That delicious, comforting red Mexican stew just got better. While I respect the traditional preparation of the dish and its origins, I couldn’t resist the idea of smoked pozole rojo.
And it’s fair to say I wasn’t disappointed. The flavor and aroma of the smoke melded perfectly with the pork and richness of the broth.
Smoked Pozole Rojo
The first time I had pozole and fresh chicharrons was in New Mexico. A desert night in a gorgeous valley surrounded by mountains with a blazing firepit. I was awestruck by the layers of flavor and warmth I had just experienced in my bowl of Mexican stew.
It’s now one of my favorite dishes to make when having company over during colder months. You can lay out all the toppings ‘buffet style’ and let everyone build their own bowl of pozole!
It’s also one of those meals that makes perfect leftovers. I swear it’s even better after a day or two. It also freezes well if you make enough to feed the whole neighborhood, and they miss out by not showing up!
Ingredients you’ll need
- Stock – traditionally, the stock in pozole is made by simmering the pork in water with aromatics. For this recipe, since we’re smoking the pork first, you’ll want to use something with some depth and flavor already. I used half beef stock and half chicken stock for balance.
- Hominy – I used canned hominy. A good rule of thumb is one 15oz can of hominy for every pound of meat.
- Bouillon – I like to add a spoonful or two of concentrated bouillon paste, especially when using store-bought stocks or broths. It just adds that extra oomph of flavor. I went with beef, but you can use chicken or even vegetable bouillon.
- Mexican oregano – if you cannot find Mexican oregano, dried marjoram is a far better substitute than regular oregano.
- Toppings – Traditional toppings for pozole are generally finely shredded cabbage or lettuce, thinly sliced radishes, chopped cilantro, and lime. You can also add shredded cheese, sour cream, and diced red onions; the possibilities are endless. Although, the flavor of this dish is so amped up that it’s perfect on its own!
Equipment you’ll need
- Cutting Board
- Wire rack – or perforated grill pan.
- Medium Pot – with a lid.
- Blender – stand or hand
- Extra large pot – or aluminum catering pan.
What cut of pork should I use?
I highly recommend sticking with pork shoulder, also known as a Boston Butt. For this recipe, you want a cut with high-fat content that will render down over the cooking process into tender, melt-in-your-mouth cubes. Stay away from pork loin.
What chili peppers should I use?
The main dried chili peppers used for pozole rojo are Guajillo (sometimes labeled as Cascavel) and Ancho chilis. I also like using a few smaller Arbol chilis for a bit of heat.
You can always find these at Mexican grocery stores. You may find them in a regular chain store depending on your region.
Why not use ordinary oregano?
There are two types of oregano: Mediterranean and Mexican. Both have a peppery herbal base. However, Mexican oregano provides an anise or licorice-type flavor and citrus, which is what we are after in this recipe.
When using dried oregano, make sure you crumble the dried leaves and rub them between your palms to release the oils and flavors for the best results.
How to make Smoked Pozole Rojo
1. Fire up the smoker
Preheat your smoker to 225-250°F degrees.
Any kind of smoke wood works well with this recipe. The strong flavors of the chilis and pork are difficult to overpower.
Cube up the pork into 1½ – 2” cubes.
Remove any gristly pieces and large sections of hard fat.
Season on all sides with salt and pepper.
Because this dish is so flavorful, I don’t use anything else to season the pork.
Place pork cubes on a wire rack or perforated grill pan. Place in the smoker for two hours. Kind of like burnt ends.
4. Chili Sauce
Remove the stems and the seeds from the chilis. I find it easiest to cut them open with a pair of kitchen shears. Since they’re dried out, cutting them open with a knife can prove a bit difficult sometimes.
Heat eight cups of water in a pot over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Add the onions, garlic, and two bay leaves, and bring to a boil for five minutes.
Add the chilis and simmer for 30 minutes.
Place a lid on the pot, remove from heat, and let the mixture steep for 30 minutes. The steeping time is just a minimum to give the flavors time to meld. You can let it sit for even longer.
Discard the bay leaves; you don’t want to add them to the blender.
Add the chilis, onions, and garlic to a blender with 1 cup of the liquid used to boil. Blend for at least 1 minute until smooth.
Place a fine mesh strainer over the pot used for boiling and strain the chili sauce. This removes the skins and any small bits of seeds you might have missed.
The broth should be smooth and glossy.
5. Put it together
Now is when you want to bring out your large pot to combine all the ingredients together.
I used a wide and shallow roaster pan since the smoker I used didn’t have a lot of height clearance. A Dutch oven can work well, or I’ve even used an oversized disposable aluminum pan before to make clean-up even easier.
Once the pork cubes have smoked for two hours, add them to the pot along with the strained chili sauce, bouillon paste, cumin, Mexican oregano, and stock. Season to taste with salt.
Stir well and add the remaining bay leaves.
Place the pot back on the smoker for one hour.
After an hour, drain the hominy and add to the pot on the smoker.
Since I used pre-cooked canned hominy, I don’t like adding it immediately.
Continue to smoke for another two hours or until the pork is tender and easily pulls apart.
Serve while hot with desired toppings.
Try some more of our comfort food recipes
- Smoked Garlic Mashed Potato
- Leftover Pulled Pork Chili
- Smoked Brisket Chili
- Smoked Meatloaf with Poblano and Cheese Stuffing
- Smoked Baked Beans with Bacon
Smoked Pozole Rojo
- 4 lb pork shoulder
- 8 cups water
- 1 white onion peeled and quartered
- 1 head garlic cloves separated and peeled
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 oz dried Ancho chilis stems and seeds removed
- 2 oz dried Guajillo (Cascavel) chilis stems and seeds removed
- 4-5 Arbol chilis optional for added spice
- 1-2 tbsp bouillion paste beef, chicken or vegetable
- 8 cups beef stock
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 2 tbsp Mexican oregano
- 2 tbsp cumin
- salt and pepper for seasoning pork and to taste
- 60 oz Hominy
- Preheat your smoker to 225-250°F degrees.
- Cube up the pork shoulder meat into 1½-2” cubes. Season on all sides with salt and pepper.
- Place pork cubes on a wire rack or perforated grill pan. Place in the smoker for 2 hours.
- Heat the water in a pot over medium-high heat on the stovetop. Add onions, garlic, and two bay leaves, and bring to a boil for five minutes.
- Add the chilis and simmer for another 30 minutes.
- Remove from heat, place a lid on the pot, and let the mixture steep for another 30 minutes.
- Discard the bay leaves. Add the chilis, onions, and garlic to the blender along with 1 cup of the steeping liquid. Blend for at least 1 minute until smooth.
- Place a fine mesh strainer over the pot used for boiling and strain the chili sauce through. This removes any chili skins or seeds.
- After the pork cubes have been smoked for two hours, add them to a large pot along with the strained chili sauce, bouillon paste, cumin, Mexican oregano, and stock. Stir well, season with salt, and add the two remaining bay leaves.
- Place the pot back on the smoker for one hour.
- Drain the hominy and add to the pot on the smoker.
- Continue to smoke for another two hours or until the pork is tender and easily pulls apart.
- Serve while hot with desired toppings.