Posole is everything I love about Mexican cuisine. It's fresh and light, spicy and cool, crunchy and chewy — all in one bowl. It's also the best kind of soup for this in-between "not quite cold, but not quite warm" weather we've been having. It's a cozy and satisfying soup that you get to pile with fresh green toppings. Trust me, this combination totally works.
Also called "pozole," this is basically a kicked-up chicken soup. Its real magic lies in the garnishes. Stirred into the hot broth, these raw vegetables give a crunchy, fresh backdrop to the chewy hominy and bites of tender chicken.
The fact that everyone gets to choose their own garnishes makes this soup a fun (and stress-free) family meal or casual dinner party dish. I've listed a few of my favorite garnishes, but the sky is the limit. Check out our list of Latin American flavors for more inspiration. Go wild!
A few variations for folks wanting something extra: if you have time, cooking hominy from scratch is worlds above getting it from a can. You can find it dried at many Latin markets and you cook it just like dried beans.
Grilling the chicken on an outdoor grill adds another dimension of smoky flavor. Pork is another meat traditionally used in posole — slow-cook a big shoulder roast right in the broth (covered) until you can tear it apart easy with two forks. It takes longer than 30 minutes, but it's incredibly delicious.
Posole is traditionally a slow-cooked dish, but I have to admit a real fondness for this quick 30-minute version. It's so satisfying — I love that chewy hominy! — and it's such a great last-minute dish to make on a busy weeknight.
The toppings really are the star here, so make sure you have a few options to sprinkle over the top! Crisp thinly-sliced radishes are really my favorite. They add both crunch and coolness to a spicy spoonful. I also heartily recommend tomatillos; they add a really nice brightness and acidity.
I've left this recipe nearly the same as I first wrote it back in 2008. I tweaked the spices a bit (there was a fussy step with a bouquet garni that didn't need to happen), and I added some more detail about cooking the chicken. But otherwise, it's a recipe that has stood the test of time!
- Emma, April 2014
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 to 1 1/2 pounds chicken breast
8 cups chicken broth
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme (1/2 teaspoon dry)
1 teaspoon minced fresh oregano (1/2 teaspoon dry)
2 clove garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons cumin
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika, optional
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional
1 (29-ounce) can hominy, drained and rinsed
Posole toppings, use all or some:
Diced red, white, or yellow onion
Thinly sliced radishes
Shredded lettuce or cabbage
Diced green or red bell peppers
Crumbled cotija cheese
Pat the chicken breasts dry, then pound them to an even thickness using the bottom of a jar or a meat pounder. Sprinkle them on both sides with salt and pepper.
Heat a tablespoon of oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken breast in a single layer and sear for 1 minute on both sides. Turn the heat to low, cover the pan, and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the pan from heat and cook another 10 minutes with the lid still on. Remove the lid, check that the chicken is cooked through, then set aside.
→ Step-by-Step Chicken Instructions: How To Cook Moist & Tender Chicken Breasts Every Time
While the chicken cooks, bring the chicken broth to a rapid simmer over high heat in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Once simmering, add the bay leaf, thyme, oregano, garlic, cumin, 1 teaspoon of the salt, chili powder, coriander, smoked paprika, and red pepper flakes. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the chicken is done.
Prepare all the toppings and set aside in small bowls.
Tear the chicken into bite-sized pieces with your fingers or two forks (or chop with a knife). Add the chicken and the drained hominy to the pot. Raise the heat to medium to warm everything through, about 5 minutes. Taste and add more salt or other seasonings if needed. Remove the bay leaf.
Serve the soup in individual bowls with the toppings on the table. Let everyone garnish their soup with whatever toppings they like. Leftover posole will keep, refrigerated, for 1 week.
(Image credits: Emma Christensen)