Much of what we know about Aztec customs is thanks to Bernardino de Sahagún (1499-1590), a Franciscan friar, missionary priest, scholar and ethnographer who traveled to New Spain* (current-day Mexico) after its conquest. Arriving in 1529, he learned the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs and spent more 61 years documenting their beliefs, culture and history.
He wrote extensively about Aztec cuisine. This article focuses on pozole (poe-SOE-leh, and often spelled posole in the U.S.), a hearty soup or stew made of hominy, meat, chiles and other seasonings.
The dish has either a red or green color depending on the chiles used for the soup base; there’s also white pozole. In addition to the traditional pork, later variations used beans, beef, chicken and seafood.
Pozole† is actually the Aztec word for hominy, corn that is hulled (the bran and germ have been removed) by bleaching the whole kernels in a lye bath (called nixtamalization).
In Sahagún’s time, pozole was cooked only on special occasions. Later, it became a popular holiday and “Saturday night” dish.
Pork pozole, garnished with cabbage,
cilantro, lime and radishes. Photo courtesy Chef Ingrid Hoffmann.
Today, pozole is customized by each individual at the table, with garnishes that include avocado, cilantro, diced red onion, lime or lemon wedges, oregano, radishes, salsa, shredded cabbage, sour cream and tortilla chips or tostadas.
NOTE: Don’t confuse pozole with pozol, a porrige-like drink made from fermented corn dough.
*After an 11-year struggle for independence, New Spain became the sovereign nation of Mexico in 1821.
†Also spelled posole, pozolé and pozolli; the original Nahuatl spelling is name is potzolli.
Beef Pozole With Red Chiles (Pozole Rojo)
Green Pozole With Chicken (Pozole Verde)
Red Pozole With Chicken (Pozole Rojo)
Red Pozole With Pork (Pozole Rojo)
Shrimp & Scallop Pozole (Pozole Blanco)
Vegetarian Pozole With Beans (Vegan Pozole Rojo)
White Pozole With Chicken (Pozole Blanco)
CLASSIC POZOLE RECIPES
Pozole-Stuffed Grilled Onions
A modern variation:
Pozole interpreted as a salad, for a first course or side. Photo courtesy Hannah Kaminsky | Bittersweet Blog.
Today we feature a vegan pozole salad from Hannah Kamimsky of Bittersweet Blog. It is intended as a first course or a side dish.
RECIPE: POZOLE SALAD
Ingredients For 8 Side Servings
2 pints cherry or grape tomatoes
1/2 cup red onion, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 Savoy cabbage ((1-1/4 pounds), shredded
1 can (29-ounces) cooked white hominy kernels (not hominy grits), drained and rinsed
2 ripe avocados, diced
1 jalapeño, seeded and finely minced
For The Cilantro Dressing
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup sundried tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup fresh lime juice (2-3 limes depending on size and juiciness)
1-1/2 tablespoons chili powder
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon light agave nectar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil
1. PREHEAT the oven to 425°F. Toss the cherry tomatoes and onion with the olive oil and oregano, and spread them in one even layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 15-25 minutes, until the tomatoes are blistered and beginning to burst. Let cool. Meanwhile…
2. PREPARE the dressing: Add the cilantro, sundried tomatoes and garlic to a food processor or blender, and slowly pour in the lime juice while running the machine on low. Thoroughly purée, pausing to scrape down the sides of the bowl or blender jar as needed. Once the purée is mostly smooth, add the agave, chili powder, cumin and salt next, and drizzle in the olive oil (with the motor running) to emulsify.
3. TOSS together the tomatoes and onions, cabbage, hominy, avocados, and jalapeños in a large bowl. Pour the dressing on top and toss to coat. Chill for at least an hour before serving to allow the flavors to fully meld.