This authentic chile relleno recipe is a traditional Mexican dish of flavorful chiles stuffed with cheese, battered and fried, then smothered in a homemade sauce.
This recipe was originally posted in June of 2018. Updated March 2021 to correct a typo in the frying temperature (which should be 365F), and to reduce the water in the sauce. While most of the chefs I talked with use a 5 cups of water and simmer it down over 45 minutes to an hour, I know it has turned out too watery for a lot of you. So I reduced the water to 4 cups.
I’ve talked through this recipe with several chefs from our trips to Mexico, and know it’s the real deal. While there are a lot steps to making chile rellenos, it only takes about an hour and the end result is an impressive explosion of flavor and texture that is well worth the effort.
WHAT IS CHILE RELLENO?
Chile relleno is a chile pepper that is stuffed, battered, and fried. The original chile relleno was often stuffed with meat. In current Mexican cuisine, chile rellenos are typically stuffed with cheese and served with a tomato based sauce.
WHAT KIND OF PEPPER IS USED IN CHILE RELLENO?
You can use either anaheim peppers or poblano peppers to make chile relleno. Just go with whatever pepper is easily available to you.
If you have both options, choose the pepper that matches the flavor and level of heat you would like.
We use poblano peppers because I find the shape really easy to work with.
ARE POBLANO CHILES SPICY?
Poblano chiles have low levels of capsaicin, so they are lower on the scoville scale (1,000-2,000) which measures the spiciness of chiles. This mild chile is also called ancho chile when dried.
The anaheim pepper is a bit sweeter than a poblano, but has a wide range of spiciness (500-2,500). So the mildest anaheim pepper will be less spicy than the mildest poblano, but the hottest anaheim will be more spicy than the hottest poblano.
Here is a Scoville Scale chart if you’d like a guide to how spicy peppers are.
We typically choose poblano peppers so our kids don’t get an anaheim on the hotter end.
For reference, both poblanos and anaheim peppers are milder than jalapenos which are 2,500-5,000 on the scoville scale. I use a jalapeno in the chile relleno sauce so the sauce is a bit spicier than than the stuffed peppers.
HOW TO MAKE CHILE RELLENOS
Making chile relleno involves three main parts:
- Roasting, brining, and stuffing the poblano peppers.
- Making chile relleno sauce.
- Coating stuffed peppers in chile relleno batter and frying.
HOW DO I ROAST POBLANO PEPPERS?
Roasting your poblano peppers is actually quite easy. You can use an open flame or grill, or just roast them under the broiler.
- Keep the stems on your peppers and place them under a hot broiler. Broil each side until it’s evenly blackened and blistered all over.
- Use a towel, hot pads, or coated tongs (so you don’t tear the peppers) to remove the peppers and immediately place them in ziploc bags, or wrap well in plastic wrap. This step helps the peppers finish softening and makes the skin easy to remove.
- After a few minutes, pull the pepper out and remove the skins (they should slide right off).
- Cut a small slit vertically into the side of the pepper and hold it under running water to wash the seeds out. (Such an easy way to remove the seeds!)
If your pepper tears, don’t panic. The chile relleno batter works like a glue and can hold it together.
BRINING PEPPERS FOR CHILE RELLENO
Brining your peppers is an important step because it adds a LOT of flavor to the chile rellenos. The brine is a simple mix of salt and vinegar in water. Just a few minutes of soaking the roasted peppers helps to really bring out the flavors of the peppers.
HOW TO MAKE CHILE RELLENO SAUCE
Chile relleno sauce is a spicy, aromatic, tomato based sauce that’s pretty easy to make at home. You can even make it a day or two in advance and reheat to serve.
- Start by prepping your vegetables. You need to finely chop a medium yellow onion, and four cloves of garlic. This is really easy in a food processor too.
- You’ll also need to make 1 1/2 cups of pureed roma tomatoes. Romas are the oval shaped tomatoes, also called paste tomatoes, and are perfect for the sauce because they have a higher flesh ratio than other tomatoes. I use around 6 roma tomatoes depending on how big they are. Puree them in the food processor and leave them in there to add the other ingredients as you’re ready.
- Heat 1/3 cup corn oil in a large saucepan on medium high heat, and add the garlic and onion, cooking until translucent.
- Mix in 1/3 cup of flour and spread the mixture evenly in the pan, stirring and cooking until it is golden brown.
- Scrape the onion and garlic roux into the food processor with the pureed tomatoes, and add a seeded jalapeno. Process it until everything is pureed finely.
- Pour that sauce back into the same saucepan, and add 4 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt.
- Crush a teaspoon and a half of Mexican oregano between your fingers and add it along with a pinch of ground cinnamon, a pinch of ground cloves, and a bay leaf.
- Bring the sauce to a boil while whisking constantly, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 45 minutes. Keep a lid on the pot while simmering, but slightly vented so steam can escape.
You can stuff and fry the peppers while the sauce is simmering.
STUFFING POBLANO PEPPERS
Choose what cheese you’d like to stuff your peppers with. We prefer cheddar, because we always have it on hand, but monterey jack cheese works well too.
- Slice your cheese into sticks that will fit inside your peppers.
- Slip the cheese sticks into each pepper and overlap the edges of the peppers slit slightly.
- If you have any tears in your chile, overlap those as well.
- Place 1/3 cup of flour into a sifter and carefully dust all sides of each stuffed pepper so they are covered completely in flour.
Before you start on your batter, heat 2 cups of canola oil (I have also used avocado oil) in an electric skillet or deep fryer to 365 degrees F. I have also done this in a Dutch oven on the stove with a candy thermometer, you just need to monitor closely so the temperature stays at 365 F.
CHILE RELLENO BATTER
The chile relleno batter is simply made from eggs. The key is to beat the egg whites separate from the egg yolks so you get a stiff egg batter that is almost like a frosting.
- Start by separating your whites and yolks into two medium bowls.
- Add a pinch of salt to the egg whites. Beat the whites with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Add a tablespoon of flour and 3/4 teaspoon of salt to the egg yolks, and beat until completely mixed.
- Add the egg yolks to the egg whites, and carefully use a spatula to fold the yolks in. You want the batter to stay nice and fluffy.
- Carefully frost a flour coated stuffed pepper in the chile relleno batter. You can use a spatula to get it completely coated, and especially to cover any tears.
- Hold the chile by the stem and carefully lower it into the hot oil. You can repeat with additional chiles, but don’t fry more than three at a time.
- Fry for about 5 minutes, turning once with a spatula or mesh frying skimmer, until the chile is golden all over.
- Remove carefully with a mesh skimmer or coated tongs, and place between paper towels to drain.
- You can keep the chiles warm on a baking sheet in the oven on the lowest setting, or reheat them individually in the microwave for about 10-15 seconds.
HOW TO SERVE CHILE RELLENO
Place a big pool of your tomato chile sauce on the plate, and place a chile relleno in the center of it.
Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of chopped cilantro.
MORE AUTHENTIC MEXICAN RECIPES
Make sure you check out our Traditional Carne Asada Tacos Recipe. It’s another authentically delicious Mexican dinner recipe!
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PRINTABLE CHILE RELLENO RECIPE
CHILE RELLENO SAUCE
- 1/3 cup corn oil
- 1 medium onion, peeled and quartered
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1/3 cup flour
- 6 roma tomatoes
- 1 seeded and stemmed jalapeno pepper
- 4 cups water, not broth!
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 1/2 teaspoons Mexican oregano, crushed between your fingers
- 1/4 teaspoon finely ground black pepper
- 1 bay laurel leaf
- 1 pinch ground cinnamon
- 1 pinch ground cloves
- 6 large poblano chiles, fresh
- 4 cups water
- 4 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup white vinegar
- 6 ounces mild cheddar cheese
CHILE RELLENO BATTER
- 2 cups canola oil, for frying
- 6 separated eggs
- 1/2 cup flour, plus one tablespoon for egg batter
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- sour cream
- fresh cilantro
TO MAKE THE SAUCE
- Heat 1/3 cup corn oil in a medium saucepan over medium-low heat.
- Finely chop the onion and garlic in a food processor.
- Saute the onion and garlic mixture in corn oil until translucent and golden, and almost caramelized. This will take at least 10 minutes.
- Mix the 1/3 cup flour into the onions and garlic, and stir cooking until flour is lightly browned.
- Place the Roma tomatoes in a food processor and puree. You should have about 1 1/2 cups pureed tomatoes.
- Add the jalapeno pepper and onion/garlic/flour mixture from saucepan into the food processor with the tomatoes. Make sure to submerge the onion and garlic roux into the puree.
- Process everything until all the ingredients are finely pureed.
- Pour that sauce back into the same saucepan, and add 5 cups of water and 2 teaspoons of salt.
- Crush a teaspoon and a half of Mexican oregano between your fingers and add it along with the fresh ground pepper, bay leaf, a pinch of ground cinnamon, and a pinch of ground cloves.
- Bring mixture to a boil while whisking.
- Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for about 45 minutes, or until you have a nice thick sauce. Cover the saucepan slightly vented so steam can escape, and whisk the sauce occasionally.
- You can keep the sauce warm over lowest heat, whisking as needed to refresh consistency until served, or reheat and stir before serving.
- Keep the pepper stems intact and place on a grill or under broiler cooking on each side until evenly blistered and slightly blackened.
- Immediately place the peppers into a large plastic bag and allow to steam for about three minutes.
- Carefully slide the skin off of each pepper and discard.
- Cut a slit lengthwise down the side of each pepper (you need it just big enough to slip a stick of cheese in.
- Carefully cup each pepper with one hand and gently run water into the slit to flush out the seeds.
- Combine 4 cups water, 4 teaspoons salt, and 1/3 cup white vinegar, and soak the chiles in this brine for a few minutes.
- Cut your cheese into 6 long thin sticks.
- Remove chiles from brine and blot dry with paper towels.
- Stuff each chile with one cheese stick by slipping into the pepper slit. Don't panic if you tear a chile, flour and the egg batter will seal it up.
CHILE RELLENO BATTER
- Pour 2 cups oil into an electric wok or an electric skillet and set heat control to 365°F. If you're confident in the kitchen, feel free to use a heavy duty pot on the stove with a thermoteter to monitor your temperature.
- Measure 1/2 cup flour into a sifter or fine mesh collander and dust each of the chiles well with flour on all sides. For torn chiles, apply some extra flour at the seam then slightly overlap the tear.
- Beat egg whites and a pinch of salt with an electric mixer until stiff peaks form.
- Beat egg yolks in another bowl with one tablespoon flour and 3/4 teaspoon salt.
- Pour the yolk mixture into the beaten egg whites and fold together lightly but thoroughly (with a rubber spatula) while keeping the whites fluffy.
- Use a rubber spatula "frost" a stuffed and floured chile.
- Hold chile by the stem and place carefully into the hot oil. Repeat with additional chiles, frying only 2 or 3 at a time.
- Fry the chiles until golden on all sides, turning once with a skimmer or coated tongs until done. It takes about 5 minutes to fry completely.
- Drain the peppers between paper towels. If not serving immediately, you can reheat them individually in a microwave for 15-20 seconds.
- Make a pool of warm sauce on the plate and add a chile. Top with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkling of fresh chopped cilantro.
Serving Size:6 Servings
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 466Saturated Fat: 9gCholesterol: 193mgSodium: 2882mgCarbohydrates: 24gFiber: 3gSugar: 5gProtein: 16g