Jul 6, 2010

Vegetarian pozole

I can’t count how many bowls of porkalicious pozole I consumed during my decade in San Francisco.  Now, my arteries prevent me from indulging in that traditional dish. I was skeptical about vegetarian pozole, but after one taste of this version I created, it has rocketed to the top of my list. It gives me that same old pozole thrill!  This is a great party dish, because people enjoy the process of adding all the essential toppings: cilantro, thinly sliced radishes, cabbage, roasted pepitas, avocado and lime. The mix of flavors and textures is simply spectacular.

I started with Rancho Gordo’s recipe and branched out from there. The major enhancement was ground pepitas, which give the dish much more body and depth of flavor. For the hominy, I used RG’s “Prepared Posole,” which is not difficult to cook, but takes some time.  You can substitute canned hominy if you’re in a rush, although you won’t get the same intense corn flavor. Trust me, making pozole from scratch is well worth the effort.

Vegetarian Pozole

1 cup whole dried hominy
2/3 cup roasted, lightly salted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) – half reserved for garnish
1 medium red onion, thickly sliced
1 serrano pepper, stemmed
3 cloves garlic, peeled
12 tomatillos, papery skins removed, rinsed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
1 cup cilantro leaves
1 4-ounce can fire roasted green chiles (Ortega makes these, or use Hatch chiles if you can find them)
4-5 cups vegetable broth (use gluten-free broth if you are gluten-sensitive)
Salt to taste

For garnish:

thinly sliced radishes
cubed avocado
dried Mexican oregano
Roasted pepitas
Very thinly sliced green cabbage
Lime Wedges

Place hominy in a large bowl and cover generously with water.  Soak for 6 hours or overnight, then drain. Place it in a saucepan with water to cover generously, and cook according to the package directions (for Rancho Gordo’s hominy, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, partially covered, until tender, about 2 1/2 to 3 hours.)  Season with a little salt and cool in the liquid.

Bring a pot of water to boil in a saucepan and add the tomatillos.  Simmer until tender, 10-12 minutes. Drain and set aside.

On a hot, dry skillet (cast iron works best), roast the onion, serrano peppers and garlic, turning occasionally until they are nicely charred, about 15 minutes. Remove to a plate to cool.

In the same skillet, toast the ground cumin and the oregano over medium-low heat for one minute, then add the olive oil and cook for an additional minute.

Put the oil/spice mixture, the charred vegetables, 2 cups broth, cilantro, canned green chiles, prepared tomatillos and half the pepitas in a food processor and puree until smooth.

Pour the mixture into a large dutch oven. Add 2 cups additional broth, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add an additional cup of broth if the mixture seems too thick. Season with salt to taste. Add the drained cooked hominy, return to a simmer and serve. Add garnishes to individual bowls.

Serves 4-6


  • I make a posole with lean pork, so it’s actually quite healthy. Your vegetarian version looks wonderful, too!

  • Janet Flemer

    Can’t wait till my tomatillos ripen so I can make this with them.

  • Kate Morris

    Unfortunately some of the ingredients for this one look next to impossible to source in Australia (tomatillos? hominy?). Would polenta work? Substitute tomatoes (green tomatoes?) for tomatillos? European oregano (from the garden?) I miss good quality Mexican-style food, one of my fond memories from my decade living near San Francisco.

  • Welcome, Kate! My first Australian reader (or the first one I know of, anyway.) How exciting.

    I noticed in this egullet.com forum discussion, an Aussie mentioned that canned tomatillos are available there. Those should work, but you wouldn’t need to cook them. http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?/topic/92456-growing-epazote-tomatillo/

    As for hominy, I would guess you could find the canned version of that. But if you want to make it from scratch, email me. Maybe I can send you a bag of hominy and you can send me some Australian delicacy that I can’t get in New York!

  • Janet Flemer

    This was so delicioso! I couldn’t wait for my garden and got most everything needed on 24th St.
    You should do a cookbook, srsly.

  • Rhea Luevano Palos

    Yes you can sub green tomatoes I can’t describe the difference but I have used them to make chili verde and no one could tell the difference. Also if you want an authentic Mexican flavor soak the dried hominy with 2tbs of cal(it’s in the hispanic stores usually spice section) per 5cups of hominy while soaking. Rinse very well before cooking. Oh the flavor. This can also be done in a red version without the tomatillos using dried serano or like chiles roasted first then boil them untill tender and pepitas or almonds(easier) and I prefer bay leaves add tomatoes the last 10 mins or so. Let cool and puree in blender all contents for the base, add hominy to end result and season to taste. Onion, cilantro, jalapenos, lettuce and lime are my favorite toppings.

  • Jennifer

    @ Rhea….what is “cal”?

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    I was wondering the same thing! I looked it up and it’s a type of mineral lime (aka pickling lime). However, it seems to be a bit tricky to use safely. See this post on my friend Johanna’s blog: http://lowsodiumblog.com/2011/06/from-the-andean-fields-to-table-hominy-mote-maize-andeanincan-corn/

  • Jennifer

    Thank you very much! Interesting….I think I’ll pass on that step for now :) I’m soaking away!

  • Shanna

    I just made this soup over the weekend and it is amazing. I am a bit disappointed that I had to share with my guests because I didn’t have any leftovers. I am wondering if you think it would be ok to make a bathc and freeze some of it for another time?

  • whatwouldcathyeat

    Glad you liked it, Shanna. I guess you could freeze it but I have a feeling you’d lose some of the fresh herb-y flavor of the cilantro. Worth a try, though!

  • Lisa Nameche

    Thank you for this…I’ve just begun eating vegetarian and was wondering how I was going to cook my annual Pozole without pork.

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