Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce)

Chiles en Nogada, poblano chiles stuffed with a ground turkey picadillo, covered in a creamy walnut sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. From Puebla, Mexico.

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Photography Credit: Elise Bauer

Recipe updated Nov 14, 2013

Guaymas Restaurant in Tiburon is my favorite Mexican restaurant in Northern California and their Chile Poblano is the best item on the menu. It is a green poblano chili stuffed with a picadillo and covered in a walnut creme sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.

Chiles en Nogada (chilies in walnut sauce) is a classic Mexican dish, and is a specialty of the city of Puebla. Here’s what Diana Kennedy in her seminal The Cuisines of Mexico has to say about the dish:

The recipe is said to have been concocted by the grateful people of Puebla, who were giving a banquet in honor of Don Agustin de Iturbide’s saint’s day, August 28 in 1821. He and his followers had led the final revolt against Spanish domination; as self-proclaimed emperor he had just signed the Treaty of Cordoba. All the dishes at the banquest were concocted of ingredients of the color of the Mexican flag; in this dish were the green chilies, the white sauce, and the red pomegranate seeds.

The classic Mexican dish uses a pork picadillo with dried fruits and spices. Guaymas uses ground chicken. My adaptation of this recipe uses ground turkey. This dish is a bit involved, but the effort is worth it. It really is an extraordinary blend of flavors. If you ever get to Guyamas Restaurant in Tiburon, Mill Valley California, by all means order it! You won’t be disappointed.

Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce) Recipe

  • Prep time: 1 hour, 15 minutes
  • Cook time: 1 hour, 30 minutes
  • Yield: Serves 6.

You must start this dish one day ahead by soaking the walnuts for the nogada sauce overnight.

We are using ground turkey in this recipe, you could also easily use ground chicken or pork.


The Walnut Sauce:

  • 1 heaping cup of shelled walnut halves
  • Milk (about 2 cups)
  • 1/4 lb queso fresco (or farmer's cheese)
  • 1 1/2 cups thick sour cream (or creme fraiche)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

The Chiles:

  • 6 large poblano chiles (use only poblanos, not another type of chile, for this dish)

The Picadillo:

  • 1 1/4 pounds ground turkey thigh meat
  • Kosher salt
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil or canola oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 cup of crushed, fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of golden raisins
  • 2 Tbsp blanched and slivered almonds, roughly chopped
  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, chopped


  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley



1 Remove the papery bitter skins from the walnut pieces. (This is the hard part.) Sometimes the skins easily rub off. I have found that usually, for us, the skins don't easily peel off and we need to blanch them for one minute in boiling water first, to loosen the skins. If you blanch the walnuts, let them cool to the touch and carefully peel off as much of the bitter skins as you can. This is painstaking work, but unless your walnuts are shed of their bitter skins, the sauce may be a bit bitter.

2 Place the walnuts in a bowl, cover them with milk to soak, and chill them overnight in the refrigerator.



Roast the chiles:

3 Place the chiles directly over the flame of a gas stove, or place under a hot broiler, to char the outside tough skin. Turn the chiles to char them on all sides. Get as much of the outside skin blackened as possible, it will be easier to remove that way. (See How to roast chile peppers over a gas flame tutorial using Anaheim chiles.)

4 Place the blackened chiles in a bowl and cover with a plate or damp clean towel and let sit for 20 minutes. The burned skin will then flake off very easily and the flesh will become a little more cooked in the steam. Make a slit in the side of each chili and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the chili, the part around the base of the stem, intact. (A tip from Diana Kennedy: if you taste the chiles and they are too spicy hot, soak them in a mild vinegar and water solution for about 30 minutes.) Rinse the chilies and pat them dry.


Make the walnut sauce:

 5 Drain the walnuts. Place the soaked and drained walnuts, the queso fresco, sour cream, sugar, and cinnamon into a blender and purée until completely smooth.


Make the picadillo stuffing:

6 Heat one tablespoon of the oil in a large wide saucepan on medium high heat. Working in batches to prevent crowding the pan, brown the meat on at least one side, sprinkling the meat with a little kosher salt as it cooks. Add another tablespoon of oil if needed for the subsequent batches. Remove meat to a bowl and set aside.

7 Add a tablespoon of cooking oil to the pan and heat on medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the cinnamon, black pepper, cloves, and garlic and cook another minute.

8 Melt butter in the pan and return the ground meat to the pan and use a wooden spoon to break up any clumps.  Add the crushed tomatoes, golden raisins, and chopped slivered almonds. If the mixture seems a little dry, add a tablespoon or two of water. Add chopped apple to the picadillo mixture. Adjust spices, add more cinnamon, salt, ground cloves to taste (go easy on the cloves, they can overpower).


Assemble the chiles en nogada:

10 Stuff the chilies with the picadillo until they are well filled out. Place them on individual plates or on a serving platter.

11 To serve, cover the stuffed chiles with the walnut sauce and sprinkle with pomegranate arils and chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.

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Vegetarian version of chiles en nogada

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Showing 4 of 27 Comments

  • Vanessa

    A wonderful dish. I used some of your techniques to make my own version of this dish for my own food blog, and it came out delicious! I particularly liked the suggestion to leave the stem part of the chile, as it made the presentation so much nicer. I used Cotija cheese and blue cheese mixed with ground beef spiced with cinnamon as the stuffing, and the combination of the creamy walnut sauce and the pomegranates was magical. Thanks for the great recipe, as always!

  • Marian McWhorter

    I always make this very same recipe for our Christmas dinner in Houston, Texas. It is one of my favorite dishes in the world, BUT, I do hate peeling those walnuts! Does anyone know of a source for buying them already peeled/blanched? I have tried the soaking-overnight method, but it still takes hours and hours to get the skins off. Thos little pickers that go with the old-timey wooden nut bowls help, but nothing helps ENOUGH. Today, I read an article that suggests that you should drop the shelled nuts in boiling water for 2 minutes and then dip them in ice water. I’m going to try that, to see if it’s any better. Also, last year, I was advised to buy FRESH walnuts, and that seemed to help some. I was able to find them at our local Farmer’s Market, and I paid a little extra to have them shelled. No hope for getting them peeled, though.

    Any ideas, Anyone?


  • Vicki

    This sounds so good! One question – it’s supposed to be served room temp, correct?

  • drew

    I had it at Guaymas a couple of weeks ago and the chiles were definitely warm and the sauce was slightly cooler, perhaps just from the chiles. Either way, the dish itself was not room temperature. Great dish and Guaymas was a great restaurant. Best tamales I’ve ever had!!

  • Mark Banks

    Chiles en nogada can be served cold or, preferably, at room temperature. They shouldn’t usually be served warm. This applies to both the chiles and the “nogada” or walnut sauce. If you are using fresh walnuts, you should most definitely peel the skins from the nuts, as the skins will give the sauce a bitter flavor. However, if you are using shelled walnuts from a bag, you can go ahead and use them with the skin and all. The only difference will be a slightly less white sauce with some very small, almost undetectible brown speckles. Hope this helps. Buen provecho!

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Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce)