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Cheesy Chiles Rellenos

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Chiles rellenos is a popular Mexican restaurant staple all over the world, and for good reason! Who can resist a smoky poblano pepper filled with melty cheese and surrounded with a delicate crust?

Chile Rellenos

This recipe brings all the goodness right to your kitchen table. We used ingredients that are easy to find and broke each step down into bite size pieces. This recipe requires a little more work in the kitchen than a quick weeknight meal, but we promise you, the pay off is worth it.

If you’re a fan of creamy poblano recipes like this one, try our creamy chicken and poblano soup.

What Are Chiles Rellenos?

Chile relleno means “stuffed chile.” Traditionally, this Mexican dish consists of poblano or Anaheim peppers that are stuffed with meat or cheese and coated with eggs, then fried. Yum!

It is typically served with a red sauce, but this varies depending where you get them. If you order this dish at your favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, the peppers will likely be stuffed with cheddar cheese or queso and served alongside rice.

Stuffing peppers with cheese and deep frying them is nothing new! Check out our jalapeño popper recipe for more cheesy goodness.

How To Make Chiles Rellenos

Ingredients:

  • 6 poblano chili peppers (large and flat)
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 8 oz of square cheese cut into ¾ inch strips 
  • 2 14.5oz cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic (thin sliced)
  • 1 sweet onion (thin sliced)
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 3 large eggs, whites and yolks separated
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil

Step 1: Prepare the charred peppers

The goal in this step is to blacken and blister as much as the surface of the peppers as possible. This can be done in a few ways.

Charred peppers in pan
  • Method 1: Line a cookie sheet with foil. Place the peppers under the broiler and turn them as needed until charred.
  • Method 2: Place the peppers directly on a gas stove burner, carefully turning them to char.
  • Method 3 (preferred): Char the peppers on a dry cast iron skillet. Or, use a foil-lined skillet.

Pull your charred peppers from the heat and place them immediately into an airtight container. Allow them to steam for 10 minutes or until they are easy to handle. You can also place them on a cutting board with a bowl turned upside down on top of them. This is the same process used in our stuffed pepper soup recipe.

Tip: As the peppers steam, prepare the salsa roja.

Step 2: Prepare the salsa roja

Heat a small pan over medium heat and add oil and sliced onion. Saute until translucent. Then, add the garlic and stir for 45 seconds. Carefully pour in the tomato sauce and broth and allow the sauce to come to a slow boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes.

Salsa roja

When you see the onions surfacing out of the sauce, it is reduced enough and you can take it off the burner. Allow the sauce to cool, then use an immersion blender and blend until smooth. You can also use a regular blender and work in batches. Return the sauce to the pan and reheat on low when it is time to plate up your peppers.

Tip: To simplify this recipe, use your favorite store-bought salsa roja. You can also make a different variation of red salsa with fresh tomatoes and peppers.

Step 3: Cleaning and stuffing the peppers

Stuffing the poblano peppers with cheese for chiles rellenos

Gently push away the char on the outside of the peppers. They are very fragile at this point, so work slowly and carefully.

After the peppers are steamed and skinned, create an opening to stuff the peppers. Squeeze the sides of the pepper with just enough pressure to force the center to fold upwards. Use a sharp knife tip to poke into the fold, creating a 2-inch cut down the center. A shorter cut will reduce the likelihood of cheese seeping out.

Carefully insert the cheese and be sure to shake the pepper so the cheese falls to the bottom. Do not overfill them! The seam should be able to close.

Tip: If there happens to be a very long cut, use a toothpick or skewer stick to fasten it. Remove before serving.

Step 4: Prepare the coating

Preparing the batter for chiles rellenos

In a shallow dish, whisk together the flour, cumin, and salt, and set it aside. In a small bowl combine baking soda and egg yolks, set aside. 

Separate the egg whites from the yolks. Beat the egg whites for 3 minutes until stiff peaks form. This is best done with a hand mixer. Using a rubber spatula, fold the yolk mixture into the whipped egg whites. Place this mixture onto a shallow dish or plate.

Step 5: Coating and frying the peppers

Peppers being dredged

Preheat vegetable oil to 325-400°F. Over 400°F the oil becomes too hot. After the oil reaches temperature, it is time to coat the peppers.

Gently lay the pepper flat in the flour coating, seam side up. Picking them up by the stem is easiest. Use a spoon to coat the sides and the top.

Repeat this method with the egg batter you prepared. Then, carefully and slowly lay the coated pepper into the hot oil.

Going slowly will reduce the possibility of splashing hot oil, but it will also cause steam to fill the batter which allows the pepper to float in the oil. Watch for the edges to turn golden brown. Use a metal spatula to gently flip the pepper and complete cooking. This should take about 5 minutes per side. Work in small batches or one at a time for best results

Step 6: Cooling and serving

Remove the peppers from the hot oil and lay them on a cookie sheet that has been lined with paper towels. If you would like the peppers extra crispy, place them on a foil lined cookie sheet and bake them at 325°F for 15 minutes.

Serve warm with the salsa roja and enjoy!

Chile relleno

Recipe Tips and FAQs

  • Charred peppers are very fragile and can tear easily. Use your hands to gently peel off the charred skin, rinsing your fingers as needed. The peppers may tear during this process. Use these tears as a starting point for stuffing the peppers.
  • Scrape the seeds out after the roasting and steaming process if desired.
  • Make the shortest cut possible in the center of the pepper to stuff with cheese.
  • When creating the whipped egg whites, beat until you can form stiff peaks. The best way to check is to slowly tip the bowl. Firm egg whites won’t move and will stick to the bottom.
  • You can stuff these with ground beef, beans, cheese, rice or any combination of these ingredients.
  • For a crispier exterior, try beer battered chile relleno by mixing 1 cup all purpose flour, 2 tablespoons of cornstarch, and 1 tsp baking powder, salt, and half a can of beer. Stir until it reaches the consistency of pancake batter.

Should I remove the seeds of the peppers?

Poblano peppers rank near the bottom of the Scoville heat scale. Removing the seeds will result in a less spicy variation of this dish. You can remove the seeds after charring and steaming, but this is optional.

What type of peppers should I use for chiles rellenos?

Traditionally, poblano peppers are used for chiles rellenos due to their mild heat and sturdy texture. However, you can also use Anaheim or hatch chiles for a similar result.

Can I bake chile rellenos instead of frying them?

You can bake these instead of frying them. After stuffing, place them on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven at 375°F (190°C) for about 25-30 minutes. The filling should be heated through and the batter should be golden brown.

How can I tell if the cheese is melted?

There is really no way of knowing if the cheese is adequately melted until you take a bite. Don’t be afraid to fry at a lower temperature and wait for them to become dark golden brown. Or use the optional step of placing them in the oven for an additional 15 minutes after frying.

What do I garnish these chiles rellenos with?

Garnish with crumbled Mexican cotija cheese, chopped cilantro, diced red onion, or a drizzle of creme fresh and your favorite hot sauce. Complete this meal with a delicious spicy margarita!

Can I make this recipe ahead of time?

Both the red sauce and the peeled peppers will stay fresh for up to 3 days in the refrigerator. When you are ready to cook, let the peppers come to room temperature, then stuff and cook.

Chiles rellenos

Storage and reheating

To store these for later consumption, allow them to cool to room temperature. Then, refrigerate in an airtight container for 2-3 days. To reheat, bake them at 350°F (175°C) in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Or, microwave for 2 minutes and serve with desired toppings and sauces.

While this recipe is more involved than most due to the deep frying, it is well worth it for a special occasion. If you make this recipe, be sure to let us know how you liked it.

Want more Mexican recipes?

Chile Rellenos

Cheesy Chiles Rellenos

Print Pin Rate
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Chiles rellenos

Ingredients

For the stuffed peppers

  • 6 poblano chili peppers large and flat
  • 8 oz square mozzarella cheese cut into matchsticks

For the homemade red sauce

  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 1 sweet yellow onion thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes 14.5 oz each
  • 1 cup chicken broth

For the batter

  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 large eggs whites and yolks separated
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable oil divided for frying and sauteing

Instructions

Char and steam the peppers

  • Use the broiler of your oven, the flame from your gas stove, or a dry cast iron skillet to char the peppers evenly on each side. You can also line a pan with foil for easy clean-up.
    Charred peppers in pan
  • Place peppers in a large ziplock bag to steam and cool. You can also place them on a cutting board with a bowl flipped upside down on top of them. This will take about 15 minutes.

Make the salsa roja

  • Add olive oil to a large pan or Dutch oven and bring to medium heat. Saute chopped onion until translucent. Add garlic and stir for 45 seconds.
    Salsa roja
  • Add canned tomatoes and broth. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove from heat when sauce is reduced and onions begin peeking through the top.
  • Allow to cool. Blend until smooth using an immersion blender or work in batches with a regular blender. Set aside.
    Blended salsa

Prepare the dredge and fry peppers

  • Pour oil into a deep skillet or Dutch oven and and heat to 325°F.
  • While oil is preheating, create the egg batter. Using a hand mixer, whip egg whites on high until it forms stiff peaks. Add baking powder to egg yolks and stir carefully. Finally, fold the yolk mixture into the egg whites very carefully.
    Egg batter coating
  • In a separate shallow pan, whisk together flour, cumin and salt.
  • Remove the burnt flesh from each pepper and make a small cut in the center of each. Carefully stuff each pepper with chunks of cheese.
    Filled poblano peppers
  • Lay your first stuffed pepper gently in the flour dredge and spoon flour over the topside of your pepper. Then, carefully place pepper into the egg batter, spooning the batter over the top.
    Peppers in batter
  • Place each battered pepper one at a time very gently on the surface of the oil, work in small batches making sure to leave plenty of room for each pepper.
  • While the bottom side is cooking use a spoon to spoon hot oil over the tops especially around the area where the slice has been made for the cheese.
  • When the bottom of the peppers have a nice dark golden outline, carefully turn each pepper and cook the other side, about 5 minutes per side.
  • When both sides are a dark golden color, gently remove each pepper and place on a plate lined with a few sheets of paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
  • Optional: Place stuffed peppers onto a lined baking sheet and in the oven at 325°F for 15 minutes for extra crispness.
  • Pour salsa roja on a plate and top with your stuffed pepper and serve.

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