Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Pozole – Sans Pigs Head

mason made pozole

One of my slightly obsessive long-term projects is veganizing traditional Mexican cooking. I'm not talking about greasy, cheesy tex-mex or "Baja-inspired" California fresh-mex. I mean real, traditionally-prepared Mexican home-cooking. In the pursuit of this, I've made some slamming corn sopes (both spicy/savory and sweet), gorditas, salsa and guacamole. Additionally, Megan's handmade flour tortillas are of the finest quality.

Not in any way being of latin descent, my information in this endeavor comes via Rick Bayless (no, it's not cheating - he's the expert) and an amazing site called Rolly's Mexican Kitchen. Chronicling the family foodways of a Mexican-American ex-pat named Rolly Brook, now retired back to Mexico and living with his extended family, Rolly’s work on real Mexican home cooking is (from my web research) unparalleled.

In preparing for the now regular "Taco Bar" (my mother's words, not mine) xmas eve at my parent’s house, I decided to try my hand at pozole, or hominy stew. I pulled from a number of other web resources obtained by searching "vegetarian pozole", but there's just not much out there.

Traditionally, pozole is a hominy based stew made with pork stock obtained by simmering a pig’s head in a large pot for five hours. Clearly, I'm not all that interested boiling animal skulls, so I've substituted chickpeas (or garbanzos, if you like) and Meg's veggie stock. Some alternative recipes I looked at used pinto or black beans, but I prefer chickpeas, and they’re just as traditional and proper an ingredient.

Vegan Pozole
(easy way - tested and guaranteed, but a touch of a cheat):

Chile Colorado (pot #1 – 4 quart pot):
Dried Chilies - 4 ancho, 2 pasilla, 2 gaujllo, 2 arbol (bought from the local supermercado, about $1.25)
1 onion, quartered
1 head of garlic (not a single clove, a whole head - trust me)
2 tbsp dried mex oregano
1 dried bay leaf
2 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp salt
2 quarts water

Soup Base (pot #2 - giant stock pot):

2 giant cans White Mexican Style Hominy
1 giant can garbanzo beans
1 quart veggie stock (homemade is better, if using store bought, use less salt)
1/4 cup Braggs Liquid Aminos
2 tbsp olive oil (seems like a lot, I know, but this makes A LOT of soup)
1 tbsp salt (maybe more, maybe less - the hominy soaks up A LOT of it)

Ensalada (to top):

lime quarters
finely diced white onion & chiffonaded epazote (dressed with lime juice)
finely sliced cabbage (dressed with olive oil and lime juice)
julienned radishes or turnips
sliced avocado
finely chopped cilantro (if you like)

Seed the chilies, discard their tops and tear them into medium size pieces. Wear gloves if you're skin is super sensitive. Only the arbols are very hot, but always take precautions when working with hot peppers. Skin and quarter the onion then peel all the garlic cloves and cut them in 1/2. Put the chilies, onion, garlic, salt and herbs in a pot with the water and boil until the onion and peppers are completely soft.

While this boiling, open the cans of hominy and garbanzos. Drain the packing water and rinse the contents thoroughly. Dump the cans in the large stock pot along with the veggie stock, the brags, the salt and the veggie stock. Set this on medium heat to simmer.

Remove the chile sauce from the heat, fish out the bay leaf and pour into your blender. (You'll probably have to do this in two batches, unless you have the world's largest blender). Blend until totally smooth. If you have a Vitamix like we do, you won't need to strain this chili liquid. If you have a regular blender, you'll need to use a medium coarse strainer to get out all of the woody bits of oregano and the tough chunks of pepper skin.

Pour your bright red chili sauce into the large stock pot, stir and let simmer for about an hour. Technically the soup is ready eat anytime, by the longer it simmers, the better it tastes - up to a point. I would advise against letting go longer than two hours, as the canned garbanzos and hominy will begin to break down.

When it's ready, ladle into bowls and top with the ensalada of your choice. I recommend a little of everything. Don't get lazy and forgo the salad, it's absolutely key.

Vegan Pozole (more traditional way - untested, theoretical and time consuming, but ultimately more rewarding and sustainable):

Same as above, but with a different soup base:

1 lb dry Hominy
1 lb dry Garbanzo Beans
4 quarts water

First, soak the hominy and garbanzos overnight in enough water to cover them plus two inches. The next morning, pour off the water and rinse the beans and hominy. Put the beans and hominy together in a large stock pot with 4 quarts of water. Bring to a hard, rolling boil for 5 minutes, then cut the heat back down to a simmer. Leave on the stove, uncovered at low heat until they're soft and tender enough to eat. This will probably take 7 hours. No, that's not a misprint. I said seven hours. Find something else to do while this is happening. When they're ready to eat, strain them out and proceed with the rest of the recipe.



  1. I love your blog. Here is the recipe for the cranberry quinoa salad. It comes from the Whole Foods site. Maple syrup is subbed for honey. Enjoy!

    Cranberry Quinoa Salad

    1 cup quinoa
    2 cups water
    4 tablespoons honey, divided
    1 tablespoon lemongrass, minced
    1 clove garlic, finely chopped
    1 1/2 teaspoons serrano peppers, seeded and very finely chopped
    1 1/2 cups whole cranberries
    4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
    1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh mint
    1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro
    1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
    Salt to taste

    Rinse quinoa several times. Bring water and quinoa to a boil and simmer 20 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Meanwhile, combine 2 tablespoons honey, lemongrass, garlic and peppers in a small bowl. When quinoa is cooked, stir in honey mixture.

    Chop cranberries with remaining 2 tablespoons honey and lime juice in food processor or blender; stir this into quinoa. Add mint, cilantro, red onion and salt. Toss to combine and chill until ready to serve.

  2. Thanks so much! I can't wait to try this!

  3. Ah ha! I LOVE this recipe!
    I've always wanted to try pozole (it's offered at every party), but have never been able to try it.
    Most people around here make a version that has sliced hot dogs floating in it.
    Can't wait to see what you make for the CanJam!