On a freezing day like today, cook something that will stick to your ribs. One option is the Mexican dish, posole (also spelled pozole).
While Americans eat lots of burritos, enchiladas, tacos and tostadas, not many outside the Southwest are familiar with posole, a dish made from hominy.
Posole means “hominy” in the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs. It’s a cross between soup and stew (here’s the difference between soup and stew).
Hominy, which is cooked like beans, is made from shelled, dried maize (corn) kernels that have been treated with an alkali—lye or lime solution—in a process called nixtamalization, that makes the kernels puff up.
The kernels are then washed to remove the excess solution, the hull, and often the germ. The hominy (photo #3) has a chewy texture and is often likened to the flavor of a corn tortilla.
The Aztecs believed that humans were made out of masa (cornmeal dough) by the corn gods. Since maize (corn) was a sacred plant for the Aztecs and other Mesoamericans, posole was a special-occasion dish.
There’s a gruesome bit about the origin of the dish, in the footnote* below.
Posole was mentioned in the Florentine Codex by Bernardino de Sahagún, a 16th-century Franciscan friar, missionary priest and pioneering ethnographer of the Aztec culture.
In modern times, posole remains a beloved dish throughout Mexico. It is considered festive and and is commonly enjoyed for special occasions—Christmas, Independence Day, weddings, etc.—but can also be dished up whenever you feel like it. You’ll find specialty restaurants called pozolerias in Mexico.
The dish is spelled pozole or posole in different parts of the country.
This recipe for classic Mexican posole (poe-SO-lay) comes to us from Rancho Gordo, our favorite source for dried artisan beans and related products.
It uses dried hominy. Don’t be tempted to use canned hominy: It cooks up with a rubbery or gummy texture.
Posole Rojo is Mexican comfort food, a stew of shredded pork or chicken and hominy in a red chile broth. Aside from the time it takes to soak and cook the hominy, the recipe is easy to make—and it’s loaded with authentic Mexican flavor.
Posole Verde is made with green chiles. Posole Blanco, has no chiles in the broth but is served with a salsa of manzano chiles on the side.
1. HEAT the oil in 5-quart pot over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook until soft. Add the tomato paste, chile powder and oregano, stirring until all ingredients are warmed through and well mixed.
2. ADD 4 cups water, the broth and the posole. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a low simmer and cook for half an hour.
3. ADD the chicken, stir, and then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve in individual bowls with garnishes on the side, so each diner can use his/her favorite toppings.
To Cook Dried Posole
1. SORT through and rinse the posole/hominy. Soak from 6 to 10 hours in cold water, then strain. In a large pot…
2. ADD the soaked posole (about 2 cups), 3 quarts of water and a roughly chopped onion. Bring to a hard boil for about 5 minutes, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer for about 4 hours. The posole will flower, like popcorn, when it’s finished.
*Mesoamerican people conducted ritual human sacrifice. Originally, pozole was made from the meat of prisoners whose hearts had been ripped out in ritual sacrifice. After the Spanish conquest in 1519, cannibalism was banned and the meat in the dish was replaced with pork [source].
†New Mexican red chile powder and Mexican oregano are available from RanchoGordo.com.
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