Pozole Rojo, or "red" pozole, is Mexican comfort food at its finest! This classic Mexican soup will 100% cure all your feel-good food cravings with its simple chile-flavored broth, hearty hominy, and chunky bits of fork-tender pulled pork.
Soul-warming red pozole is traditionally served as a Mexican Christmas Eve dish--it's perfect for feeding a crowd! Whether Pozole Rojo is added to your holiday gathering menu or just another Tuesday night, this dish is for sure to please your people (and their bellies).
WHAT IS POZOLE?
Pozole, meaning cacahuazintle (a variety of corn/hominy/maize), is a traditional pulled pork soup or stew with a hominy base. It can be garnished with toppings of your fancy, such as shredded lettuce or cabbage, green onion, avocado, limes, etc. There are three types of pozole - red (pozole rojo), green (pozole verde), and white (pozole blanco).
You might be thinking that Pozole Roja sounds similar to our Beef Birria (Birria de Res), and it is! Birria is a flavorful stew of meat served with its braising liquid, seasoned with chile peppers.
WHAT IS POZOLE ROJO MADE OF?
- Red Chile Base | So much of the flavor from Pozole Rojo comes from a chile-based sauce made up mostly of dried chilies, onion, garlic, and spices. These ingredients get simmered in water on the stovetop and are blended to create a thick and flavorful pozole base.
- Pork Butt | You can use either a pork butt or a pork shoulder for this recipe. Both cuts come from a thick section of the pig shoulder and are somewhat tough cuts of pork with lots of connective tissue. When this connective tissue is slowly cooked over low heat, it breaks down into an incredibly juicy and flavorful piece of meat.
- Hominy | Hominy comes from maize, also known as field corn. It is mild and somewhat sweet with nutty notes. The texture is creamy, yet somehow simultaneously chewy.
- Broth | Broth is definitely a definitive trait of pozole! Most of the flavor comes from the red chile base. But, you also want to have on hand low-sodium or unsalted chicken broth.
- Spices | We keep our spice list simple for this Pozole Rojo recipe! For the soup itself, you need only Kosher salt, ground cumin, and smoked paprika.
HOW TO MAKE POZOLE
While some Mexican soups call for chicken -- like our Slow Cooker Chicken Taco Soup or Tinga de Pollo (chicken stewed with tomatoes and spices) -- this is 100% a pork pozole. But this recipe doesn't actually start with the pork. Like most flavorful and authentic Mexican recipes, this Pozole Rojo recipe starts with a sauce. A red sauce to be specific.
This sauce takes just under 20 minutes to make and adds so much flavor to the pozole soup. If you feel at all intimidated by the thought of working with dry chiles, please don't! They are extremely easy to handle!
For our recipe, we'll be using Guajillo and ancho chiles. If you'd like to add chiles de Arbol for a kick of spice, feel free to throw in a few!
Rinse and deseed your chiles. Then add them to a saucepan along with water, chopped onion, garlic cloves, and bay leaf. Place the saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.
Then, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Your sauce is ready to come off the stove top as soon as the onions and chiles are fork tender.
Remove the bay leaves and transfer the contents of the saucepan to a blender or food processor fitted with a blade attachment. Add the sugar, Kosher salt, Mexican oregano, and cumin, and secure the lid. Remove the feed tube from your blender or food processor and cover with a dish towel. Blend or process until the ingredients are puréed and your sauce for the Pozole Rojo is very smooth.
Set the chile sauce aside and it's time to move on to the pork butt! Pat the pork butt dry with paper towels to remove any excess moisture from the exterior. This will help the oil and seasoning to stick. Place the pork butt on a work surface and drizzle it with a tablespoon of oil.
Next, sprinkle the pork with Kosher salt, cumin, and smoked paprika. Rub the spices all over the pork butt until they are evenly distributed and set it aside.
In a 5-quart Dutch oven or a large soup pot, add 2 tablespoons of oil. Place the pot over medium-high heat and allow the oil to come to temperature. Add the pork to the pan and allow it to sear until browned and crusted, about 4 minutes. Turn the pork butt over and sear for another 4 minutes.
Add the red chile sauce along with the chicken broth to the pot and allow the soup to come to a simmer. Once the liquid has reached a simmer, reduce the heat to maintain the simmer and place the lid slightly ajar on the pot. Simmer for about 3-½-to-4 hours, turning the pork butt about halfway through the cooking time.
Once the pork is tender and easily breaks apart with a fork, remove it from the pot and transfer it to a work surface. Use two forks to shred it into bite-sized chunks and return the pork to the pot, along with two cans of white hominy that have been drained and rinsed. Simmer for an additional 20-to-30 minutes and season to taste with salt and pepper.
HOW TO SERVE POZOLE
Serve the Pozole Rojo in a bowl. Load it up with cabbage, sliced avocado, sprigs of cilantro, sliced jalapeno, radishes, and fresh lime wedges. Be sure to have corn tortillas and tortilla chips on the side for scooping and dipping! Pozole is as much about the toppings as it is the broth!
Bookmark another Mexican dish that's all about the flavor as well as the toppings: our Beef Barbacoa!
Cocking, Laura. "A Brief History of Pozole, Mexico’s Take on Traditional Stew." Culture Trip, 28 Feb. 2017. A Brief History of Pozole Mexicos Take on... | Culture Trip (theculturetrip.com)
6 MORE MEXICAN DISHES YOU’LL LOVE
Kick all of your comfort food cravings with our take on traditional Pozole Rojo! This easy-to-make, batch-friendly recipe won't disappoint.
- 7 Guajillo chiles stem and seeds removed
- 3 Ancho chiles stem and seeds removed
- 3 ½ cups water
- 1 white onion cut into chunks
- 6 garlic cloves
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1 ½ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 2-3 pounds pork butt/shoulder
- 3 tablespoons canola or avocado oil separated
- 2 teaspoons Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 5 cups unsalted chicken broth
- 2 (15-ounce) cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
- Shredded cabbage
- Sliced white onions
- Sliced radishes
- Mexican oregano
- Fresh chopped cilantro
- Tortilla strips
- Lime wedges
- Chopped avocado
Add the chiles, water, onion, garlic, and bay leaves to a medium-sized saucepan over medium-high heat. Once the mixture reaches a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer.
Stir occasionally and allow to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the onions and chiles are fork tender.
Remove from the heat and discard the bay leaf. Transfer the mixture to a blender or a food processor fitted with a blade attachment, and add the sugar, salt, oregano, and cumin.
Cover, remove the small blender cap or feed tube, cover with a dishtowel, and blend until smooth.
Trim large areas of fat away from the pork butt. Pat the pork butt dry with paper towels. Then, drizzle with 1 tablespoon of avocado oil. Sprinkle over spices and rub to adhere.
Add 2 tablespoons of oil to a 5-quart Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat and allow to come to temperature. Sear the pork for about 4 minutes on one side. Flip and sear about 4 minutes on the other side.
Add the chile base to the pan, along with unsalted chicken broth. Allow to come to a simmer.
Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, place the lid slightly ajar on the Dutch oven, and simmer for 3-½ to 4 hours. Turn the pork butt about halfway through the cooking time.
Once the pork is fork tender and easily falls apart, remove it from the pot and shred it using using two forks. Add the pork back to the pot, along with the hominy and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes more.
Add additional salt and pepper to taste, and serve with your favorite garnishes.