The Chile en Nogada is a traditional dish from Puebla. Holding great cultural significance within the state and cherished all over Mexico.

Actually, in August 28, 2021 marks the 200-year anniversary of its creation. Do you know its origin?

This dish is known not only for its unique flavor, but also because it is exclusively served during a particular time each year. The Chile en Nogada season regularly takes place during the summer, because of the harvesting periods of key ingredients. This year, the season is set to start on June 20.

It consists of chiles stuffed with minced fruit, topped with a walnut-based sauce (nogada) and garnished with pomegranate seeds and parsley.

Thanks to its worldwide recognition and local appreciation, the dish is a great promoter of Puebla’s gastronomy and commerce. According to the National Chamber of the Restaurant Industry and Seasoned Foods in Puebla (CANIRAC), this season is expected to increase at least 50% of the sales from last year.

The dish itself

Chile en nogada
Foto: Agencia Enfoque

The sophistication of this dish is preserved through the tradition of its preparation. Its historic recipe must be strictly followed, in order to create the proper flavor.

The Chiles en Nogada are composed of around 35 ingredients. Each is collected from a different region of Puebla. Notably, chiles from San Martín Texmelucan, ground beef from Cholula, pomegranate from Tehuacán, and walnuts from San Andrés Calpan.

The walnuts are harvested during the months of June through September, which is why this dish is prepared and enjoyed during these months.

Essentially, it is a chile poblano filled with a mixture of minced beef and fruits (apples, bananas, pears, peaches) and bathed with a walnut-based sauce called nogada. It is then served in plate made out of Talavera pottery, with pomegranate seeds and parsley on top.

A legendary concoction

The creation of the Chile en Nogada is a story that has been told for generations. A story endowed with multiple versions and various legends.

Some claim that the dish was first prepared by Augustinian nuns of the Convent of Santa Mónica in Puebla. In celebration of Mexico’s Independence and in honor of Agustín de Iturbide on August 28, 1821.

On his return from Córdoba, Iturbide passed through Puebla. The nuns prepared a dish for him in which the three colors of the Army of the Three Guarantees flag were represented. Green with the chili and parsley, red with the pomegranate, and white with the nogada sauce.

However, there is no record of this in recipe books from the 19th century. Instead, there is evidence of other similar recipes that use the nogada sauce. Such as “Chicken in nogada” or “Nogada for chiles rellenos”.

It wasn’t until the 1930’s when the original recipe of this dish was made officially known with the recipe books of Mercedes de la Parra in 1938 and professor Ana María Hernández in 1935.

As for the legend, Agustín Aragón y Leiva included it in his 1942 dictionary of cooking recipes. He assures that the emperor Agustín de Iturbide was fascinated with the delicious dish, created in his honor. Further recognizing Puebla as the birthplace of the Chiles en Nogada.