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Getting to Know the Friendly Poblano, Roasted or Stuffed

I have an abiding affection for poblano peppers. It stems from a nearly year-long sojourn in Mexico that included an independent study of its markets.

We have some great farmers markets in this country, but I’ve never experienced quite the thrill as I did in the mercados in Oaxaca City, Guanajuato and Guadalajara, among many other places.

Poblano peppers rule

In these Mexican markets I learned how to decipher many of the different chile peppers in both their fresh and dried forms from the vendors. (Here’s a solid guide to Mexican chile peppers.)

whole-raw-poblano-pepper-closeup

I never missed an opportunity to eat chile peppers in all their forms–enchiladas in guajillo sauce, chiles rellenos or chicken with mole while the bustle of the market swirled around. The vendor always patiently answered my questions, and some of them seem surprised that I was interested enough to ask.

While there are about a dozen common chiles native to the Americas, the one to know beyond the jalapeño {unless you’re taking up traditional Mexican cooking as a hobby} is the mighty poblano {called ancho in its dried form}.

How hot is a poblano?

The poblano pepper is a handsome pepper: pine green and shiny-skinned with an elegant tapered and curved shape. It is easy to find in most supermarkets, so it’s worth picking up a few to give them a try in place of a standard bell pepper.

stuffed-poblano-pepper-baked-on-sheetpan-close-up

Rest assured that poblano peppers are not hot at all but range from medium to mild heat. They score between 1,000 to 2,000 units on the Scoville scale, a measurement system used to indicate the relative heat in peppers.

Compare that to Tabasco sauce at 2,500 to 5,000 heat units or the serrano at 6,000 to 23,000. Bell peppers, for reference, are 0.

This approachable heat quality of poblanos brings more depth to its flavors. And for this reason, I prefer it above all other peppers.

Roasting poblanos

A few weeks ago, my friend Beth, a commercial grower with a greenhouse, dropped by with buckets full of chile peppers. The last of the harvest included a payload of poblanos.

There was no question that we’d roast the bulk of them. Roasting is one of the most popular ways to prepare poblanos, which chars the skin, softens the flesh and intensifies their sweetness.

You can roast poblano peppers:

  • in the oven at 450ºF
  • on a grill
  • under the broiler
  • on a cast-iron griddle
  • directly over a gas flame

The timing is a bit different for each method, but the principle is the same: roast until the skin blisters and darkens all over, then cover the peppers to let them steam and when cool enough to handle, peel off the skin and remove the seeds before storing or using.

three-stuffed-poblano-peppers-side-view

Beth and I roasted 6 full sheet pans of poblanos until they were good and dark to bring out the best flavors (this is why I wouldn’t recommend following online instructions for “roasting” poblanos in a microwave; the surface browning is key}.

Recipes with poblanos

Once you’ve got a roasted, skinned and seeded the poblanos, there’s no end to what you can make–all reminiscent of the foods to be sampled at a market in Mexico City:

  1. chiles rellenos: a labor of love as this illustrated Serious Eats recipe makes clear
  2. rajas con crema: easier and worth making to expand your poblano pepper horizons
  3. poblano sauce: easiest of all with many uses as suggested in this Pinch of Yum post

But guess what? It’s not mandatory to roast them. Poblano peppers can be used just like green, red or yellow bell peppers.

After Beth and I had roasted and stored nearly all of the peppers in freezer bags, I reserved a few fresh poblanos. But what should I do with these precious, homegrown specimens?

In the end, I chose to keep them whole to celebrated their uniqueness, tastiness and beauty. I stuffed them cooked quinoa, black beans and corn. And then I simply baked them.

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Quinoa, Black Bean and Corn Stuffed Poblano Peppers

While I ordinarily roast poblano peppers by default, this recipe uses whole fresh peppers as a vessel for stuffing. Cooked quinoa, prepared black beans and frozen corn makes a quick filling and turns whole poblano peppers into a vegetarian entree or a hearty side dish. Serve them if you like with crema (sour cream thinned with milk or water) and salsa.

Course Main Course, Side Dish
Cuisine Mexican
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour
Servings 4 people
Calories 453 kcal
Author Lynne Curry

Ingredients

  • 4 poblano peppers
  • 1 small red onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn kernels
  • 1 cup cooked black beans homemade or canned
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 1 medium tomato, chopped
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne optional
  • 3/4 cup crumbled cojita or feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Use a sharp paring knife to make an incision from the stem down toward the tip of the pepper. Repeat with the remaining peppers. Put the peppers in a bowl, cover and microwave for 4 minutes or until tender enough to widen the opening without tearing the pepper.

  2. Meanwhile, combine the onion, corn, black beans, quinoa, tomato, cumin, salt and cayenne, if using, in a mixing bowl. Stir in 1/2 cup of the cheese, reserving the remaining 1/4 cup for topping. Taste the filling for seasoning.

  3. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, open the incision, insert the tip of the knife and cut out the compact core. Shake out any other seeds. Fill the peppers to capacity with the stuffing and place them on a baking sheet.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the peppers and bake until the peppers are fork tender and blistered in places and the filling is hot, 35 to 40 minutes.

Comments

  1. OMG I adore poblanos! I love them in sauce, stuffed, straight into my mouth. This recipe looks amazing as well!! YUM

    1. Glad to know I’m not alone, since I think I have a sort of food fetish for these beauties!

  2. Ok, your stuffed poblano looks amazing! And I agree, they’re not super hot, which is perfect for stuffing. My MIL makes similar dish all the time. I also love throwing charred poblano in my tomatillo salsa verde. 🙂

    1. Why thanks, Shinee!

  3. Very informative! You know poblano capsicum look like the regular capsicum in europe and asia, just that they are elongated. I wonder how they defer in the taste. We don’t get those cool different peppers in my surrounding. Love all the stuffing ingredients in your recipe!

    1. Thanks, Helene! Glad you like the sounds of the filling, which works for other peppers or squash–and is even terrific on its own!

  4. I love the rich green of these peppers! I dont’ think I’ve ever seen poblano peppers at the markets here, but will keep my eye out for them now that I know of them!

    1. Aren’t they gorgeous? If they’re in my supermarket in eastern Oregon (aka, the sticks), poblanos should be fairly easy to find.

  5. Amanda Mason

    I love this blog post! It’s so informative! I love chili peppers but I dont like too hot, so this one sounds perfect! I’m jealous of your trip and experience in Mexico!! So fun! Thanks for posting this great read!

  6. This is great information! First of all, I didn’t know ancho is dried poblano. These seem like the chili for me. Sometimes jalapenos are too spicy for me. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Thanks, Amy! Exactly right: Poblanos seem to strike that perfect balance between not spicy at all and too spicy–the Goldilock choice of chile peppers I guess.

  7. I’m always envious of you Americans who can easily get lots of varieties of chillies – in the UK, we get finger chillies, Scotch Bonnet and if we are lucky, jalapeños fresh! We can order online though and I love Mexican food so I may have to treat myself to a batch of poblanos (lurve black beans mmm!).

    1. It’s so interesting how certain native foods like the tomato made it so far and wide but American chiles did not. If you are a fan of chiles, this is definitely one to order online even though it will cost a little more than the peppers you can find. The poblano is truly unique!

  8. I always love ordering stuffed poblanos when I’m riding out but never really “knew” about what I was eating. Thanks so much for sharing!

    1. You’re welcome, Sarah. Let me know if you try these at home.

  9. Theresa

    I’ve noticed that when I cook the poblano pepper it has these string or thread like pieces that come out in my food. It that from not roasting and skining them first?

    1. I think the most likely suspect are the very thin ribs *inside* the poblano peppers. If this is distasteful to you, you can use a paring knife to trim them after you microwave the peppers. Or, try using your fingers to peel them off the inside of the flesh.

  10. Joanie Hendricks

    Yum! A friend gave me some poblanos yesterday and I just came across your recipe while I was looking up how to cook them. Excellent and so easy to make! Mine were small so I had extra filling.

    1. Love hearing that, Joanie. Hope you made good use of that filling :).

  11. Marylin morello

    I have dried poblanos(ancho, which I just learned from your blog) I want to rehydrate them. Can I then stuff them?

    1. Hi Marilyn. You could try, but I don’t think you’ll be happy with the results. Dried chile peppers are best re-hydrated for making sauce, salsa, etc. Why not use your peppers to make a sauce to put over this filling if you like the flavors? Or, make a soup instead using these same ingredients. I’d love to hear back which way you decide to go!

  12. Jeannie Ballou

    I didn’t char my pablano peppers long enough – I guess or I’m sure ! Because I couldn’t peel much the skin off, but after filling my chili rellenos and cooking them they weren’t very good due to crunchy and tough skin. Is there some way I can save these rellenos by baking them to make them edible and chewable? Thank you for your advise in advance.

    1. Yes, peeling peppers is one of those time when you have to really char that skin until it bubbles up so you can peel it off. Especially thin-skinned poblanos. I recommend slicing those peppers into strips and then sauteing them to soften up the skin and the flesh of the peppers until they reach the texture you like. Or you can chop them and use them in a soup–maybe with corn, potatoes and cream–? Hope you can save those wonderful poblanos.

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