Poblano peppers are a large, mild chilli pepper, first cultivated in the Mexican state of Pueblas, from where they take their name. They are a popular ingredient in traditional Mexican cuisine, as well as Mexican-inspired Tex Mex dishes from the Southwestern states of the USA.
In appearance, poblanos are similar to a bell pepper, but with a tapered end, and they are usually harvested when still green. Left to ripen further, they turn red, and become somewhat spicier. Red poblanos are often dried out to make ancho chillis, which can be added to dishes for a peppery, smoky flavour. Fresh poblanos are available in the summer months from Mexican markets and some grocery stores, especially in the Southwest, while dried ancho chillis should be available all year round.
Poblano peppers have a slightly sweet flavour with a hint of mild chilli heat, so they’re perfect if you’re new to Mexican and Tex Mex food, or if you’re not so great with spicy food, but want to try something with a little bit of a kick. They measure between 1,000 and 2,000 on the Scoville Scale, putting them somewhere between bell peppers, with a rating of 0 Scoville Heat Units, and jalapeño peppers, which range between 2,500 and 8,000.
The health-conscious among you will be glad to know that poblano peppers are also pretty good for you. Thanks to their high water content, they’re low in calories and fat, and they also provide an excellent source of vitamin C. That said, they do tend to be served with other, more calorific ingredients like cheese and meat, so go easy on those extras.
Poblanos are a key ingredient in many popular Mexican dishes, including chiles rellenos, a dish of poblanos stuffed with cheese, coated in egg and flour and then pan-fried. They are also added to mole sauces, salsas, chile verde and chiles en nogada, a dish often served on Mexican Independence Day. Sometimes referred to as the national dish of Mexico, chiles en nogada is a dish of roasted poblanos stuffed with meat, fruits and spices, all topped with sour cream and pomegranate seeds. The red, white and green of the main ingredients represent the flag of Mexico.
Although they can be eaten raw, poblanos are usually enjoyed roasted. This accentuates their deliciously sweet flavour, and makes it easier to remove their skins, which, while edible, can be a little chewy. You can roast them in a skillet, over a hot grill, or simply hold them over the flame of a gas stove. Cook on both sides until the skin begins to blacken and blister, then place in a covered bowl to steam until cooled, and peel the skin away with your fingers. Enjoy your roasted poblanos on their own with a sprinkling of sea salt, or add them to one of these tasty, Mexican-inspired dishes.
3 quick and easy recipes
If you’re looking for something that’s full of flavour, but you want to go easy on the heat, why not try a quick and easy casserole made with sweet, mild poblano peppers? For inspiration, we’ve gathered together our favourite Mexican-inspired poblano casserole recipes from around the internet.
For tasty and filling midweek dinner that all the family will love, try this baked beef chiles rellenos casserole from All Recipes. An adaptation of the classic chiles rellenos, this recipe takes poblano peppers, stuffed with a mixture of beef, chopped tomato and spices, covers with a blend of Mexican cheeses and bakes in the oven until golden brown. Serve with sour cream and pico de gallo or salsa.
Another satisfying weekday meal, this chiles rellenos casserole, from Call Me PMc, features another twist on the classic chiles rellenos. Instead of stuffing and frying the peppers, the cheese and egg are combined with milk, flour and mustard powder to make a rich, creamy sauce and poured over strips of roasted poblano, before baking in the oven. You can add cooked chicken for a heartier dish, or keep it vegetarian.
We also love this Mexican chicken, poblano and black bean tortilla casserole, by From a Chef’s Kitchen. This tasty, Mexican-inspired dish is the culinary offspring of a lasagna and a burrito, and we’re here for it. Fried tortillas sit between layers of spicy tomato sauce, black beans, cooked chicken, and roasted poblano peppers, all topped with a blend of Mexican cheeses and baked in the oven.
If you’re hungry for more Mexican flavour, take a look at our collection of recipes from Latin America. Here you will find a multitude of diverse flavours and ingredients from many rich and varied culinary traditions. From a perfectly-spiced Brazilian Moqueca de Camarao fish stew or a delicate, spicy Peruvian ceviche, to indulgently sweet Argentinian alfajores cookies, there’s sure to be something to please every palate.
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