Red Chicken Pozole, Cannibalism and My Birthday

** May 13th Update: Thanks for voting this into Foodbuzz Daily top 9. Check out all top 9 recipes here.**

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Pozole is a hearty Mexican stew traditionally made with pork, hominy and has either a red or green color depending on the chiles used for the soup base. Other variations also exist using chicken, beef, seafood, beans and there’s even a white pozole. The pozole is served alongside shredded cabbage, onion, radishes, lime, oregano, salsas, sour cream and tostadas.

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Corn was a sacred plant to Aztecs and the other indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica. One of the main components of pozole is the hominy, which is basically processed maize or corn. Aztecs, and the other indigenous peoples of Mesoamerica, cooked pozole only on special occasions. Now this is where things start getting weird and a bit gross. In a book called “General History of the Things of New Spain” written by Fray Bernandino de Sahagun, he describes pots of stew with corn and pieces of human flesh being eaten on special occasions. The human meat came from the sacrificed people, who’s hearts were ripped out and offered to the gods, their bodies were chopped up and cooked in the pozole. After the Spanish arrived they banned cannibalism and pork became the meat used in pozole. Wait it gets even weirder, you’re probably wondering how but it does. Apparently pork was the meat of choice because “it tasted very similar” to human flesh. This bit of history is probably something most of us Mexicans want to forget or ignore, so let’s move on.

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Thankfully the only thing that remained from the “special” ancient feast was that modern day Mexicans still celebrate special occasions with pozole. If you have Mexican friends or family you know that pozole is served at many special celebrations. My family was no different and so pozole was often the food we ate on special occasions.

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My mami (mom) makes the best pozole rojo. Her pozole is one of the foods and things I miss most from home. A few months ago when I made pozole for the first time I called her and asked for her recipe. But I told her that I was going to make a chicken version rather than pork. I’m not the biggest pork fan to begin with and now after reading the story above I don’t think I’ll be eating pork anytime soon. Many of the ingredients she told me are ones that I can’t find here. But I told her I would do my best to stick to her recipe minus all the pork meat.

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I went into my kitchen and gathered as much as I could from my mom’s ingredient list. I was nervous because I wanted it to come out perfect and because hubby has told me he didn’t like pozole. When he asked what was for dinner I told him it was a surprise. While I prepared the pozole now and then I would get flash backs to my childhood home. As the pozole simmered and the scents filled the kitchen my excitement grew. It has been a really long time since I last ate pozole. A taste of the broth and my heart fluttered. Perhaps it wouldn’t win awards but this pozole tasted great to me and most importantly made me feel like I was home. My heart and stomach were filled with joy. When I called hubby to dinner he commented that “something smelled really good”, I smiled to myself. I showed him how to eat his stew, then he took a few bites and sips. I asked if he liked his dinner, he said yes and that it was really good. In fact the one who had previously said he didn’t care for pozole had two bowls. I’ve now made pozole two times and both times it has brought such joy to me.

Growing up when one of us had a birthday a special homemade meal was cooked for us. My birthday is today and if I was back home pozole would be the meal I would ask mami to make for me. For now I’ll continue to make my own pozole, improving as I go and hopefully one day as good as my mother’s.

(If you would like to publish my recipe on your website please quote Spicie Foodie as the recipe creator, and place a link back to the recipe.)
Chicken Pozole Rojo (based on my mother’s recipe)

1 whole chicken, quartered and skinned if desired
1 medium onion, peeled
enough water to cover chicken, I used about 10 cups

1. Boil the chicken until the meat is soft and falling apart. Drain reserving the meat and broth in separate containers. In total you should have 8 cups of broth to use. Set aside while you prepare the pozole sauce base.

chile and pozole base:
3 guajillo
3 pasilla
3 ancho
2 arbol, I added them for extra heat
4 garlic cloves
1 medium onion, peeled and halved
1 tsp salt
1-2 tbsp water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large dried bay leaf
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
salt to taste

1 medium can of Mexican hominy or maiz pozolero blanco, drained

topping options:
shredded white cabbage
slice radishes
lime, I used lemons
finely chopped onion
crema or Mexican sour cream
salsa or hot sauce of choice
tostadas to serve on the side

1. Over a comal or griddle toast the chiles but careful not to burn them. Also toast the garlic and onion for 5 minutes. Remove from comal and allow to cool.

2. Once cooled place the chiles, garlic, onion and 1 tsp salt into a blender. You will need to add a tablespoon or two of water to help blend into smooth sauce. Strain the sauce through a fine sieve and discard seeds and any remaining chunks.

3. In a large pot heat the oil, once warm add the chile sauce and cook for a few minutes. Add the drained hominy, bay leaf, oregano and salt. Next gently pour the drained chicken broth, in total it was 8 cups of broth, give the soup a good mix. Allow to simmer for an hour over medium low heat and covered. While the soup is simmering remove the meat from the boiled chicken, discarding bones and skins. Shred the chicken meat then add to the simmering pozole. Continue simmering until ready to serve.

Serve topped with any or all of the suggested toppings.

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Pozole is a meal I can eat during anytime of the year. I will continue to make it year round and I hope you too give this special stew a try. I promise you won’t find bits of Jose or Maria in this pozole. Well, that is unless the chicken used had either of those names. I’m off to celebrate my birthday today but I’ll see you on Sunday for Sunday Snapshots. Have a great weekend everyone.

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Buy all the ingredients needed for this recipe:
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  1. says

    You know what??? You share your Birthday with my SIL. Wish you a Very happy birthday Nancy!!! This dish looks beautiful You have presented it in a very authentic Mexican way. Loved the post :)

  2. says

    i remember reading that excerpt when i was doing analysis of early forms of racism. hehe. sometimes, foreigners may exaggerate what they have seen.

  3. says

    Happy birthday my dear!!! What a lovely bowl of posole – I love posole, though I am sure what I have made cannot compare to yours or your mami’s. I like it with pork … but reading about the human flesh, well … I may be eating chicken for awhile too. lol!

  4. says

    Happy birthday.
    Gorgeous posole – I am very glad that we have since changed up the protein for this special dish…

  5. says

    Happy birthday! Your recipe looks awesome and I’ll have to bookmark it for another day. I had posole recently in a restaurant for the first time and loved it! The base ingredients aren’t familiar to me so I’ll have to do some research to find them. Thanks for sharing! :)

    • says

      Hi Vicky,

      Thank you:) Good, I hope you try it and enjoy it very soon. You can click on the last images and it will take you to Amazon where you can read a little about them. But also you can ask at your local Hispanic market.

  6. says

    Happy Birthday sweet Nancy! Poor Jose and Maria the chickens, lol. I was thinking chicken would be an excellent sub for the pork in pozole. Next time I make it, I’m gonna try your chicken version. I’m sure your mom would be proud of you making such a stunner version of this dish. I’m hoping at least hubby did all the dishes in honor of your birthday. So funny when I read about the sacrifice thing I couldn’t help but thing back to my honeymoon, we were in Mexico at one of the ruins and I told my husband to take my photo on this cool bench. Turns out it was where they chopped peoples heads off, kind of ruined it for me, lol.

    • says

      Gracias Gina! Haha, si pobresitos those little chickens. I’m a bit spoiled because he offers to do dishes and alot of the housework. But I try not to take advantage of that, hehe:) Oh, wow how cool but also a bit creepy about the bench. Lol :)

  7. says

    Think back, lol. I’m brain dead at the moment, my daughter got home from school last night at 1:30 and I had to get up at 6 this morning to get my other daughter off.

  8. says

    A fabulous dish! I wish i could find hominy here.

    Happy Birthday! I hope you’ll have a wonderful day.



  9. says

    Yum!!! Pazole is my absolute favorite Mexican dish! I’m currently living in Mexico and simple love this dish any time, thanks for sharing– I will have to make it myself :)

  10. says

    Happy Birthday my friend!! I am glad you enjoyed something you love to eat on your birthday. :) Congrats on making Top 9 today too. :)

  11. says

    Oh how I love, love pozole! I remember fondly a favorite restaurant in Oaxaca, a pozoleria, where they only serve pozole–all three colors of it: red, white, and green. Oh, yum. Love your mother’s recipe (that is always special to have a mom’s recipe) and the creepy history as well. Fascinating.

  12. says

    Happy Birthday Nancy! I’m loving the spread of food that’s served with your red chicken pozole and wishing it was on my table for dinner tonight;-) I’m slowly getting back in my routine after vacation but I see that you’ve been posting some wonderful dishes while I was gone. I hope you have a wonderful weekend;-)

  13. Eha says

    Altho’ I am a new reader I hope I may add my warmest birthday wishes to those of all the others! Making my first pozole is still ahead of me :) !

  14. says

    Happy Birthday! Double happiness! You got to enjoy a great pozole and you made your husband like this dish! ;-) What a special meal. I know this dish is as good as your mom’s! Your mom must be an excellent cook. :-)

  15. says

    Happy birthday gal. Loved reading about your memories….food plays such an essential part of our memories and so effrotlessly bridges the past and the present, it is awesome….:-)

  16. says

    I love this post and I love pozole. I bet yours was amazing. I never knew that bit about pork and human flesh, though. That’s, um, a little gross. But if it ends up in a great dish, I am all for it ;)

  17. says

    happy birthday nancy. am i late in wishing you, coz its 12th here and i just saw your mail.
    nevertheless, have a great day :-)

  18. says

    Well goodness! I didn’t know posole had such a “colorful” history. I made red posole once and loved, loved, loved it. Your recipe is somewhat more complicated, more ingredients and most surely even better than what I made. I’ll be using yours next time. Happy Birthday!!!

  19. says

    Happy Birthday! It warms our hearts and our stomachs when we can recreate something from our childhood, especially our birthday meal. Mine was homemade egg noodles–takes me home every time.
    I too had a challenge when I make Chicken Pozole for my husband because he hates hominy, but I won him over by “hiding” it in a delicious stew with generous fresh toppings. :) Your pozole looks amazing! Easy to convince your hubby with something made with so much love.

  20. says

    wow that is so cool about the pozole! completely unsettling of course but still pretty dang neat! i studied maya and aztec cosmology a bit in college, and find it really fascinating. i will definitely think about this next time i eat pozole…ha. which hopefully won’t be too far away, with this recipe!

  21. says

    Happy Belated Birthday, Nancy!!!! I hope your day was special, love-filled and of course, delicious! I am afraid I’ve never made pozole at home but I do enjoy a big bowl of it now and then. I am bookmarking to try when the next soup craving hits. I love that your pozole-nonliking husband has enjoyed it twice now. :)

  22. says

    This is my first time to your blog and I wanted to let you know how much I enjoy it. First…a belated happy birthday. I make a green pork pozole and can’t wait to try your red chicken pozole. It sounds terrific!

  23. says

    Eww, I knew the Aztec’s participated in cannibalism, but I would prefer not to think of pork as tasting similar to human flesh… Soo, your chicken posole sounds pretty good – I especially like the radish and avocado garnish to brighten it up :)

  24. says

    I just have to say that if I were not already a vegetarian…pork would be off my list, lol.
    This is a beautiful stew for sure, all these wonderful flavors! I am going to have to think up a vegetarian version ;)
    Again, hope you had a most amazing birthday…big hugs!

    • says

      Lol, I wonder how many will stop eating pork now or at least for a while until the mental picture of this fades. Yes, I have been working on my vegetarian version too. Thanks!

  25. Angel says

    Hello! Your recipe sounds/looks good. I want to make it soon but I have a question regarding the chiles. Are you using fresh or dried? I think I would only be able to get dried where I live. Thank you

  26. Ana Espinoza says

    OMG I prepared the chile and pozole base recipe with your ingredients and OMG so good. I used a whole chincken, put it to boil I added some onion to the chicken and whole pepper and salt. Once I had the chile ready I added some to the pan where the chicken was being boiled and OMG so good of course I got the chicken out so I could just take the bones out and just leave the meat. This is my first time making pozole and I decided to go with your recipe and I dont regret it. I will save the recipe and keep using it for future pozoles. I might use it also for enchiladas or chilaquiles I want to see how they taste.

    • says

      Hi Ana! I’m thrilled that you loved that pozole and that you’ve now made it for the first time — I’m sure there will be many more times. Enjoy experimenting and enjoy the future pozoles. Gracias :)


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