Chiles Rellenos (Mexican-Style Cheese-Stuffed Chilies) Recipe

Overhead of chiles rellenos, a stuffed and fried pepper on a bed of roasted tomato salsa
Whether traditional or smothered, chiles rellenos are a crowd-pleaser.

Serious Eats / J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • Roasting the chilies and tomatoes together kills two birds with one stone and cuts down on prep time.
  • Combining the hot chorizo with the cheese gives the filling a heartier flavor and texture than cheese alone.
  • Whipping the egg whites makes for a light, airy coating.

Chiles rellenos—Mexican-style stuffed and fried peppers in a roasted-tomato salsa—was one of the very first dishes I learned how to cook, using the method that my dad taught me. It mostly involved cans. I'm pretty sure that the only reason we used canned chilies back then is that it wasn't possible to get good fresh Poblano peppers in New York in the early '80s. That's not a problem anymore (and certainly not an issue near my current home in the Bay Area), and both my recipe and my technique have improved since those early can-based days. I've experimented with various chili-roasting methods and dozens of batter recipes and techniques, and I've finally nailed that salsa. Here's what I've learned.

Recipe Facts

Active: 60 mins
Total: 90 mins
Serves: 3 to 4 servings

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For the Salsa Ranchera and Chiles:

  • 6 poblano peppers

  • 2 pounds Roma tomatoes (1kg; about 6 medium)

  • 1 small yellow onion (about 6 ounces; 170g), split in half, unpeeled

  • 2 to 3 serrano chiles

  • 6 medium cloves garlic, unpeeled

  • 1/2 cup (120ml) chicken stock or water

  • 1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves and tender stems (1/2 ounce; 15g)

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) lard or vegetable oil

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Filling:

  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) lard or vegetable oil

  • 1 small onion (about 6 ounces; 170g), finely diced

  • 1 teaspoon (about 2g) dried oregano

  • 1/2 pound (225g) fresh Mexican chorizo or ground pork

  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 10 ounces (285g) grated Jack, Pepper Jack, Chihuahua, or cheddar cheese; 16 ounces (450g) if making smothered version (see notes)

To Fry:

  • 2 cups (475ml) vegetable oil

  • 4 large eggs, separated

  • 1 cup flour (5 ounces; 140g), divided


  1. For the Salsa Ranchera and Chilies: Adjust rack to 4 inches below broiler and preheat broiler to high. Place Poblanos, tomatoes, onion, serranos, and garlic on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet. Broil until chilies are blackened on top, about 5 minutes. Flip chilies to expose another un-blackened surface and continue broiling for another 5 minutes. Turn chilies one more time, flip tomatoes, and continue broiling until chilies are blackened all over, a few minutes longer.

  2. Transfer tomatoes, onion, garlic, serranos, stock, and cilantro to the bowl of a food processor or blender. Wrap Poblanos with foil from baking sheet and set them aside to steam. Process salsa until smooth but still a little chunky.

  3. Heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) lard or oil in a medium saucepan until just starting to smoke. Immediately pour all of the salsa into pan (it will bubble very violently). Bring to a simmer and cook until reduced by about 1/2 cup. Season to taste with salt and pepper and set aside.

  4. For the Filling: Heat 1 tablespoon (15ml) lard or vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion and cook, stirring, until softened and gently browned, about 4 minutes. Add oregano and chorizo or pork and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Immediately transfer pork mixture to a bowl with grated cheese and toss to combine. Set aside.

  5. Carefully peel chilies without tearing them. Make a slit in one and remove most of the seeds. Spoon cheese/pork mixture into the cavity and carefully close chili back up, slightly overlapping the edges. Repeat with remaining chilies. If you are making the smothered version, you should have about 1 cup of filling left over (see note).

  6. To Fry: Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat until it reaches 375°F. Adjust heat to maintain temperature. Whisk egg whites until stiff peaks form. Whisk in yolks one at a time until incorporated (do not over-whisk). Sprinkle with 1/4 cup flour and whisk just until flour is incorporated. Set aside.

  7. Place remaining flour on a shallow plate. Gently pick up one chili and roll it in flour to coat. Transfer to egg mixture and gently turn to coat. (You may have to spoon the mixture over the top if the chili is too fragile.) Using your hands or a flexible fish spatula, carefully slip one chili into hot oil. Repeat until pan is full, making sure not to crowd it. If there are any un-battered spots on the top surfaces of the chilies, dollop a small amount of batter on top to seal them. Cook until the bottom side is golden brown, about 2 minutes. Carefully turn and cook until second side is browned, about 2 minutes longer. Transfer cooked chilies to a paper towel–lined plate. Repeat until all chilies are cooked.

  8. For the Traditional Version: Spoon salsa into the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with chilies and spoon a little more salsa over them. Serve immediately (or bake in a 375°F oven for a few minutes to reheat if desired).

  9. For the Smothered Version: Spoon salsa into the bottom of a casserole dish. Top with chilies and spoon a little more salsa over them. Spread remaining filling mixture over the top. Bake in a 375°F oven until melted and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Serve immediately.

Special equipment

Rimmed baking sheet, food processor or blender, instant-read thermometer


Chiles rellenos are typically served only with sauce on top, but you can make a cheese-covered, smothered, and baked version if you prefer.

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Nutrition Facts (per serving)
921 Calories
70g Fat
37g Carbs
39g Protein
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Nutrition Facts
Servings: 3 to 4
Amount per serving
Calories 921
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 70g 90%
Saturated Fat 24g 121%
Cholesterol 159mg 53%
Sodium 1703mg 74%
Total Carbohydrate 37g 13%
Dietary Fiber 6g 22%
Total Sugars 11g
Protein 39g
Vitamin C 52mg 258%
Calcium 627mg 48%
Iron 4mg 23%
Potassium 1159mg 25%
*The % Daily Value (DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a food serving contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.
(Nutrition information is calculated using an ingredient database and should be considered an estimate.)