Vegan Mole Chilaquiles

Vegan mole chilaquiles are a delicious way to use up extra tortilla chips! Try this vegan version made with homemade mole or keep it easy with my timesaving tricks! 

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You thought you had your Mexican food down pat, with your steamy bowl of posole and your overstuffed torta, but little did you know, you're probably missing out on the most delicious Mexican food of all.

Chilaquiles.

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Chilaquiles are an authentic Mexican dish of stale tortillas simmered in sauce. I know, I'm not really making the case for the whole 'most delicious Mexican food of all' statement. But hear me out here! Think nachos, but the emphasis is more on the delicious sauce and less on the chip (and not at all on weird neon orange cheese). You can either simmer the chips in sauce, creating an almost polenta-like texture, or pour the sauce over the chips at the last minute, retaining crunch. Either is cool by me. There are a million and one ways to make chilaquiles and I guarantee every single one is delicious.

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The dish was basically designed to use up leftovers. Throw some torn up day old tortillas or tortilla chips in a flavorful sauce. Add any other random leftovers - tomatoes, grilled zucchini, shredded chicken, a fried egg...there's no rules! And while this recipe is made with a homemade mole sauce, which admittedly, is a bit complicated and has a lengthy ingredient list, you could easily swap jarred salsa verde, a basic tomato sauce spiked with canned chipotle chiles, jarred enchilada sauce or even a store bought mole sauce.

Speaking of mole sauce, if you've never tried it, the ingredients list probably sounds a little crazy. Chocolate? In Mexican food? Just go with it.

Vegan Mole Chilaquiles

Serves 5

This recipe will make extra mole sauce, which you can freeze and use for later. It would also be delicious in slow cooker chicken, over grilled tofu or with enchiladas. I used sweet potato tortilla chips, but feel free to use any kind you like.

Ingredients

Mole Sauce: 

  • 3 poblano chiles
  • 1 jalapeno
  • 3 dried chipotle chiles
  • 2 dried New Mexico chiles or ancho chiles
  • 3 tablespoons raisins
  • 2 tablespoons sunflower oil, avocado oil, or other neutral flavored oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 3 tablespoons peanuts
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon sesame seeds
  • 1 cinnamon stick (or add a pinch of cinnamon with the other spices)
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons masa or cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons sugar

Chilaquiles: 

  • 1 tablespoon sunflower oil, avocado oil or other neutral tasting oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 6 ounces tortilla chips
  • For garnish: avocado, halved cherry tomatoes, salsa, cilantro

Instructions

  1. Set the oven to boil. Place the poblanos and jalapenos on a large baking sheet and broil for 3 minutes per side until skin is blackened. Place in a bowl and top with plastic wrap or a plate to trap steam. When peppers are cool enough to handle, remove and discard charred skin, stem, seeds and chop remaining flesh.
  2. Warm about 2 cups of water in a pot or glass measuring cup until almost boiling. Add dried chiles and raisins and let sit to soften while you prepare the other ingredients. Once softened, remove the chiles from the water, reserving the remaining chile 'broth', then stem, seed and chop.
  3. Heat oil in a medium pot. Add onion and garlic, saute 5 minutes until tender. Add tomatoes and cook until tomatoes are softened, another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add oregano, cumin and thyme and saute 1 minute until fragrant. Add peanuts, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds and cinnamon stick. Saute another couple of minutes. Add reserved chili 'broth' plus enough water to make 2 1/2 cups, chopped poblanos and jalapeno, chopped dried chiles, raisins and cocoa powder. Simmer 10 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend sauce until smooth. Stir in masa/cornmeal and sugar. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a large sided skillet, heat oil on medium high heat. Add onion and corn and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add black beans, cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Add tortilla chips and stir to combine. Pour in about 2 cups of mole sauce and cook until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Serve with desired garnishes

More Mexican food from the archives: 

Grilled Pork Tacos with Charred Eggplant and Tomatoes
Grilled Pork Tacos with Charred Eggplant and Tomatoes
Classic Migas
Classic Migas

Green Posole

Posole is a Mexican soup made with pork and hominy. This green posole is made with a flavorful broth of tomatillos, poblanos and jalapenos which lends it plenty of spice and a gorgeous vibrant green color. 

Soup is the solution to most, if not all of life's problems. It's warm, cozy and satisfying. Just try and feel sad while curled up with a big bowl of soup. It's kinda like a big hug in a bowl.

A couple months ago, I declared my tortilla soup the best tortilla soup ever. I still stand by that claim. Now I make the same dubious claim for this gorgeous green posole.

Posole is a traditional Mexican soup that can be traced back to a pre-Columbian origin. It was considered sacred by Aztecs and other Mesoamericans, often consumed ritualistically on special occasions. Disturbing factoid - and please don't let it destroy your appetite for this delicious soup - after sacrifices, human flesh was used to make posole. Because they thought humans were made from maize (interestingly, they were kinda right), the soup took on special meaning. Unless you're Hannibal Lector, lets pass on that ingredient.

The base of this soup is made from a puree of tomatillos, poblano chiles, jalapenos, and cilantro, giving it a vibrant green color. It is rich, flavorful and tangy and super fragrant! The soup itself is rather brothy, but the toppings give it some heft.

Green Posole

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

  • 1 lb pork tenderloin, preferably organic and pastured, cut into 1-inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth, low sodium
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 teaspoons coriander
  • 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 lb tomatillos, husked and quartered
  • 1 large onion, quartered
  • 3 poblano chilies, seeded and quartered
  • 2 jalapenos, seeded and halved
  • 6 large garlic cloves
  • 1 whole bunch of cilantro, stems cut off about an inch or two from the leaves
  • 2 14 ounce cans hominy
  • Your choice of toppings: radish, cabbage, fried tortilla strips, hot sauce, avocado, organic plain yogurt, cilantro, diced chilies, green onions, pepitas, feta cheese, charred corn, lime wedges

Instructions

  1. In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. While it's heating, season pork with salt and pepper. Add to the oil and brown on all sides. Pour in the broth, salt, cumin and coriander and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until pork is cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  2. In a blender, blend the tomatillos, onion, poblano, jalapenos, garlic, and cilantro with 1 cup of water until pureed.
  3. Heat remaining tablespoon of oil in a large skillet on medium. Add ⅔ of the puree and simmer 5 minutes until thickened slightly
  4. Meanwhile, blend a cup of hominy with the remaining green puree until smooth
  5. Pour cooked puree into the broth and pork. Stir in remaining hominy. Cook over medium heat to warm through.
  6. Right before serving, pour in the remaining hominy puree. Divide between bowls and top of your choice of toppings

Cheese Grits Stuffed Poblanos with Tomato Gravy

These cheese grits stuffed poblanos with tomato gravy and melty cheddar cheese are comfort food to the max! 

If you are from the South and do not own a Lee Brothers cookbook, then you're not really a southern. Perhaps I'm being a bit extreme.  And as someone who has lived a third of her life above the Mason-Dixon line, I probably shouldn't be judging ones southern-ness. But seriously, if you love southern food as much as I do, then you need to familiarize yourself with Matt and Ted.  Like me, the Lee Brothers were born in New York. Also like me, they moved down south as young children, ending up in Charleston, SC, the mecca of low country southern cuisine.  Their first cookbook, "The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook", tells the story of falling in love with Charleston through recipes, anecdotes from their childhood and bits of culinary history. 

Both brothers moved back to New York for college.  In a city that has an Italian, Moroccan, French, Japanese, Chinese, Ethiopian and a Jewish deli on every block, there was just one thing they couldn't find - boiled peanuts. So, they started making and selling their own.  Soon after, they founded the Lee Bros. Boiled Peanuts Catalogue, where they sold artisan southern foods like sorghum syrup and pickled peaches to displaced southerners. Eventually, this led to a career as food and travel journalists, and finally, cookbook authors.  

The Lee Bros. hawk legit southern food.  No Paula Dean style "let's-throw-in-another-stick-of-butter-deep-fry-it-and-call-it-southern" recipes here.  Many of the recipes have been passed down generation after generation from places all over the south - small family-run farms in Tennessee, bayou-dwellers in Louisiana, Mexican immigrants in Texas, or from another must have southern cookbook, "Charleston Receipts."  In "Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook," you'll find recipes for perfect jambalaya, baked country ham, low country boil and of course, boiled peanuts. 

What I like most about their recipes is that they aren't too stuck on finding "The Most Authentic ______."  Just the version they think tastes best.  Many of the recipes, like this one, are modernized but inspired by traditional southern foods.  

The other thing I love is that they dispel the myth that all southern food is all lard, butter and white flour. Sometimes that's correct, but the south has it's roots in agriculture so southern food was traditionally plant-based with very little meat - think collard greens, red beans and rice, pickled veggies. Although you won't find the Lee Bros. cookbook in the diet section of your bookstore, (not with that four-layer red velvet cake on page 466!), you'll find many whole food recipes with an emphasis on plants. Cornbread and tomato salad, squash and mushroom hominy, whole roasted fish with sweet potatoes and scallions and pickled okra - all dietitian approved!

This recipe was inspired by the chiles rellenos the Lee brothers enjoyed from a random gas station cantina on Johns Island.  =It catered mostly to Mexican farm workers, so the food was authentic. As they point out, southern food and Mexican food have a lot in common - corn, squash, hot peppers, pork and cheese! The pairing of cheese grits and mildly spicy poblanos is perfection!

Cheese Grits Stuffed Poblanos with Tomato Gravy

Serves 4

Adapted from Lee Brothers Southern Cookbook

Ingredients

Grits:

  • 2 cups 2% milk
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 cup stone-ground grits
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup coarsely grated cheddar cheese

Chiles:

  • 1 14-ounce can fire roasted tomatoes, drained
  • 4 large poblano peppers
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and quartered
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, unpeeled
  • 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated extra-sharp cheddar (ditto on above)

Instructions

  1. First, make the grits. Bring the milk and water to a boil on medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. When it comes to a boil, slowly pour in the grits and salt while stirring constantly for about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring every 2-3 minutes, for a total of about 30-40 minutes until thickened, soft and creamy. Turn off the heat, add the black pepper and cheese. Stir until the cheese has melted into the grits.
  2. While grits are cooking, preheat the broiler to high. Arrange the peppers, onion and garlic on a large baking sheet. Brush the vegetables lightly with olive oil. Place in the oven about 3 inches from the heating element. Turn the peppers about every 3 minutes until the skins are blistered and well-charred on all sides, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and reduce heat to 400 degrees. Transfer the peppers to a large bowl and cover with saran wrap. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, gently rub away the skins. Cut a slit into each pepper and carefully remove the seeds.
  3. When the tomatoes, onions and garlic are cool enough to handle, transfer to a food processor and puree into a chunky sauce. Season with salt and black pepper.
  4. Divide the cheese grits evenly between each pepper half. Press the grits into the pepper lightly with your hands or a spoon. Place in a baking sheet and pour the tomato sauce over the peppers.
  5. Place in the oven and bake at 400 degrees until the sauce is bubbly, about 20 minutes. Sprinkle the cheese on top and place under the broiler for about 1-2 minutes until the cheese is browned and melted.