The tradition of chiles en nogada in San Andres Calpan

Cooking chiles en nogada is limited to a couple of months in the summer due to the growing season of the walnut, which is used to prepare the nogada.

Chiles en nogada are one of the most characteristic dishes of Puebla's gastronomy and in 2021 celebrates 200 years since it was first made.

This dish features the colors of the mexican flag. The nogada represents white, the pomegranate represents red and the cilantro represents the green third of the flag.

Chiles en Nogada
Photo: Rodrigo Peña / Agencia Express Media

San Andrés Calpan, the birthplace of chile en nogada

30 kilometers from the capital of Puebla, in the foothills of the volcanoes, is the town of San Andrés Calpan where about 15 thousand people live.

All the necessary ingredients to prepare chiles en nogada are grown in San Andres: fruit, chiles and walnuts, which is why it is known as the birthplace of chiles en nogada.

San Andres Calpan
Photo: Rodrigo Peña / Agencia Express Media

Chiles en nogada are a seasonal dish due to the cultivation of pomegranate and walnuts.

That is why this Puebla dish can only be enjoyed between July and September.

The stuffing picadillo

Manuela Hernández Marcos is a cook who has been preparing chiles en nogada for more than 45 years in San Andrés Calpan, preparing the family recipe that has been passed from generation to generation.

In an interview with Poblanerías, Manuela reveals the recipe she has been preparing every year since 1976 in her restaurant located in the main square of Calpan.

For Manuela, the secret of chiles en nogada lies in the picadillo filling, which she makes with the following ingredients:

  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Peach
  • Raisins
  • Pork meat

These ingredients will be chopped, seasoned and then fried.

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According to Manuela, each family recipe in Calpan may have slight modifications, as some will incorporate plantains into the picadillo.

The picadillo will stuff the poblano chile before being bafflered.

Once bafflered, the chiles will be coated with a layer of nogada, which is made with these ingredients:

  • Peeled walnuts
  • Milk
  • Fresh cheese
  • Sugar

Manuela also adds a pinch of cinnamon to the nogada to give it a better flavor.

Over the years, new variations have been added, such as vegetarian chiles or unpeeled chiles.

According to Manuela, during a chiles en nogada season she sells between 300 and 500 chiles en nogada, however, the pandemic has modified this sales rhythm.

In 2020, the chiles en nogada cooks of Calpan had to reduce their sales to the "to take away" modality due to sanitary conditions, so their sales dropped.

This 2021, although the Fair will not be held like in previous years, they can already receive diners in their establishments, so they expect an increase in sales.