My favorite recipe for Chile Relleno features roasted Poblano chiles stuffed with two kinds of cheese, then beer-battered and fried to crispy-on-the-outside, gooey-on-the-inside perfection. It’s definitely worth the extra effort.
In 2004, I tried Chiles Rellenos for the very first time. Since that fateful day, I have never ordered anything else at a Mexican restaurant.
Without a fool-proof recipe and proper motivation, though, I never dared to attempt My Favorite Food at home. That is, until Sheila, a reader, generously shared one with me. She makes it every year for her husband’s birthday, the lucky guy!
I decided to use beer batter for my Chile Relleno recipe because I’m from Wisconsin and we beer-batter everything we can get our hands on. It just felt right.
Beer: I use a lighter-bodied lager which has a lot of flavor, too.
Peppers: Traditionally, Chiles Rellenos is made with poblano peppers, which are dark green, glossy, and found in the produce section near the Bell peppers. However, they are also delicious made with fresh Pasilla chiles or Anaheim chiles. Whatever you can find works!
Monterey Jack cheese: Any melty cheese will work well, like queso asadero, Oaxacan cheese, or Chihuahua.
For making the batter:
Make the beer batter by mixing together the flour, egg, oil, and salt in a bowl. Then pour in just enough beer to make a thick batter that clings to the spoon, about 6 to 8 ounces. Don’t over mix. Let the batter sit out at room temperature while you roast the peppers; it needs to rest about 30 minutes before it’s ready.
For roasting the chilies:
You have 3 basic ways, using the broiler, the oven, or open flame. I go a little more in-depth in how to roast peppers, but here are the basics.
Broiler: Move the oven rack 6 inches from the broiler and preheat to HIGH heat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and arrange the whole chiles in a single layer. Broil the chiles, watching closely, until the tops are blackened and blistered but not ashy white, about 5 minutes. Turn the chiles every few minutes until all sides are black and blistery.
Oven: Preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and arrange the whole chiles in a single layer. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the skins are blackened and blistered but not ashy white, turning occasionally to cook every surface of the pepper.
Open flame: Turn a gas burner (or grill) to HIGH. Place chiles directly over the open flame. Using tongs, carefully turn the chiles until all sides are blackened and blistered but not ashy white. (This method sets off the smoke detector in my house.)
Once roasted, place the hot chilies in a bowl and seal with a tight layer of plastic wrap. This creates steam that helps loosen the skins. When they are cool, gently rub off the skin and make a single slit in each pepper to remove the seeds, leaving the stems attached.
For making the cheese filling:
Mix together the cheese, tomatoes, and onion in a medium bowl. Stuff the mixture into each of the chiles, then use a 2 to 3 wooden toothpicks to suture the opening shut and seal the cheese filling in. It works, I promise.
Frying the peppers:
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees, and place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. This will be a place to keep the fried battered peppers hot while you’re working in batches.
Pour 2 to 3 inches of oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven, or fire up a deep fryer. Heat the oil to 360 degrees. A digital thermometer is crucial for getting the oil temp right.
Working with only one or (at most) two chiles at a time, dip the cheese-stuffed chiles in the beer batter, letting the excess batter drip back into the bowl. Carefully lower the battered pepper into the hot oil and cook, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
Remove the peppers using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, then place on the wire rack in the oven to keep warm as you cook the others. Before serving, take out the toothpicks.
Recipe tips and variations:
Yield: One recipe makes 8 peppers.
Make ahead: If you have time, knock out the roasting of the peppers and store them in the fridge for later.
Storage: Eat right away, then store the leftover peppers in the refrigerator to eat the next time you’re hungry.
Leftovers: You can reheat in the microwave, but if you have time, use the oven to help crisp up the batter.
Pepper safety: Some peppers are hotter than others. If you’re sensitive to capsaicin, the chemical that makes peppers spicy, use disposable gloves and a paper towel to prepare the peppers. The paper towels have a grabby texture that really helps remove the blackened skin.
Roast a couple extra peppers: If you lack confidence in your skills, roast some extra chiles so you have a little wiggle room in case one falls apart. And I promise it gets easier with practice.
Frying tips: Don’t overcrowd your pot, frying only a pepper or two at a time so the oil stays hot. Make sure the oil comes back to 360 degrees before adding the next batch. If the oil is too cool, the batter will soak up too much oil and be greasy. A good-quality digital thermometer comes in very handy for reading oil temperatures accurately.
Holding area: Create a warm place in the oven to transfer the fried peppers so they stay hot until you’re ready to serve them. Set the oven to 200 degrees, place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet in the oven, and add the finished peppers as they come out of the oil.
Just the cheese, please: If you love the pure, unadulterated texture of melted cheese, just leave the raw tomato and onion out of the filling.
Red sauce: Mexican restaurants usually smother Chiles Rellenos in a lake of red sauce. Sheila and I both agree this makes no sense, it just masks the delicious texture of the crispy batter.
Yeehah! More deliciously Tex-Mex recipes right here:
Chile Relleno Recipe
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 egg beaten
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil plus more for frying
- 1 teaspoon Salt
- Lager beer 6 to 8 ounces, as needed
- 8 fresh poblano, pasilla, or anaheim chiles
- 8 ounces Monterey Jack cheese
- 1 small roma tomato diced, optional (see notes)
- 1 small onion about ¼ cup, finely chopped , optional (see notes)
- Mexican rice for serving, optional
- Beans for serving, optional
- To make the beer batter, whisk the flour, egg, oil, and salt together in a medium bowl. Whisk in just enough beer to make a thick, clingy batter. Do not overmix. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes while roasting the chiles.
- To roast the chiles under the oven broiler, arrange an oven rack 6 inches from the broiler and preheat over HIGH heat. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and arrange the whole chiles in a single layer. Broil the chiles until the tops are blackened and blistered but not ashy white, about 5 minutes. Turn the chiles every few minutes until all sides are blackened.
- To roast the chiles in the oven, preheat oven to 500 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil for easy cleanup. Arrange the whole chiles in a single layer on baking sheet. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, until the skins are blackened and blistered but not ashy white, turning occasionally to promote even roasting.
- To roast chiles over an open flame, turn a gas flame (or two) to HIGH. Arrange chiles directly over the flame. Using tongs, turn the chiles occasionally until all sides are blackened and blistered but not ashy white. This method sets off the smoke detector in my house.
- Transfer to a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let stand until chiles are cool enough to handle, about 20 minutes.
- Leaving the stems on and chiles intact, carefully rub off and discard the blackened skin (I wear gloves and use paper towels). Using a small, sharp knife, cut a slit in one side and remove the seeds from each chile.
- In a medium bowl, combine Monterey Jack cheese, tomatoes, and onion if using. Divide the mixture among the chiles. Using wooden toothpicks, close up the slits in the chiles. Set aside.
- Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Place a wire rack over a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.
- Preheat deep fryer or pour 2 to 3 inches of oil into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Heat to 360 degrees on a deep-frying thermometer.
- Working with 1 or 2 chiles at a time, dip the stuffed chiles in the beer batter, letting the excess batter drip back in to the bowl. Place in hot oil and deep fry, turning once (I use two spatulas), until golden brown, about 4 minutes.
- Using a slotted spoon or wire skimmer, transfer chiles to the wire rack in the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining chiles. Serve with rice and beans if desired.
- Adding the tomatoes and onion to the cheese filling is optional. You could also add chicken or beef (seasoned, cooked, and cooled).