Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce)

This chiles en nogada recipe is a special occasion Mexican dish from Puebla. Ours is made with roasted poblano chilies stuffed with a ground turkey picadillo, covered in a creamy walnut sauce, and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. It's an extraordinary blend of flavors.

Elise Bauer

Chiles en Nogada (chiles in walnut sauce) is a classic Mexican dish and is a specialty of the city of Puebla. It is a green poblano chile stuffed with a picadillo and covered in a walnut creme sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds.

History of Chiles en Nogada

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 chiles, the white sauce, and the red pomegranate seeds.

Variations on Picadillo

The classic Mexican dish uses a pork picadillo with dried fruits and spices. Guaymas, a restaurant in Tiburon, California, where I used to order it, used 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. You won't be disappointed.

Recipe updated Nov 14, 2013

Chiles en Nogada (Chilis in Walnut Sauce) Recipe
Elise Bauer

More Background on Chiles en Nogada

In Mexico, this dish commonly contains the colors of their flag — green from the chiles, white from the sauce, and red from the pomegranate seeds — and is served on the country's Independence Day, September 16. Some consider it the national dish of Mexico.

Variations on Chiles en Nogada

Apples and golden raisins accompany the ground meat in this recipe, but pear, peach, or plantains will work, too. While not authentic, almonds or pecans can sub for the walnuts.

For a crisp version, dip the stuffed chiles in batter and fry them.

More Classic Mexican Recipes To Try

From the Editors Of Simply Recipes

Chiles en Nogada (Chilies in Walnut Sauce)

Prep Time 75 mins
Cook Time 90 mins
Soaking walnuts overnight 8 hrs
Total Time 10 hrs 45 mins
Servings 6 servings

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.

Ingredients

The Walnut Sauce:

  • 1 heaping cup shelled walnut halves

  • Milk (about 2 cups)

  • 1/4 pound queso fresco (or farmer's cheese)

  • 1 1/2 cups thick sour cream (or creme fraiche)

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon 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 tablespoons olive oil or canola oil

  • 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped

  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

  • 1 tablespoon butter

  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

  • 1 cup crushed, fire roasted tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup golden raisins

  • 2 tablespoons blanched and slivered almonds, roughly chopped

  • 1 apple, peeled, cored, chopped

Garnish:

  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds

  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro or parsley

Method

The Night Before

  1. Remove the walnut skins:

    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 1 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.

    chiles-en-nogada-1
    Elise Bauer
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  2. Soak the walnuts overnight:

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

    soaking walnuts for chiles en nogada sauce
    Elise Bauer

    The Day Of

    Roast the chiles:

  3. Char the chiles:

    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.

    charring chiles on gass stove
    Elise Bauer
    charred chiles on gas stove for chiles en nogada
    Elise Bauer
  4. Remove the skins:

    Place the blackened chiles in a bowl, 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 so the skin will flake/peel off easily. Discard the skin.

    steaming charred peppers to remove skin for chiles en nogada
    Elise Bauer
    pepper ready for peeling for chiles en nogada recipe
    Elise Bauer
  5. Remove the seeds:

    Make a slit in the side of each chile and carefully remove the seeds and veins. Be careful to leave the top of the chile, the part around the base of the stem, intact. Rinse the chiles and pat them dry.

    Simple Tip!

    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.)

    removing seeds for Mexican chiles en nogada
    Elise Bauer
    Seeds removed from pepper for Mexican chiles en nogada
    Elise Bauer

    Make the walnut sauce:

  6. Blend sauce ingredients:

    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.

    chiles-en-nogada sauce ingredients in blender
    Elise Bauer
    chiles en nogada recipe sauce
    Elise Bauer

    Make the picadillo stuffing:

  7. Brown the ground turkey:

    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.

    chiles-en-nogada-13
    Elise Bauer
    chiles-en-nogada-14
    Elise Bauer
  8. Sauté the onion and add the seasonings:

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

    chiles-en-nogada-15
    Elise Bauer
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  9. Add the butter, return the turkey, and add tomatoes, raisins, almonds, and apples:

    Melt butter in the pan and return the ground meat to the pan, using use wooden spoon to break up any clumps.

    chiles-en-nogada-17
    Elise Bauer

    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).

    chiles-en-nogada-18
    Elise Bauer

    Assemble the chiles en nogada:

  10. Stuff the chiles:

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

    chiles-en-nogada-19
    Elise Bauer
  11. To serve, cover the stuffed chiles with the walnut sauce and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped fresh parsley or cilantro.

    chiles-en-nogada-20
    Elise Bauer
Nutrition Facts (per serving)
669 Calories
47g Fat
33g Carbs
33g Protein
Show Full Nutrition Label Hide Full Nutrition Label
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 6
Amount per serving
Calories 669
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 47g 60%
Saturated Fat 16g 79%
Cholesterol 159mg 53%
Sodium 396mg 17%
Total Carbohydrate 33g 12%
Dietary Fiber 4g 14%
Total Sugars 24g
Protein 33g
Vitamin C 19mg 93%
Calcium 360mg 28%
Iron 3mg 16%
Potassium 803mg 17%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate. In cases where multiple ingredient alternatives are given, the first listed is calculated for nutrition. Garnishes and optional ingredients are not included.