Pambazos (Mexican Chorizo and Potato Sandwiches)

published Jun 11, 2024
Pambazos Recipe

Feast on these spicy fried sandwiches loaded with Mexican chorizo, tender potatoes, and a refreshing cabbage slaw.

Serves5

Makes5 sandwiches

Prep20 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook40 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
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head on shot of two pambazos on a marble surface, showing the chorizo, potatoes and lettuce
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

A pambazo is a Mexican sandwich that has different variations and origins based on the region of Mexico you’re in. My recipe pulls from the styles of Mexico City, Veracruz, and Puebla to give you the best of all regions. Here, telera rolls are dipped in a spicy chile sauce then fried and filled with a mixture of Mexican chorizo and diced potatoes that are cooked in chorizo fat. The tart slaw of fresh cabbage, salty cotija, and creamy avocado breaks up the rich flavors and provides balance to this iconic sandwich. The grand finale is a generous drizzle of the spicy sauce over the filling so you can enjoy it on more than just the rolls. Altogether, this sandwich is guaranteed to make anyone’s mouth water. 

Why You’ll Love It 

  • It’s got heat. Dried chiles are toasted first to release more flavor, resulting in an earthy spiced sauce with more depth. The rolls are dipped in the sauce then fried. As you’re assembling, drizzle some of the flavorful salsa on the inside of the sandwich for more oomph. 
  • The filling is so flavorful. The potatoes are cooked with the chorizo, instead of separately, resulting in a more flavorful filling with less hassle.
  • It has a fresh element. The tart cabbage slaw adds a layer of freshness, which balances out the richer earthy flavors. 
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe; Food Styling: Rachel Perlmutter

Key Ingredients in Pambazos

  • Dried chiles: Chile de arbol adds a layer of much-needed heat and complexity to the sauce compared with just using guajillo chiles alone. When shopping for dried chiles, feel for how pliable they are. The older the chiles are, the drier and more prone to cracking they get. 
  • Avocado: As a native Californian, I believe avocado is crucial in sandwiches. It adds a creamy texture and nutty flavor to the cabbage salad. 
  • Mexican chorizo: Rendering the fat of the chorizo is key to ensuring your potatoes are flavorful and spiced. Look for chorizo that is in a casing and raw. Steer clear of precooked chorizo. 

How to Make Pambazos 

  1. Make the sauce. Make the spicy guajillo sauce by blending toasted and rehydrated guajillo and arbol chiles with garlic, cumin and cinnamon.
  2. Cook the filling. Sauté the chorizo and toss the potatoes in the rendered fat and spices with a splash of water and cover until the potatoes are fork tender.
  3. Make the slaw. Shred cabbage and toss with a generous squeeze of lime juice, crumbled cotija cheese, sliced jalapeño, and diced avocado. 
  4. Fry the rolls. Dip the outsides of bread in chile sauce and pan-fry until crispy. Turn the roll halves over and fry them in the residual chile oil until golden brown. 
  5. Assemble your pambazos. Build the sandwiches by spreading Mexican crema on the rolls and filling them with the chorizo, potatoes, cabbage slaw, and a drizzle of guajillo sauce. 

The History and Variations

There are two known tales when it comes to the origins of the pambazo. Both focus mostly on the bread being used, yet each resulted in two very different versions of the sandwich. 

One version is that the pambazos were a result of needing to spruce up a “peasant” bread that was made with low-quality flours. What better way to do that than soaking it in a spicy chile sauce and frying. The other version is that the bread was created by chefs in Veracruz for a visiting empress to satisfy her love for a nearby snow-covered volcano that separated Veracruz and Puebla. The bread was not covered in red sauce but instead dusted with a white flour to resemble the volcano Pico de Orizaba. 

It is important to note that not all pambazos are created equally. The Veracruz version is not covered in chile sauce and fried, but instead the bread is dusted with white flour and generally stuffed with beans, meats, and cheese. 

Mexico City’s version, which is most widely known, is made on Mexico’s independence day. It includes the chile-covered fried rolls and the popular filling of chorizo and potato. The pambazos in Puebla, however, contain meat stewed in a spiced guajillo sauce and only the corner of the top half of the roll is dipped in sauce, but not fried. They are stuffed with stewed meat and vegetable fillings.  

These regional variations show just how complex Mexican cuisine is. The beautiful thing about recipes is that they travel across states and time just as people do. With travel comes the adaptation of communities based on accessible ingredients and cultural practices. The pambazo is the perfect example of the beautiful complexity that is Mexican cuisine.

Helpful Swaps

  • Swap cabbage for any sturdy crunchy lettuce such as iceberg. 
  • Use plant-based Mexican chorizo instead of pork. 
  • Use beef chorizo if you do not eat pork. 

Storage and Make-Ahead tips 

  • Make the chile guajillo sauce up to 2 days in advance. You can store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, after that it will start to lose its potency. Warm the sauce up in a pan or pot over low heat. 
  • Make the potato and chorizo mixture up to 2 days in advance (store up to 3 days max). Heat the mixture up by sautéeing it in a pan until hot and the oils release from the chorizo.

What to Serve with Pambazos

Since the sandwiches are pretty much a meal in themselves, I recommend serving them with lighter fare alongside, such as a simple salad of greens, cucumber, and radish. 

Pambazos Recipe

Feast on these spicy fried sandwiches loaded with Mexican chorizo, tender potatoes, and a refreshing cabbage slaw.

Prep time 20 minutes to 35 minutes

Cook time 40 minutes to 45 minutes

Makes 5 sandwiches

Serves 5

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the sauce (makes 2 cups):

  • 10

    dried guajillo chiles

  • 4

    dried chiles de arbol

  • 3 cups

    cold water

  • 1 large clove

    garlic

  • 1 teaspoon

    kosher salt

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cinnamon, preferably Mexican or Ceylon

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    ground cumin

For the filling:

  • 1 pound

    Yukon gold potatoes (about 3 medium)

  • 1 pound

    raw Mexican chorizo, casings removed if needed

  • 1/4 cup

    water

For the slaw:

  • 1/8 to 1/4

    medium green cabbage (about 7 ounces)

  • 1

    ripe firm avocado

  • 1

    medium jalapeño

  • 2 1/2 ounces

    cotja cheese

  • 2

    medium limes

For assembly:

  • 5

    kaiser or telera rolls

  • 1/2 cup

    neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola

  • 1/2 cup

    crema mexicana or Mexican table cream

Instructions

Make the sauce:

  1. Trim the stems from 10 dried guajillo chiles and 4 dried chiles de arbol. Heat a comal or cast-iron skillet over low heat. Add the chiles and toast, turning them every 45 to 60 seconds, until fragrant and darkening in spots, about 3 minutes total. Transfer the chiles to a small saucepan, add 3 cups cold water, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Turn off the heat and let the chiles steep for 5 minutes.

  2. Pour the mixture into a blender. Add 1 large peeled garlic clove, 1 tablespoon kosher salt, 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer set over a bowl and press the mixture through the strainer; discard the contents of the strainer.

Make the filling:

  1. Dice 1 pound Yukon gold potatoes (no need to peel, about 3 1/2 cups). Place 1 pound raw Mexican chorizo in an unheated large nonstick frying pan. Place over medium heat and cook for 5 minutes, breaking up the chorizo into small pieces with a wooden spoon.

  2. Add the potatoes and 1/4 cup water, and stir to combine. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the potatoes are fork tender, about 10 minutes. Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl and cover to keep warm. Wipe out the skillet (no need to wash).

Make the slaw:

  1. Prepare the following, adding each to a large bowl as you complete it: Core and cut 1/8 to 1/4 medium cabbage into thin shreds until you have 2 cups. Halve, pit, and dice 1 medium avocado. Thinly slice 1 medium jalapeño crosswise on a slight diagonal. Crumble 2 1/2 ounces cotija cheese (about 1/2 cup). Juice 2 medium limes until you have 1/4 cup. Toss to combine.

Assemble the pambazos:

  1. Heat 1/2 cup neutral oil in the now-empty large frying pan over medium heat until shimmering. Meanwhile, transfer 3/4 cup the sauce into a pie plate; reserve the remaining for assembling. Split 4 kaiser or telera rolls with a serrated knife if needed. Dip the outside of each piece (but not the cut side) in the sauce to coat.

  2. Add 4 of the pieces sauce-side down in the pan (it will bubble up). Fry until darkened in color, charred in spots, and toasted, making sure to get to the edges, about 2 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack and repeat frying the remaining rolls.

  3. Return 4 of the pieces cut-side down to the pan. Fry until toasted and golden brown, about 2 minutes. Return to the rack cut-side up and repeat frying the cut sides of the remaining rolls.

  4. Spread 1 tablespoon crema mexicana onto the cut side of each piece of roll. Top each bottom half with 1/2 cup of the slaw. Top each with 1/2 cup of the filling. Drizzle each with 1 tablespoon of the sauce. Close the pambazos with the top halves of the rolls.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: The sauce can be made up to 2 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container.

Storage: Leftover sauce can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 week. The cabbage slaw can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 1 day. The filling can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; reheat before using.