It’s still cold outside! Let’s cozy up with some soup and trust that warm spring weather is on its way. If you enjoy bean-based chili recipes and tortilla soup, you are going to love this pinto posole.
I traded pinto beans for the pork you’ll find in traditional posole recipes, so this stew is vegan. It’s also hearty, spicy and delicious.
You’ll just need one pot for this stew, and I opted to use canned beans to cut the cooking time down to about 30 minutes. Leftovers taste even better the next day, and this dairy-free recipe freezes great for later, too.
What is posole?
Posole, pronounced poh-sOH-lay, is a Mexican stew that typically features shredded pork, dried chilis, hominy and cumin. In Mexico and New Mexico, it’s often served on celebratory occasions like Christmas or New Years, but it’s great on any chilly day.
My variation with pinto beans instead of pork is not quite authentic, but it’s full of redeeming fiber and protein. It straddles the line between a soup and a stew, so I’m using those words interchangeably here.
What is hominy?
Hominy is a variety of dried corn (maize) kernels that have been treated with an alkali, such as lye, to improve digestibility. You buy it dried or in cans, in a well-stocked grocery store (check the international aisle or look near the canned corn) or Mexican grocery store. I used canned corn for this recipe but you could substitute freshly cooked hominy, too.
What are guajillo chilis?
I’ll never forget the first time I tried guajillo chili-based enchilada sauce. Life changing! Guajillos offer a deep, intriguing mild-to-medium spice factor, unlike fiery-hot cayenne. You’ll find dried chilis in a well-stocked grocery store (again, check the international aisle) or Mexican grocery store.
Use two chilis for mild soup, or four for spicy soup (I like my posole spicy). Since the seeds contain the most heat, you’ll remove those before briefly toasting the chilis against the pan. If you want extra-spicy soup, you could even reserve those seeds to add after the soup is cooked, to taste.
I simply cooked the soup with the chilis and then discarded the chilis at the end. I just read a Bon Appetit recipe that suggested puréeing the simmered chilis with some broth and pouring the mixture back into the soup. You could try that if you want extra-rich chili flavor and don’t mind busting out the blender, but add the purée to taste instead of pouring it all in at once.
Pinto PosoleCourse: SoupsCuisine: Mexican
2 to 4 guajillo chili peppers*
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large white onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ cup (4 ounces) tomato paste
1 bay leaf
3 cans (15 ounces each) pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (15 ounces) hominy, rinsed and drained
32 ounces (4 cups) vegetable broth
2 cups water
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
¼ cup chopped cilantro, divided
1 lime, halved
Recommended garnishes: sliced avocado, shredded green cabbage, chopped radish, onion and/or jalapeño
- Cut off the stem ends of the chilis and shake/flick the chilis to remove as many seeds as possible (it’s ok if some remain). Rinse them and pat them dry.
- Heat an empty Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat until a few drops of water evaporate quickly from the pan. Toast the chilis in the dry pan, pressing them flat with a spatula for a few seconds until fragrant, then flip them over and press them again for a few seconds. Remove the toasted chilis and set them aside for now.
- In the same pot (still over medium heat), warm the olive oil until shimmering. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent, about 5 minutes.
Add the garlic and cumin and cook until fragrant while stirring, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook, while stirring, for 1 minute.
- Add the toasted chili peppers, bay leaf, hominy, beans, vegetable broth and water to the pot. Stir in ½ teaspoon salt and raise the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then reduce heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook for 25 minutes.
- Remove the chili peppers and bay leaf from the soup and discard them. Stir the cilantro and juice of ½ lime into the soup. Taste, and add more salt (I usually add at least ¼ teaspoon more) and/or lime juice if necessary. For extra richness, add a little splash of olive oil and stir it in.
- Cut the remaining lime into small wedges. Divide the soup into bowls and garnish with lime wedges and other garnishes of your choice.
- *PEPPER NOTE: Use 2 peppers for mild soup and 4 for spicy soup (I like my soup spicy). If you want extra-spicy soup, you could even reserve the pepper seeds to add after the soup is cooked, to taste. If you can’t find guajillo chili peppers, dried ancho chili peppers are a good alternative. Or, use 1 tablespoon mild chili powder instead—start the recipe with step 3 and add the chili powder with the garlic and cumin.
- CHANGE IT UP: For more color and textural variation, substitute one can of black beans for one can of pinto beans. For extra pepper flavor and color, sauté a chopped red bell pepper and/or jalapeño with the onion.