Almost Vegan Chili Rellanos

The first time I ordered a chili relleno in a restaurant I was hooked. It was at a small, family-owned (aka authentic) Mexican restaurant in a collegetown that has long since closed down, but none the same, the experience had me at hello. Or first bite, I guess. Anyhoo, it was a rather large chili, with a sauce akin to red enchilada sauce, but different. It was coated (as are most) with a nicely browned breading and oozed Monterey jack cheese when I cut into it. Needless to say, I’ve been ordering them ever since.

But, problem is, every place seems to make them differently and a lot have some kind of ground meat mixed in with the cheese that reminds me of Hamburger Helper. And so I’ve stopped ordering them unless I can be assured they are vegetarian. And I’ve started making my version at home. Note, if you can’t get big enough poblanos to stuff, just cut them in half lengthwise and that works just as well. Now, as far as the “almost” vegan part, it all has to do with the cheese. I highly suggest using half vegan and half dairy if you’re new to the whole vegan cheese concept. Admittedly, the consistency is a bit different, but no one will know the difference unless you tell them. Also, there are some really great vegan sour creams on the market so try serving it with that as an optional topping if you so desire.

So, the secret to making great chili rellenos is (IMO) making sure you blister the chilies first, and peel them. I never used to do this even though I know it was recommended I do so by a number of authentic Mexican cooks, but I was kind of lazy. Anyway, as soon as I figured out how to blister them, it made all the difference in the world. Trick is placing them under broiler and NOT WALKING AWAY. You need to watch them constantly and be ready to flip them over so each side gets evenly done. Let them cool for a bit before peeling away the blistered skins.

One other thing to note, I don’t fry or bread my rellenos. Mostly because I find this method easier and a lot less messy. And, well, it’s better for you to, so there’s that ; )

Almost Vegan Chili Rellenos

PREP TIME: 30 minutes | COOK TIME: 45 minutes

  • 4 large poblano chillis or 6 medium sized**
  • 1 cup onion, chopped
  • ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped
  • ½ cup red bell pepper chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic
  • ½ cup vegetable broth
  • 16 ounces (2 8 oz cans) petite diced tomatoes
  • 8 oz can chopped green chillis
  • 2 TBS Mexican-style seasoning**
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • EVOO for cooking
  • Monterey jack cheese AND OR vegan cheddar style shreds***

To prepare the poblanos: heat oven to 415 degrees. Place peppers on a lined baking sheet and watch closely. It should only take 5 minutes at the most for them to begin blistering. Once they do, turn them over and repeat the process. Remove from oven, let cool slightly and then begin to peel the scalded skins off and discard. Cut the stem off and set aside (or cut in half lengthwise if that’s your method).

For the sauce: saute all vegetables and garlic in olive oil for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add all other ingredients except cheese, and simmer for about 25 minutes. The sauce should reduce a bit and thicken.

For the main dish: reduce oven temperature to 350. Place small amount of sauce, 2-3 TBS and 2 TBS olive oil in the bottom of a baking dish. Stuff poblanos and place in dish (OR arrange poblano halves on top then sprinkle with cheese as if stuffing the individual portions). Cover with the remainder of the sauce and bake for 20 minutes. VARIATIONS: you can easily add rice to this to make a full meal, just put 2 cups rice on top of the first sauce layer, then add poblanos and toppings. Also, corn is a good addition and even black beans if you want it extra hearty. Just be sure to place any additions under the chilies. Toppings … I’ve seen a number of places use pomegranate seeds as well as currants, diced tomato and onion … cilantro … you do you : ) Enjoy!

NOTES: *I suggest having more poblanos on hand than you plan to use just in case you burn one when scalding in the oven. **Most stores carry Mexican seasoning that’s a combination of cumin, cardamom and others. Yes, you can use individual spices but this is easier. You could also use a packet of enchilada seasoning. ***I like Monterey jack and have yet to find a vegan version with the same flavor profile so I use equal amounts Monterey jack and vegan cheddar-style shreds.

Stuffed Peppers

Make these plant-based stuffed peppers a few days before you want to serve them, or the day of—either way they’re amazing and super easy.

Lentil-stuffed Enchiladas

The first time I had enchiladas stuffed with lentils rather than chicken or beef, I remember thinking there was NO WAY IN HELL that they would taste good, but this one of my all time fav dishes!!

On Being a Flexitarian

One Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.