Chile relleno (stuffed pepper)…a roasted poblano pepper, stuffed with cheese, battered with egg and fried to a golden brown then served in a light tomato-based sauce…it’s just short of heaven. This is one of my FAVORITE Mexican dishes.
What is chile relleno?
Chile relleno translates to stuffed pepper in English. There are plenty of stuffed chiles made throughout Mexico that use a variety of peppers (poblano, jalapeño, ancho, etc.). Fillings can range from meat, cheese, beans, and even seafood. The version that I am sharing here is stuffed with cheese, a variety that is probably most familiar with eaters living outside of Mexico. A cheese-stuffed poblano pepper is certainly the most common type that I have seen while living in the US.
What cheese should I use?
What cheese to use is a loaded topic. In Mexico, the type of cheese used depends on the region, family traditions, personal preference, and what is available. The version that I learned to make in central Mexico, uses queso cincho. This cheese has a high melting point and a bit of a salty taste. Because of it’s high-melting point, the cheese softens just enough when the chile is fried to leave a satisfying, “meaty” texture to each bite.
I have browsed many recipes to see what other cheeses are used in Mexico and have seen everything from panela, manchego, oaxaca, chihuahua, and mozzarella cheeses. I am usually all for oozy, melty, cheese; however, for this dish I prefer less ooze and a more substantial texture (although this is likely a personal preference). I will stick with my queso cincho given the choice, but I realize for those living outside of Mexico, this cheese is highly unlikely, if not impossible to come by.
Most large grocers these days do stock some kind of Mexican cheeses. I would look for panela as a first substitute (also a high melting point cheese, but a bit less salty and more mildly flavored than cincho). If panela proves to be elusive, look for muenster or manchego. I have successfully used both muenster and panela in chile rellenos with excellent taste results. Really, the choice of cheese is up to you based on your personal preferences for taste and texture!
How to make chile relleno
Start this recipe with roasted and cleaned poblano peppers. If you need help with this step, check out my tutorial here. Ensure that the chiles are dry and start filling with your cheese of choice (I have tested with cincho, panela, and muenster with excellent results). Pin closed with toothpicks so that the cheese can’t escape in the next step.
Using a stand or hand held mixer fitted with a whisk, whisk the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Add in the yolks and whisk to incorporate.
Next, set up your assembly line with a plate with the stuffed chiles, a plate with the flour, and lastly the whipped eggs. Heat oil in your frying pan so it is hot and ready to go as soon as your chiles are battered. Dust each chile with flour, cover evenly with egg, and add to the hot oil. Flip the chiles to brown evenly. Once each chile is golden all over, remove from the oil onto a paper towel-lined plate.
Get your sauce going last. Blend tomatoes, onions, broth, salt, and garlic together until smooth. Add to a skillet with a bay leaf and let simmer gently. Look for the sauce to darken slightly in color. Taste for salt. Lastly, add chiles to the sauce for a few minutes to heat through and allow the egg to absorb some of that tasty sauce!
Chile Relleno with Cheese
For the chiles:
- 4 roasted poblano peppers with blackened skins removed (see note 1)
- 3 eggs whites and yolks separated
- 1/2 lb cheese cut into strips (about 2oz or 50g per pepper), see notes
- 1/4 cup flour
- 1 cup vegetable oil
For the sauce:
- 1 cup water or broth
- 5 medium roma tomatoes cut into large chunks (~650g or 1.5 pounds)
- 1/2 medium white onion cut into large chunks
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 bay leaf
- Salt to taste
For the chiles:
- Slice each pepper on one side to create a pocket, remove seeds
- Dry each pepper and place a strip of cheese inside, pin close with a toothpick
- Lightly flour each pepper and set aside
- Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat, about 3 minutes
- Meanwhile, in a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whisk egg whites on high speed until mixture forms stiff peaks, about 3 minutes
- Add egg yolks to whites and continue whisking on high speed until combined, another 20-30 seconds
- Holding the pepper by the stem, coat completely with the egg mixture and place immediately into the hot oil
- Fry 1-2 minutes per side or until egg coating is golden
- Remove the pepper to a paper towel-lined plate and repeat the previous 2 steps for each remaining pepper
For the sauce:
- Place water, tomatoes, onion and garlic in a blender and blend on high for about 1 minute or until sauce is smooth
- Place tomato sauce and bay leaf in a large, shallow pan.
- Heat sauce to boiling over medium-high heat, about 5 minutes, then reduce heat to low, cover and allow to simmer until sauce begins to darken slightly, another 7-8 minutes.
Putting it all together:
- Check sauce for salt and add water or broth to achieve desired consistency.
- Place chiles in tomato sauce and heat until warmed through, about 3-5 minutes
- See my tutorial on How to Roast Poblano Peppers
In Mexico, I use queso cincho, a salty, high-melting point cheese; however, this cheese may be hard to find outside of Mexico. My next best option would be panela (a milder flavored, but still high-melting point Mexican cheese) and if that can’t be found, try with muenster. Any cheese will work, depending on personal preference and what is available in your area. Just know that a lower melting point cheese will make an oozier, runnier filling than a cheese with a high melting point.
The amount of cheese used per pepper will depend on the size of the pepper