. Xoloitzcuintle dogs still exist, but thankfully, nobody eats them anymore nowadays.
After the conquerors and missionaries arrived, the pozole recipe changed over time to include non-native ingredients like pork and chicken. In the end, this became the true nature of Mexican cuisine, which is the perfect blend of two distinct cultures.
THE MEXICAN POZOLE RECIPE
For the stew:
8 cups of water
3 lbs pork shoulder, cubed
1 white onion, rough chopped
6 large garlic cloves
2 Knorr bouillon, chicken flavored
1 bay leaf
3 cans white hominy (15 ounces each), drained and rinsed
For the red sauce:
4-5 guajillo peppers, cleaned, seeded, and deveined
4-5 ancho peppers, cleaned, seeded, and deveined
4 garlic cloves
1 small white onion, chopped
½ teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
Salt to taste
For the toppings:
shredded iceberg lettuce, or shredded cabbage
finely diced onion
Heat water in a large stock pot.
Add pork meat, onion, garlic, bouillon.
Bring to a boil, then lower heat. Let it simmer for 3 hours until meat is soft and tender.
Be sure to remove the fatty parts from the top of the pot.
Remove pork from broth.
Trim any excess fat off the pork.
Shred meat and cover.
Discard onion and garlic from the broth.
While the meat is cooking, soak the ancho and guajillo chiles in hot water for 30 minutes or until they are soft.
Blend the chiles, garlic cloves, onion, oregano, and 1 cup of the water used to soak the chiles.
Puree mixture until smooth.
Heat oil in a large skillet.
Add the chile puree and salt to taste.
It will splatter. Stir constantly.
Reduce heat to medium.
Simmer for 15 minutes.
Add the sauce to the broth.
Bring it to a boil.
Stir to combine.
Let simmer for 15 minutes.
Add white hominy.
Taste for salt.
Simmer for 10 minutes, or until hominy is heated.
Serve along with toppings.