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The hominy (maize) used in pozole | © Glane23/WikiCommons
The hominy (maize) used in pozole | © Glane23/WikiCommons
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A Brief History of Pozole, Mexico’s Take on Traditional Stew

Picture of Lauren Cocking
Northern England Writer
Updated: 28 February 2017
Pozole is easily one of Mexico’s most iconic and beloved dishes, but where does it originate and why does no one pozole taste like another? Similar to stew or soup, pozole is popular across the country, although some regions lay claim to certain variations. With that in mind, here’s your brief introduction to this delicious Mexican dish.

What is it?

Pozole is basically a cross between a soup and a stew and is popular around the country, especially on events such as Mexican Independence Day and at Christmas, and most people associate it with any large family gathering. Pretty much all pozoles contain the base ingredients of pork, garlic and large hominy kernels (cacahuazintle), although there are several versions that use meats such as chicken instead, plus the added extras of shredded lettuce, hot sauce, diced onion, thinly sliced radish, a healthy squeeze of lime and avocado. It’s often served with tostadas and crema.

A delicious bowl of pozole | © Nacho Pintos/Flickr
A delicious bowl of pozole | © Nacho Pintos/Flickr

However, there are three types of pozole which rather appropriately mirror the colours of the Mexican flag – red (rojo), white (blanco) and green (verde) – and these all contain slight alterations to that base recipe. White pozole doesn’t include any red or green salsas, as you would imagine, whereas green pozole can include ingredients like tomatillos, cilantro and even jalapeños. Red pozole relies more heavily on chilies such as guajillo, ancho or piquin.

White pozole doesn’t use red or green sauces | © Thelmadatter/WikiCommons
White pozole doesn’t use red or green sauces | © Thelmadatter/WikiCommons

Where does it originate?

As with many Mexican foodstuffs, the name pozole originates from Nahuatlpozolé, pozolli or pasole, which some claim means ‘hominy’ and others say means ‘frothy’and remains most popular in states that have the most common variations on it, such as Jalisco (whose red pozole is the most well-known), Guerrero (which uses green tomatoes in the broth) and both the State and City of Mexico. However, it’s also typical in Michoacán (where chicharrón is added), as well as Sinaloa, Zacatecas, Colima and Morelos. Either way, it’s completely pre-Hispanic in origin and was written about by many of the Spanish conquistadors and their party.

Pozole verde, Guerrero-style | © Slevinr/WikiCommons
Pozole verde, Guerrero-style | © Slevinr/WikiCommons

Originally, pozole was considered a sacred dish due to the use of the trademark large hominy kernels combined with meat. A slightly gruesome claim from pozole’s history is that it was supposedly once made with the human flesh of sacrificed prisoners. Pork was supposedly used as a replacement because of its striking similarity in taste to human meat, but try not to think about that the next time you’re enjoying a delicious bowl of pozole. However, other sources suggest the meat was that of the famous Mexican dogs, xoloitzcuintles. Is that better? We’ll let you decide!

The hominy (maize) used in pozole | © Glane23/WikiCommons
The hominy (maize) used in pozole | © Glane23/WikiCommons