Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup that is rich, filled with hominies, and flavored with either red or green chiles. It is traditionally made with pork, but this version is made with chicken.
I grew up eating chicken pozole because my Abuela and Tia do not eat pork. I actually prefer chicken pozole, but both are so so good!
What makes Pozole unique from other soups is the main ingredient: Hominy. Hominies are dried kernels of corn that have been soaked & processed until they puff up. They have a wonderful aroma & complex flavors, often described as mild, earthy, and grainy.
Pozole is traditionally eaten on Mexican Independence Day, Christmas, or any large family gathering. Every time I make it, it’s usually a large pot that can feed 6 to 8 people. It is a giant warm hug in a bowl- comforting and so important to Mexico’s history.
Just a quick note on the authenticity of this recipe: Mexico is a large country with 32 states. Every state, hell even every household within each state makes their pozole different. From the style to the cooking method to the toppings- there are MANY ways to make pozole and none of them are really wrong.
TRULY authentic pozole is made with human flesh. This dish has a shocking history behind it. Eventually, it was replaced with pork and has evolved since then to use different peppers, proteins, and cooking methods.
Different types of Pozole
There are actually many types of pozole! Other than the more well known pozole rojo & verde (red & green), there is also pozole blanco (white). Furthermore, all three of these can be made with either chicken, pork, or any protein really. I’ve had some seafood pozoles that were SO tasty!
Red pozole– made with red chiles, traditionally chile guajillo and chile ancho.
Green pozole– made with green chiles and tomatillos. The chiles that are traditionally used are some combination of poblano, jalapeno, serrano, and cubanelle.
White pozole- made without chiles. This is what my Abuela made most of the time (she absolutely cannot handle spice haha).
Chicken- I like to use a spatchcocked whole chicken for three reasons:
ALL the bones from a whole chicken will make a great chicken broth. Keep the spine that is removed to add to the broth!
I spatchcock it in order to get a good sear on it (more/flat surface area). That’s where a lot of flavor will develop, especially after being seared in the leftover bits from the “sofrito.”
I like to have a variety of white and dark meat in my pozole. If you don’t have a whole chicken or rather not spatchcock it, you can just use skin on chicken thighs, dumsticks, and/or breast.
Hominy– Pozole is characterized mainly by this unique ingredient made from kernels of corn. A pozole simply isn’t pozole without it! This is a must. Dried hominies are best but in this recipe I am using canned hominies for convenience and time. I will show you how to prepare the canned stuff to make it better.
Sofrito – this is not exactly a sofrito, and technically it is part of the salsa verde but has another purpose. I sauté diced onions in a generous amount of olive oil until they have browned a little and have become sweet. Then add some roughly minced garlic, Knorr chicken bouillon, cumin, and Mexican oregano. This “sofrito” will develop some amazing flavor that is going to be added into the blender for the salsa verde. What’s leftover in the pan will not be wasted- we will sear our chicken in it!
Salsa verde- I’m using 3 of my favorite peppers for this recipe- poblanos, jalapenos, and serrano peppers. You can leave out the serranos if you don’t want it spicy at all. This sauce also has the sofrito, cilantro, spinach, and tomatillos.
Toppings- Pozole would not be complete without all the delicious toppings! Traditional toppings include cabbage, red radish, lime, avocado, onion, cilantro, and tostadas. I grew up eating pozole with iceberg lettuce instead of cabbage. Both are good but I like the flavor of lettuce.
Prepping the salsa and hominies
Here’s a pro tip if you’re using canned hominy: toast them first! Rinse & pat them dry, then roast them in the same pan with the chiles and tomatillos. They taste better this way and the texture isn’t as mushy.
Canned hominy isn’t horrible, but it’s definitely not as good as using dried hominy. I know most people won’t have the time or option to use dried, so here are my tips for the canned stuff:
Rinse the can taste from the hominies
Drain and pat them dry
Spread evenly on the other half of the baking sheet for the chiles and tomatillos
Toast them in the oven to bring out a wonderful corn flavor, until they have slightly browned on the edges
If you don’t feel like taking this extra step, its totally fine to just rinse and add them to your pozole. Since I am roasting the peppers on the same sheet anyway, I don’t see it as too much extra work.
You can roast the peppers and tomatillos any way you prefer- air fryer, on the stove, over direct fire, or in the oven. I prefer the oven because I can roast the hominies at the same time on one baking sheet.
I start by roasting the peppers and tomatillos on one side of the baking sheet for 25 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Remove from the oven, then add the hominies on the other side, and continue roasting for another 15-20 minutes.
How to eat pozole my way
Everyone has their preferred toppings and ways to eat pozole. I grew up adding onions, lime, avocado, iceberg lettuce, red radish, jalapenos, and cilantro to mine. I know- it’s a lot of toppings! But they all come together so well and just make the dish complete.
Another thing I like to do is spread some sour cream and Tapatio hot sauce on a tostada. I don’t know if this is a common thing for Mexicans, but I’m pretty sure my Abuela taught me this as a kid and I’ve been eating it that way ever since. It is SO good, even just as a snack!
Chicken Pozole Verde
- 4 lb spatchcocked whole chicken or thighs, drums, and/or breast
- 3 tsp salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 6 tbsp olive oil
- 29 oz hominy (1 can)
- 2 bay leaves
- Knorr chicken bouillon to taste
- 3 poblano peppers
- 3 jalapeno peppers
- 3 serrano peppers
- 6 tomatillos
- 1 medium onion diced
- 4 garlic cloves roughly minced
- 1/2 bunch cilantro
- 1 oz spinach
- 1 tbsp knorr chicken bouillon
- 1 tsp Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp cumin
- red radish
- iceberg lettuce or cabbage
- tostada w/sour cream & hot sauce*
- Begin by roasting your washed peppers and tomatillos on a large baking sheet. Place them all on one side, leaving the other side empty. Roast for 25 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Spatchcock your chicken- I recommend using heavy duty kitchen shears to remove the spine, then place the chicken breast side up and press firmly on the breast bone with your palms to flatten. You may hear some bone cracking. Once flat, season on both sides with 3 tsp salt and 1 tsp black pepper. Keep the spine that you removed! This will go into the broth too. Note: You do not have to spatchcock a chicken. Instead you can cut a whole chicken into pieces, or you can use skin-on chicken thighs, drumsticks, and/or breasts.
- In a large pot, sauté the diced onions in 4 tbsp olive oil on medium low heat until translucent. Then add the garlic, cumin, Mexican oregano, and Knorr chicken bouillon. This is our "sofrito" for the salsa.
- Continue to sauté for 1-2 minutes. Add a little more olive oil and reduce the heat if the spices start to clump too much. Don't let it burn. Then remove the onions and set them aside.
- Add a little more olive oil to the pot and increase the heat to medium high. Then place the chicken skin side down (the removed spine too) for 3-4 minutes to get a good sear on the skin. Flip over and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
- Add about 10 cups of water and two bay leaves, then bring to a gentle boil. Remove any scum that floats to the surface, reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for 45 minutes. Flip the chicken over a few times if it isn't fully submerged in the water.
- Meanwhile, the peppers and tomatillos should be ready to flip. For the hominies, rinse and pat them dry then spread them evenly on the other side of the baking sheet. Continue to roast for another 15-20 minutes.
- This is what the peppers, tomatillos, and hominies should look like when finished. Allow them to cool before handling.
- Remove the skin and seeds from the poblano peppers. You can remove the seeds from the jalapenos too if you don't want it spicy.
- Blend all the peppers, tomatillos, sofrito, cilantro, spinach and 1 cup of water until smooth.
- Remove the chicken from the pot and let it cool
- Taste the stock and add a little Knorr chicken powder if needed. Do not add too much- there is already some seasoning in the salsa.
- Add the salsa & hominies, and continue to simmer for 20 minutes.
- While the broth is simmering and the chicken is cooling, prepare all the toppings.
- Shred the chicken and discard the bones. I like to include the chicken skin in my pozole but you don't have to.
- Add the chicken back to the pot and heat through. Add salt if needed.
- Divide the pozole into bowls and add whatever toppings you like. You can keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, or freeze for up to 3 months.