Mexican Cuisine Made Simple
Easy Cinco de Mayo Party Food
Photo Credit: Jeffrey W., flickr.com, CC BY 2.0
Pozole is an authentic Mexican soup recipe that’s made by simmering a pig’s head in homemade chicken stock. It also contains a dried specialty corn called hominy that has to be soaked for several hours in limed water. Once soaked, you rub off the hard outer shell of each corn kernel, and then rinse the swollen corn several times in clean water to get rid of the hominy’s toxins.
That type of Mexican cuisine wasn’t exactly what I had in mind when I’d asked the newest addition to the boys’ home if he was missing a particular meal. I was the Culinary Specialist, the cook. My job was to create the weekly menus as well as do the grocery shopping and most of the cooking, so I tried to do what I could to make the boys’ transition into the home more comfortable.
Although the question was the same one I always asked each boy a couple of weeks after he arrived, I didn’t expect the newest one to ask for something so complicated. Usually, I got common requests such as pizza, hamburgers, or tacos.
“My dad’s a Mexican,” the young boy said. “My mom only cooks Mexican food. I’m used to eating it every day.” He stood there with the same look my own boys used to give me, shifting from foot to foot, not daring to look me in the eye, and waiting hopefully to hear that the Mexican soup he had just asked for was possible.
But I hesitated.
Although I had grown up in Southern California where Mexican cuisine was common, and I knew how to make the pork and hominy soup, my options were limited. A traditional recipe for Pozole was far too involved and timely for a group home.
The boy took my hesitation to be a negative reflection on his request. “That’s okay,” he said as the sparkle left his eyes. “I didn’t think you could.” Then, he turned to walk away.
He had misread my thoughts. Although I never allowed the boys to control my choices, if he was craving authentic Mexican Pozole, I couldn’t help him. “I do know how to make the soup,” I said. “But I can’t make it with a pig’s head. I’ll have to take some American shortcuts.”
The look on his face as he turned and walked back to me was priceless. “Oh no,” he said grinning widely. “I didn’t expect you to do all of that.”
So American shortcuts it was.
When is Pozole Mexican Soup Served?
Pozole soup is a Mexican cuisine specialty that’s popular in Mexico and Latin America. It’s generally served for fiestas and special occasions such as holidays or birthdays. Traditionally made with pork, and sometimes chicken or shrimp, it’s believed to bring good luck throughout the coming year if you eat it on New Years’ Eve.
In Southern California, it was served far more often than that. Small Mexican restaurants where you could find authentic Mexican cuisine served it every weekend along with Menudo. My friends always served it on holidays, especially for Christmas Eve, New Year’s Day, and Cinco de Mayo, but I liked it so much that this easy and simple soup quickly became one of my regular winter recipes.
Depending on the region, Pozole can be made in one of three different ways, with each version taking upon itself one of Mexico’s national colors: white, red, or green. However, within each state, you’ll find a wide variety of recipes. Some have said that no two pots of Pozole are ever the same. It’s actually as variable as Minestrone is.
- Pozole Blanco is a white version of soup. It consists of pork, pozole corn (or hominy), and little else.
- Pozole Rojo is a red version. It’s made with an assortment of dried red chilies and either chicken or pork along with the hominy.
- Pozole Verde is green. It often includes chicken, hominy, pumpkin seeds, and tomatillos.
Pozole Makes an Excellent Gluten-Free Soup
While breaking away from authentic Mexican tradition, this simplified version of Pozole combines all three traditions into a single gluten-free soup. By overlapping the colors and taking advantage of convenience foods, this recipe for Pozole makes an easy, one-bowl meal that can be served on a regular basis. The thickness of this simple soup recipe depends on the amount of chicken broth you use.
Photo Credit: Kennejima, flickr.com, CC BY 2.0
To serve, place the assorted garnishes in small bowls around the table. Each person can simply add what they like to their own bowl of soup. Traditionally, Pozole is also served with hot corn tortillas or crunchy tortilla chips on the side, but a simple banana bread would also go well. To complete the Mexican menu, I always served it with wedges of fresh pineapple and a creamy flan for dessert. While not everyone enjoyed the baked custard, the Mexican soup received rave reviews and was asked for by both boys and staff on a weekly basis.
Easy Pozole Mexican Soup Recipe
- 1 tablespoon lard or shortening
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 5 or 6 large cloves of garlic, minced
- 1-1/2 pounds of pork shoulder or pork butt, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 cups water
- 1-1/2 teaspoons salt
- 4 cups homemade chicken broth (or use high-quality canned)
- 2 large cans of hominy, drained and rinsed well
- 2 cans of stewed tomatoes, including liquid, chopped
- 8-oz can chopped green chilies
- 2 large fresh jalapenos
- 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
- Dried red chili flakes to taste
- shredded cabbage or lettuce
- sliced radishes
- chopped green onions
- chopped fresh jalapenos
- chopped avacados
- grated cheese
- shredded cilantro
- crushed red pepper flakes
- fresh lime wedges (or lemons)
- Heat the lard in a large soup pot over medium heat.
- Add onion and garlic. Saute until soft and just beginning to brown.
- Add water, pork, and salt.
- Bring the soup pot to a boil over high heat. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 2 hours, until the pork cubes are nice and tender. Check the soup frequently, and add more water if necessary. You want to keep the pork cubes completely covered.
- Add chicken broth, hominy, tomatoes, green chilies, and fresh jalapenos.
- Season to taste with oregano, cumin, and crushed chilies.
- Simmer on low for 1 to 2 hours, or more. The longer you simmer it, the better the flavor.
Like any pot of homemade soup, you can easily alter the ingredients to suit your taste. For a low carb soup, simply omit the hominy and replace it with baby corn. Baby corn is found in the oriental section of your local supermarket. It's very low in carbs. Carrots, celery, shredded spinach, or sliced zucchini would also work well. You can also add sliced sausages, shrimp, or use both pork and chicken to make it more festive and memorable.
Due to its ease and convenience, this recipe for Pozole makes an excellent choice for a Mexican party theme when entertaining, and is especially simple for the holidays, a birthday celebration, or feeding a crowd since it can be made ahead, thrown into a crock pot, or reheated.
For additional ideas about how to eat pozole, you won't want to miss watching the following video.