Mexico Life
Poblano peppers' shape makes them perfect for stuffing.

The iconic poblano pepper can be stuffed just like any bell pepper

The only tricky bit is roasting and peeling the waxy skin

Today I thought we’d talk about that most iconic of Mexican vegetables, the poblano pepper. I confess that until I moved to Mexico I’d never given them a second thought other than ordering chiles rellenos once in a while. They just weren’t something I ever thought about cooking myself.

Now poblanos are a regular part of my diet. I get them at my local farmers market when I can, but they’re also readily available in every tiendita, mercado and grocery store.

It was on a farm tour, actually, that I first saw poblanos growing: acres and acres of them interplanted with corn at Chuy Lizarraga’s big organic farm north of Mazatlán. And I can tell you this: on the plant, they look exactly like they do in the store: The skin is bright green and shiny, they’re quite big and so identical it’s kind of weird.

Did you know poblano peppers originated in the state of Puebla? Hence the name: poblanos is what residents of Puebla are called. When dried, the peppers are called ancho or chile ancho, from the Spanish word for wide, and you can buy them by the kilo or ground into powder.

It’s that shape and their mild flavor that make poblanos perfect for stuffing, and chances are you’ve had them in Chiles en Nogada, a complex dish traditionally served around Mexican Independence Day because of its green, white and red ingredients that duplicate the colors of the Mexican flag.

Shiny green poblano peppers on the vine.
Shiny green poblano peppers on the vine.

Use poblanos to stuff just as you would bell peppers; they’re just a bit spicier. What’s a little tricky is roasting and peeling them to remove the naturally waxy skin and make them easier to work with, but after you’ve done it once or twice it will be easy as pie.

It’s actually very simple, especially if you have a gas stove. Using tongs, char the peppers over the flame until blackened on all sides. If using a broiler, cook, turning frequently. Enclose in paper or a plastic bag for about 10 minutes; the steam will make the skins easier to peel off. Peel peppers, then carefully slit them open on one side. Remove seeds, leaving stems attached.

Carole’s Shrimp-Stuffed Poblano Peppers

These can be prepared a day ahead. Just wrap well and refrigerate before baking.

  • 8 large poblano peppers
  • ½ lb. small cooked shrimp, coarsely chopped
  • 2/3 cup (about 4 oz.) soft goat cheese
  • ½ cup packed shredded Chihuahua or Jack cheese
  • ¼ cup chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped shallots
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil + a few leaves for garnish
  • Salt & pepper
  • Red Bell Pepper Sauce (recipe below.)

Roast and peel poblanos and red bell peppers. (See above.) Carefully slit poblano peppers open on one side. Remove seeds, leaving stems attached. Seed, and coarsely chop bell peppers; use in recipe below. Mix shrimp, goat cheese, shredded cheese, bell pepper, shallots or onions, cilantro and basil in medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Fill peppers with shrimp mixture. Place on baking sheet. Bake uncovered in 350-degree oven until heated through and cheeses melt, about 15 minutes. Serve with Red Bell Pepper Sauce, below.

Stuffed poblano peppers with sauce.
Stuffed poblano peppers with sauce.

Red Bell Pepper Sauce

  • 2 large red bell peppers
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup chopped shallots
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 serrano chili or jalapeño, seeded, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable or chicken broth
  • Salt & pepper

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, garlic and chile; sauté until shallots are tender, about 5 minutes. Cool slightly. Transfer mixture to blender; add bell peppers and broth. Puree until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. –epicurious.com

Pork Chili Verde

  • 6 poblano peppers
  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 ½ lbs. pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 2 Tbsp. chile powder
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • ¼ tsp. ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • Optional toppings: sour cream, shredded Chihuahua cheese, crumbled tortilla chips and lime wedges

Roast and peel poblanos. (See above.) Remove and discard stems and seeds and finely chop. Set aside. In a large pot, heat butter over medium heat. Brown pork in batches. Remove with a slotted spoon. In same pan, add red peppers, onion and jalapeño; cook, covered, over medium heat 8-10 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Stir in chile powder, garlic, salt and nutmeg. Add broth, roasted poblanos and pork; bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer, uncovered, 10-15 minutes or until pork is tender. Serve with toppings as desired.- tasteofhome.com

Tomatillo-Poblano Sauce

A delicious mildly spicy sauce that’s great on fish, chicken or enchiladas.

  • 8-10 fresh tomatillos
  • 3 large poblano peppers, roasted, peeled & seeded
  • 1 jalapeño, roasted, seeds removed
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock
  • ½ cup lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
  • Salt to taste

Peel husks off tomatillos and rinse well. In medium saucepan, cover tomatillos with water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes. Drain, leaving tomatillos in pan. Add chiles, garlic and stock; simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Cool. Carefully pureé in blender with cilantro. Remove to a bowl and season with salt. – “More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden,” Renee Shepherd

Cheesy Poblano Corn Pudding

A guaranteed crowd-pleaser!

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 1 cup milk
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 3 eggs
  • ¼ cup flour
  • ¼ cup butter, melted and cooled
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 (16 oz.) package frozen corn
  • 1 cup shredded sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped fresh chives (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 F. Roast peppers (See above.) Remove stems, seeds and skin and roughly chop. Lower oven to 350 and butter a 1½-quart baking dish. Whisk milk, cream, eggs, flour, butter and salt together in a bowl; stir in corn, Cheddar cheese, and roasted peppers. Pour corn mixture into prepared dish. Bake until slightly puffed, golden around the edges and set, 45 minutes to an hour. Garnish with chives. –allrecipes.com

Janet Blaser of Mazatlán, Sinaloa, has been a writer, editor and storyteller her entire life and feels fortunate to write about great food, amazing places, fascinating people and unique events. Her work has appeared in numerous travel and expat publications as well as newspapers and magazines. Her first book, Why We Left: An Anthology of American Women Expats, is available on Amazon. Contact Janet or read her blog at whyweleftamerica.com.

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