Chiles en Nogada is without a doubt one of the most iconic dishes of Mexican cuisine, full of color, flavor, and history. Our vegan chile en nogada is a roasted poblano pepper filled with a fragrant lentil picadillo studded with figs, apples, pears, plantains, and almonds. Then, it’s bathed in a creamy walnut-sherry sauce, and finally topped with pomegranate arils. You’ll find this chile en nogada recipe makes meals festive.
A History of Chile en Nogada
Legend says, that chiles en nogada was created by the nuns of the Santa Monica Convent in Puebla, Mexico. In 1821, Mexican independence from Spain had just been won, and the Treaty of Cordoba signed. The general and soon-to-be emperor, Agustin de Iturbide, was in Puebla and stopped by to visit the convent. In his honor, the nuns created this patriotic masterpiece which lives on to this day.
In reality, food historians think that this dish existed before then, but as a dessert. Mexican nuns were famous for their sweet creations, and somewhere along the way the filling was changed and transformed to make it more savory. Today, chiles en nogada is a seasonal dish, served from August to early October throughout the country. However, It is most popular in September, served as a way of celebrating Mexico’s independence which is on September 16th for the colors of the Mexican flag represented on the plate.
About the Chile en Nogada Recipe
This has got to be one of the most controversial recipes in all of Mexico. There are countless discussions every year on who is making the most authentic or traditional version of this dish. Some claim that the chile has to be battered and fried, while others say that it must be roasted.
The filling is also a source of controversy, debates ensue on whether a certain type of fruit must be used or whether the original version has acitrón, which is a candied fruit made from a cactus that is endangered. Another point of contention is whether or not to peel the walnuts. Peeling the walnuts is a very time-consuming process, but the result is a smooth white sauce. That being said, an equally delicious, but not as smooth sauce can be made with soaked unpeeled walnuts.
In this vegan version, we use both Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid Mission Figs and Golden Figs for the subtle flavor differences and colors they bring to the final filling. Regardless of which version you make, the combination of sweet, savory, and tart, and the beautiful contrast of green, red, and white will conquer your heart. A heart that will sing ¡viva Mexico and its beautiful cuisine!
Expert Tricks and Tips
- Make sure your walnuts are fresh. Fresh walnuts are easier to peel. For easy peeling, pour boiling water over your walnuts and let soak overnight. Drain and use a paring knife to scrape off as much of the peel as possible.
- To roast your peppers, char peppers directly on the gas stove burner on high until they are black and blistered. Place them in a bowl and cover them with plastic wrap. Let them rest for five minutes, then peel.
- You can also roast poblano peppers in the oven, by placing them on a sheet tray and under the broiler set on HI, turning them frequently until they are completely charred.
- The sauce is meant to be served at room temperature. Make it a couple of minutes before serving the dish and pour on top of the hot peppers.
- You can store the leftover chiles and filling in the fridge for up to three days.
Vegan Chile en Nogada Recipe
- 1 cup walnuts
- 4 large poblano chiles
- 3 Roma tomatoes
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 cup chopped white onion
- 3 garlic cloves , minced
- 2 1/2 cups cooked lentils , drained (about 1 cup uncooked)
- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1/4 cup diced pear
- 1/4 cup diced apple , peeled
- 3/4 cup diced green plantain , peeled
- 1/4 cup slivered almonds
- 1/3 cup chopped Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Mission Dried Figs
- 1/3 cup chopped Orchard Choice or Sun-Maid California Golden Figs
- 8 Manzanilla olives , quartered
- 1 cup vegetable stock
- Salt to taste
- Previously soaked walnuts
- 1 cup soymilk or almondmilk , unsweetened
- 1 cup diced baguette or bolillo , crust cut off
- 1 teaspoon sugar (or sweetener of choice)
- 1 teaspoon sherry
- Salt to taste
- 1 pomegranate , cut, peeled and seeds removed
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Place walnuts in a heat-proof bowl and pour boiling water over them. Let soak overnight.
- Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil and place the tomatoes and poblano peppers on it. Turn the oven broiler to high and place the sheet tray on the top rack of the oven. Let them char for a couple of minutes on each side until the tomato and the chiles begin to soften and are black all over. Remove the peppers and tomatoes from the oven. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rest 5 minutes.
- Remove half of the skin off of the tomatoes and, using a blender, process them into a puree. Set aside.
- Remove the plastic wrap from the bowl, and peel the poblano peppers. This can be done by simply pulling on the skin, or using a paring knife to scrape the skin off. Make a cut lengthwise with a knife, and remove the seeds. Set aside.
Make the Lentil Picadillo
- In a large Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium and stir in the onion. Cook until onion begins to soften and become translucent, 5 – 6 minutes. Stir in garlic and cook for 2 more minutes.
- Decrease the heat to low. Stir in cooked lentils. Using a potato masher, mash the lentils until they begin to break apart, but are not completely pureed. Pour in tomato puree and simmer until the puree begins to bubble and change to a darker red color, 3 – 4 minutes. Add clove, cinnamon, black pepper, pear, apple, plantain, almonds, figs, and olives. Stir to combine.
- Add 1 cup of vegetable stock, and simmer until the plantain is cooked through, 20 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Make the Nogada Sauce
- In a small bowl combine the bread and soy milk, let soak for 5 minutes. Drain the previously soaked walnuts, and place in the blender with the soaked bread and milk, sugar, and sherry and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt. It should have the consistency of a cream sauce. If it is too thick, add more almond milk. Set aside.
Assemble Chiles en Nogada
- Stuff the chiles rellenos with the lentil picadillo. Place the chiles seam side down on a plate. Pour walnut sauce over them, and sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and chopped parsley.
Recipe and photos by Dora StoneNOTES:
- Do not heat the walnut sauce. Instead of lentils, you could use TVP, beefless crumbles, or jackfruit.
- If you prefer to peel the walnuts, drain the previously soaked walnuts, and using a knife scrape off as much of the skin as you possibly can. Then add to the blender.