Pozole Chronicles: From Complexity to Comfort

When it comes to comfort food, pozole stands out as a family favorite. It’s a hearty soup filled with pork, hominy, and a flavorful blend of garlic and chiles. 

Its name traces back to the Nahuatl word “pozolli” or “posolli,” meaning a stew of maize kernels, highlighting its deep-rooted connection to ancient traditions.

Yet, beyond its delicious flavors is an unsavory history – a tale of culinary heritage and a saga steeped in complexity and shadows.

“In its inception, pozole was nothing more than corn, water, and humans,” Chef, and amateur Mexican food anthropologist, Claudette Zepeda says on Munchies TV.

The Unsavory History of Pozole

Pozole holds a complex and unsettling history rooted in the ancient traditions of the Aztec empire. 

According to Aztec mythology, as explained by the nonprofit site TourMexico,  the god Quetzalcoatl created pozole as a dish for humans to consume, using his own blood mixed with maize. 


At a festival called Tlacaxipehualiztli, where they celebrated crops and the Aztecs’ corn history, an early version of pozole mixed human flesh with the white cacahuazintle corn associated with Iztacmizcóatl, the White Cloud Serpent. 

“But while the festivities were meant to be celebratory, they were also gruesome. Human sacrifices were part of the rituals to appease the god,” FamiliaKitchen.com writes. 

A Spanish missionary named Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, who arrived in Mexico in 1529, wrote about a version of pozole called tlacatlaolli, in Florentine Codex: General History of the Matters of New Spain. He documented how captors and their families ate a stew made from corn alongside a piece of the captive’s flesh after a religious ceremony.

But the practice of using human hearts in this version of pozole ended with the arrival of the Spanish. “The Catholic Church could not support this cannibalistic practice, and the preparation of pozole in this way was outlawed,” the AmigoFoods blog says. “At this time, locals introduced pork as suitable substitute meat.”

Today, pozole is a beloved traditional dish in Mexico and the U.S. There are many variations of pozole, including red, green, and white pozole, each with its own unique flavor and ingredients. “ … there are three types of pozole which rather appropriately mirror the colors of the Mexican flag – red (rojo), white (blanco) and green (verde) – and these all contain slight alterations to that base recipe,” the CultureTrip explains.

Pozole With a Modern Twist

Soup is a wintertime staple thanks to its simplicity and warmth. Put a delicious spin on your next winter warmup with a pozole recipe with a twist. 

This Smoky Chorizo and Chicken Pozole dish relies on the bold, hearty, spicy taste of pork chorizo combined with salsa. Queso Fresco’s crumbly, creamy texture and milky, fresh flavor adds the perfect finishing touch, making this soup a perfect way to warm up weeknights with just the right amount of heat.

Smoky Chorizo and Chicken Pozole
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 30 minutes
Servings: 6-8

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large white or yellow onion, finely chopped

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus additional, to taste (optional)

1 package (9 ounces) Cacique Pork Chorizo

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

1 container (16 ounces) Cacique Medium Homestyle Salsa

1 quart chicken stock

2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs or breasts, trimmed of excess fat and diced

1 can (25 ounces) white hominy, drained and rinsed

1 lime, cut into wedges

3/4 cup crumbled Cacique Ranchero Queso Fresco

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

Directions:

In a large, heavy pot over medium heat, heat oil. Reserve 1/4 cup onion for garnish; add remaining onion to pot and season with salt. Saute until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Increase heat to medium-high; add pork chorizo and break it apart with a spoon. Cook chorizo undisturbed until deeply browned and cooked through, 3-5 minutes. Add smoked paprika and oregano; cook for 30 seconds, or until fragrant.

Pour in salsa and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Bring to simmer 1 to 2 minutes, allowing it to thicken slightly then add stock and bring to simmer.

Stir in diced chicken and hominy. Decrease heat to medium and cook 8-10 minutes until chicken is cooked through. Taste and season with more salt, if necessary. Remove from heat.

Serve bowls of pozole with reserved onion, lime wedges, crumbled queso fresco and chopped cilantro.

Find more comforting recipes from our friends at caciquefoods.com.

Cathy-Nuestro-Stories-Writer-Image-200x275

By Catherine A. Jones

Cathy’s writing has appeared in The Washington Post Magazine, USA Weekend, People, Romper.com, The Miami New Times, and dozens of other media publications and online sites. Her opinion pieces have appeared on Today.com, El Tiempo Latino, and more.

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