Pozole Rojo

5 from 11 votes
Jump to Recipe

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

Pozole rojo, red pozole, is about as Mexican a dish as you can get. It is an ancient soup — long predating the conquistadors — and has even been said to have been made with human meat for certain Aztec religious ceremonies. I’ll stick to pork.

Real-deal, authentic pozole hinges on just three ingredients: Chiles, pork and corn. Everything else is jazz. Depending on where you go in Mexico the chiles change, as does the color of the corn. But almost everywhere you will find that pozole hinges on not just pork, but a pig’s head.

pozole rojo in a bowl with all the fixins
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

Yep. That fantastic pozole you had on vacation in Guadalajara, or Mexico City or Michoacan probably was made with, among other things, a pig’s head. Good, wasn’t it?

Of course you don’t absolutely need a pig’s head to make pozole, but it sure helps. In an ideal world, you’d use half a head for a typical batch of pozole rojo. Lacking this, you really do need to try to find at least some pig’s feet to go with shoulder meat, which is what is in these pictures.

Oh, and yes I know that pigs were brought to Mexico by the Spaniards. I am willing to bet you $100 that pozole was made with javelina before pigs showed up.

What’s with the head? Good pozole rojo, or really any color — pozole comes in all three colors of the Mexican flag: red, white and green — should be entirely solid in the refrigerator. Only with all that collagen from the head or feet will this incredibly simple broth have the body to remain interesting among all the other things you dress pozole with.

(I have a great recipe for pozole blanco, too, if you are interested.)

You also need good corn. I once had a “pozole” with frozen sweet corn. Ack. Please, for the love of God, don’t do this. At the very least use dried field corn, but you really need hominy, maiz para pozole.

You can buy cans of white or yellow hominy in many supermarkets, and yes, they’re OK. I’ve made pozole with them. But, as you might suspect, doing it yourself is a million times better. Also as you might suspect, making your own nixtamal, maiz para pozole, is a bit involved, thus the popularity of those cans.

First you need the corn. Mexican markets will have it, in white and purple kernels, dried in plastic bags. Choose the white ones, or yellow if they have them. While you’re there, you’ll need to pick up some “cal,” calcium hydroxide or “slaked lime.” This is what turns corn into nixtamal or hominy, and you need hominy for pozole.

You weigh your corn in grams, weigh out 1 percent of that weight in slaked lime. In a large pot, cover the corn with water by an inch or so — a traditional measure is water equal to twice the volume of corn — add the slaked lime, stir well, and bring to a boil. Boil for 30 minutes or so, then turn off the heat, stir one more time, and leave overnight.

The next day, you rinse the corn, which will have changed color and feel slimy, until the slimy seed coat is all washed away. You now have maiz para pozole. Want to really have great corn though? And hell, if you’ve gone so far as to make your own nixtamalized corn, you might as well. Then nip off the dark end of each kernel where it was attached to the cob.

Why? So that after the corn has cooked for hours and is ready to eat, it will open up into a sort of flower shape. Pretty, and it will impress your Mexican friends. Not 100 percent necessary, but I do it most of the time.

Want the best corn for pozole? Get heirloom corn, ideally from Mexico. I buy mine from Masienda.

heirloom Mexican corn for pozole rojo
Photo by Hank Shaw

As for the chiles, they’re easy. Almost every authentic pozole rojo recipe I’ve ever read in English or Spanish uses dried guajillo chiles, dried ancho chiles or a combination of both. Only rarely will you see other chiles used.

Note that both guajillo and ancho chiles are super common even in regular supermarkets. And furthermore, neither is terribly picante, so you won’t be blowing people’s heads off with the broth.

Start by simmering the corn in a large pot, add the pork, then seed-and-stem the chiles. Ladle off some broth to rehydrate the chiles, buzz into a puree and add to the broth. Let this simmer until the corn and pork are tender. If you are using the head or feet, fish them out, discard any bones, and chop everything up fine.

There’s a rule when chopping up a pig’s head: The more recognizable the meat, the larger you leave it. Have no idea what that funny looking bit is? Chop it fine. No one will notice or care.

I know, I can’t believe I just wrote so much about a three-ingredient soup, either. But those three ingredients are the soul of pozole.

Adding totopos to a bowl of pozole rojo
Photo by Holly A. Heyser

The fun in pozole is choosing your own adventure in terms of toppings. Almost anything goes. You definitely want cilantro, limes, radishes and corn chips — ideally stale tortillas you’ve fried crispy — but avocado, hot chiles, and shredded cabbage are also great additions.

Pozole rojo keeps well in the fridge for a week or so, just so long as you store it before you add your toppings. It also freezes well for up to a year. And incidentally, for those of you wondering, it is pozole in Mexico, posole in New Mexico.

I can hear some of you saying, “But I don’t like pork. Can I use another meat?” Yes, you can. Any meat you feel like, actually. But honestly? It’s not as good without that collagen. It really isn’t.

You can do a poultry version so long as you added a ton of chicken feet (fish them out later and discard), a beef version with a calf’s foot, or you could cheat and add a sheet of unflavored gelatin.

But, as I said at the start, for red pozole, I’ll stick to pork.

pozole rojo recipe with accompaniments
5 from 11 votes

Pozole Rojo, Red Pozole

This is a real-deal, authentic pozole rojo, with no shortcuts. That said, I will offer you substitutions and shortcuts if you want to take them. The singular ingredient you can't be without for pozole is corn, and it can't be sweet corn. No hominy or dried field corn? Don't make this recipe. 
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 10
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours
Total Time: 4 hours 20 minutes



  • 3 to 4 cups dried corn for pozole, or 2 30-ounce cans hominy
  • 1 tablespoon slaked lime if using dried corn
  • 6 quarts water
  • 1/2 pig's head, or 3 pounds pork shoulder, cut into chunks
  • 1 or 2 pig's feet
  • 4 to 6 dried guajillo chiles
  • 4 to 6 dried ancho chiles
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, Mexican if possible


  • 3 to 6 key limes, halved, or 3 regular limes, quartered
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
  • 6 radishes, sliced thin
  • 1/2 head cabbage, sliced thin
  • 1/2 cup diced hot fresh chiles, or have dried hot chiles at the table
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • Tortilla chips
  • More dried Mexican oregano, to taste



  • Cover the corn with 6 cups of water, add the slaked lime and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, and see if you can bite a kernel in half. If not, keep simmering until you can. When the corn is ready, turn off the heat, stir the pot, cover it and leave it to rest overnight.
  • The next morning, drain and rinse the corn under cold water, rubbing the kernels with your hands to remove the slimy seed coat. This should take about 5 to 10 minutes. 
  • Optional Step: Use a paring knife or your fingernails to nip off the dark bit of each kernel where it attached to the cob. 


  • Cover the corn with the 6 quarts of water and bring to a simmer. Let this simmer for 1 hour. Add the pig's head or other pork bits and bring to a full boil. Skim any scum that collects on top of the soup. When you've skimmed it all off, drop the heat to a simmer. 
  • Stem and seed the dried chiles and tear into large pieces. Put in a bowl and ladle some of the soup over the chiles. Cover the bowl and let sit for 30 minutes. Put everything into a blender and puree. Pour all this into the soup, and clean the blender bowl by ladling more broth into it, so you get every bit of chile goodness. Stir in the oregano.
  • Simmer everything until the pork is falling off the bones. Fish it all out and chop. Regular meat you can dice or chop coarsely, but skin, fat and random bits you'll want to mince. It's your call if you want to keep the eyes. I toss them. 
  • Add salt to taste and simmer until the corn is ready. This process takes quite a while, typically 4 to 6 hours once the pozole hits a simmer. 
  • To serve, ladle some soup into bowls and have everyone put whatever toppings they want on top. 


NOTE: Prep time does not include the overnight rest for the corn. 


Calories: 389kcal | Carbohydrates: 59g | Protein: 20g | Fat: 13g | Saturated Fat: 3g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 331mg | Potassium: 1396mg | Fiber: 18g | Sugar: 22g | Vitamin A: 9720IU | Vitamin C: 63.5mg | Calcium: 99mg | Iron: 4.5mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

Tried this recipe? Tag me today!Mention @huntgathercook or tag #hankshaw!

You May Also Like

Sopa de Lima

Classic sopa de lima soup from the Yucatan typically uses chicken, but you can use any white meat, in this case, chachalaca, a chicken cousin.

Pozole Verde

Pozole is a classic Mexican soup. This is the green version I make with pheasant or wild pig, hominy, tomatillos, green chiles and avocado. Damn good!

Pork Chile Verde

Chile verde is my go-to Mexican comfort food. Works with many meats, and can be eaten as a stew or on tortillas.

Mexican Mixiotes

Mixiotes are Mexico’s version of foods cooked in parchment. It’s an ancient, versatile way to cook. Here’s a recipe and some tips and tricks to make them at home.

About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

5 from 11 votes (5 ratings without comment)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating


  1. Hay Hank!

    Sorry to be such a dummy, but this says to begin with dried corn. This is the dried nixtamal, right?
    I’d love it if I could just use dried corn. Have only used the canned hominy all my life.
    Thanks much for your incredible recipes! I share every time!

    1. Andrea: You can use canned hominy, or some places sell dried nixtamalized corn, like Rancho Gordo. But I start with fried corn from Masienda, or what I grow myself, and nixtamalize it myself the night before I make pozole.

  2. A friend invited us to eat posole? Had no idea what it was, all the fixings on the table, huge pots (3) with something red, watched others serve themselves, I followed. OMG I embarrassed myself, having eaten THREE bowls of this wonderful meal. This was nearly 15 yrs ago, I asked for this at restaurants, nope not the same. I looked for recipes, not knowing what was used, my friend had moved back to Mexico (the invite was a farewell party) . I was totally disappointed with all the attempts I tried. Out of the blue Google having eavesdropped on my conversations, I asked a friend if he knew how to make posole? No but he’d ask around…..Google started posting recipes on my news feed. For the first time ever I didn’t mind reading Google’s news feed, your post appeared, I read scrolling down and HERE IT WAS, THE REAL DEAL! I couldn’t drive fast enough to the grocery store I found the dried Chiles, Mexican oregano, the meat the pig’s feet, canned hominy! I literally hit the jackpot!! I fixed everything according to recipe, minus of course the hominy and I felt the Heavens open, I felt as though the atmosphere had me floating midair with each bite! I literally cried at the thought of finishing it and having to cook it all over again :0/ here I am SECOND batch in a month! I alone eat/ate this meal, my daughter & husband aren’t into eating seconds, left overs? They’re weird :0) GOOD for me! Your recipe is SPOT ON!

  3. Here’s a question. Could you use venison shank? Seems that you’d have the collagen and the cook time should break everything down…

  4. I spent a year in Mexico after college. I took cooking classes in the afternoon, and pozole was one thing we learned how to cook. We did ALL of it from scratch, including the corn, but sparing the pig slaughter. It was quite an authentic experience. I have made pozole ever since, and this recipe (with pork shoulder and pigs feet) is SO close to the real thing! Just want to say, Rancho Gordo Nixtamal Corn, is legit and delicious in this recipe. PS – the corn requires a 24 hour soak – I do an 8 hour soak, get the pork started in a soup pot so I can skim off the goo – then everything goes in the pressure cooker for 3 hours. Delish!!

  5. Any changes you’d do if using wild hog? Thinking I’d use the shoulder as-called and add some store bought feet for the collagen. Not likely to use the head or get one.

  6. Thank you for the explanation about the corn. I bought a two pound bag (labeled Peruvian hominy) and the hydrated lime (cal para nixtamal) was next to it. Then I read that you can buy it already nixtamalized and was so confused.

    I plan to make pozole soon and will use your recipe. My mom who lives with me it a complete spice whimp though, so I’ll have to go easy on the chiles. And under quarantine I’m not able to go to my regular places. But with luck pigs feet will be frozen at the local grocery. Compromises.

  7. I made this on Tuesday. Made my own hominy and froze it cause I was having a difficult time finding fresh pigs feet in The mother lode area. Finally found them at cost less and used three split feet and two pounds of pork shoulder. Guajillo peppers were easy and I added some chili negro peppers for added color. The hominy was added in and simmered on. It was fantastic!! The add ons can tailor the flavor and heat to suit everyone. Made a huge batch. Will freeze the rest.

  8. Human meat?! Whoa! Love that tidbit. So much to research haha. Recipes looks amazing! Gotta try it out. 🙂

  9. Hank,
    I have 6 or 7 pozole recipes and this one appears to be the best by far. One question that you didn’t answer. If you are using canned hominy, and don’t beat me up on this :-), how long do you simmer the hominy before adding the meat?

    1. Ed: It’s the opposite: meat first, then hominy. If you are using canned hominy it’s cooked already, so it only needs about an hour or less.

  10. Hank, tell me more about the skin. Do you dice up and use all of it? Since I haven’t for it before, is the tongue also used?

    1. Charles: Yes and yes. You mince the skin small, and, if you can, peel the skin off the tongue and then chop coarsely.

  11. If using canned hominy (Manning’s) would you still need 6 qts of water? I assume you skip the one hour initial simmer and add the pig immediately? Thank you – I love your recipes and am a proud owner of all your cook books.

    1. Greg: I would still use the 6 cups, but let it simmer without the lid on, so it will cook down. It will still take 3+ hours of slow simmering for pig feet + pork shoulder to be tender.

  12. Hank,

    If you go to the trouble of picking off the corn germ, you should always strain your red chile after grinding it in the blender. Try straining a batch of Guajillo chile puree through a coarse wire mesh strainer and see what is left in the strainer. Take a bite, it is the skins and seeds and both are completely indegestible and have no flavor to add to the puree. Doing this extra step will make your broth that much better.

    Another trick is to switch out your cal for a wood ash solution. Juniper wood ash or the New Mexico staple of Chamisa or Rabbitbrush wood ash both make a wonderully complex alkaline bath for your very expensive Masienda heirloom corn.

    1. David: That’s good advice for people without a Vitamix. My blender is so strong it renders those skins into liquid. I used to strain them, but after blitzing with the Vitamix nothing would remain even in a fine strainer. Bot not everyone has one, so thanks for reminding me! As for ash, not a fan because it’s harder to obtain and messier, and you need a lot more ash vs. cal. But it sure does work!

  13. Great description and a good recipe, thank you.

    I did find one topping missing, oregano is always served as one of the toppings, it is always on the table, dried, and you take a pinch and crumble it over the posole with the rest of the toppings. I have never seen posole served without this topping as well.

  14. I’ve made pig head posole several times and it truly is amazing. Didn’t have information on making own hominy from field corn, but will certainly do that next time. Also your guidance on chopping up the pig head meat was appreciated. It’s a little wacky working with all those wobbly bits if you’re a first timer!

  15. You nailed it! I make Pozole at least once a month. Your recipe is excellent. I’ll try the chicken Pozole with he addition of the feet next time. By the way, your tip on using unflavored gelatin is awesome! I’ll try it when I’m asked to prepare the vegetarian version of Pozole (oyster mushrooms in vegetable broth with the ancho/guajillo mix). Thanks Hank!

  16. Dried nixtamalized corn can be purchased from Rancho Gordo—they call it Posole Corn—which saves you the step of prepping the hominy. I prefer posole verde, in fact just made a batch this past week. I use a lot of tomatillos, and roasted poblanos. To use the Rancho Gordo corn, even with an overnight soak in clear water, it took an hour in the pressure cooker to get it soft enough to cook until it blooms with the pork shoulder and chiles. I use aromatics, too—toasted and ground cumin seed, Mexican oregano, bay leaf, carrot. Three ingredients makes it sound easier, but ay mami! My posole is delicious.