Chilaca Pork Stew
April 25, 2019 | Updated March 20, 2021
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I fell in love with chilaca chiles the moment I learned about them, which, I am not ashamed to say, is fairly recently.
Chilaca chiles are long, slender, medium-hot chiles from Mexico. Think poblanos, only stretched out and a bit spicier. Pronounced chee-LAH-kah, they are popular in Michoacan, which is where many of the Mexican immigrants here in the Sacramento area came from.
I first heard about them in Diana Kennedy’s book From My Mexican Kitchen: Techniques and Ingredients, which I bought some years ago. I later saw an entry for them in a book I am currently obsessed with, Marciel Presilla’s Peppers of the Americas, which has entries on all sorts of chiles from the US down to far South America.
As a side note, Maricel notes that there is an amazing woman in Indiana who raises maybe 1000 kinds of chiles and sells seedlings. She’s known as the Chile Woman, and I highly recommend here. Tell her I sent you…
Then, one day, in a local Mexican market, I saw the prettiest chilacas, some a full foot long. I had to buy them. See the serrano in the corner? Yeah, that’s how big these chiles are.
I sliced some crosswise for a sort of Mexican stir fry, and they were kinda cool: inky forest green on the outside, light green on the inside. I then made a green salsa with some that were just cut up. It was, well, just OK.
Where chilaca chiles really shine is as rajas, which means strips in Spanish. Most of you who know what rajas are know them as a poblano thing, and that they are. But chilacas are better. They shred nicer, and in longer strips.
I blister all my chiles directly on my gas burners, which is a far superior way to do this than using the broiler, which will overcook any chile, but especially a thin-walled chilaca. You could blister them directly over a hot wood fire, too, which would be even better.
If you don’t know how to fire-roast chiles, here is a tutorial.
How did I use my chilaca rajas? In this wonderful, comforting Mexican stew I found in another of Kennedy’s books, her My Mexico. It is a fascinating technique, basically a reverse seared stew: You simmer the pork first, remove some broth, let the pot simmer dry until the pork’s fat renders, then fry the tender pork chunks in its own fat.
A quick, tomato-based sauce coats the pork, the chilaca rajas go in, and you’re ready to rock. This can be eaten as a stew, over rice, or in tacos or a burrito.
You’ll find chilacas in the produce section of Mexican markets. You can also find them dried, where they are an entirely different thing: chile pasilla. If you want to grow some, The Chile Woman has seedlings, or you will find them as pasilla chiles in most catalogs, after what a chilaca becomes once it’s ripe.
Chilaca Pork Stew
- 6 to 9 chilaca or Anaheim chiles, or 4 to 6 poblanos
- 2 pounds pork shoulder, cut into 2-inch chunks
- 6 to 8 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
- 2 to 4 avocado leaves, or bay leaves
- 1 pound plum tomatoes
- 3 to 6 large tomatillos, husks removed
- 3 to 5 serrano chiles, stems removed
- Black pepper to taste
- Roast the chilacas or other chiles as directed here. Remove the stems and seeds and tear into long strips, You can cut the trips shorter if you want. Set aside.
- Set the pork in a Dutch oven or other large pot and cover with water. Add the crushed garlic and avocado or bay leaves and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste. Simmer for a good 30 minutes, partially covered.
- Add the tomatoes, tomatillos and serranos to the pot, whole. Let them cook in there for 10 minutes. Fish them out, along with some of the crushed garlic cloves, and puree them in a blender with some of the broth. Set aside.
- Let the pork continue to simmer until it is mostly tender. For wild pigs this could be an hour. Store-bought will be about another 20 minutes or so. Let the broth cook down while this is happening, but don't let it dry out just yet. Once the pork is tender, ladle out most of the broth and use for something else. It's tasty.
- Allow the pot to cook dry. There should be a few tablespoons of fat rendered off the pork, if not, add some (or oil). Let the now-tender pork fry in its own fat. The debris that came off the pork while simmering will brown. Pick out the bay leaves and discard.
- When the pork is nicely browned, add the chilaca chiles and the sauce in the blender. Scrape up any browned bits from the bottom of the pot, let this all simmer for 10 minutes and serve.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
Hi Hank, this is one of my favorite pork recipes. I roast my peppers first and sear off the meat to give the whole dish a smokier flavor. Have you canned this stew? Would you change the recipe for canning? I’ve got a texas boar in the freezer that is heading for the canner soon. Thanks!
Roast the tomatoes… and peppers, I meant.
Loved this. Bought Chilaca peppers without knowing what they were and turned out excellent. Would definitely just chop them instead of leaving them sliced, was kind of weird to slice them. Everything else was great.
We made this tonight with the last of my wild boar meat from Texas. While different from the normal Mexican recipes it’s very good with a rich flavor built by the layering of each ingredient. I used poblano and serrano chiles but cut the number and rinsed in cold water after roasting them to cut the heat for my son after reading some of the comments about the heat. This is a very forgiving dish as the amount of time that was taken cooking on a couple steps was more than called for because… 2 year old assistant cook. Very good and will make again. Of note we used the excess liquid to make a very flavorful rice to serve the stew over.
Richard: That is a great idea for the extra liquid, thanks!
Holy Cow (or would it be pig)! Wife and I made this recipe! Absolutely amazing! It reminds me of a Carne Guisada recipe I make with venison (which I’m happy to share if interested.)
My family hunts and processes all our own game. I cannot thank you enough for all your work and recipes.
I was pretty blown away with this dish. I don’t have a ton of experience with chiles and was a hair worried about following every step to the letter, but through the process I realized it’s actually pretty forgiving. I subbed in poblanos to great result – it’s incredible how much flavor develops with a relatively short (and simple) ingredients list. It does take some time, but it’s well worth it! I’m really looking forward to using the leftovers over fried eggs, with some fresh corn tortillas, over cheese & bean enchiladas – the list goes on. It’s a great recipe, and a good introduction to using chiles. Definitely getting put on my normal rotation!
Hank, I was about to send you a question about using avocado leaves when I noted this recipe. Thanks. We have 2 large trees, a Fuerte and a Mexicola Grande. Very different taste. Mexican avocado leaves have a taste tending toward anise. The Fuerte is a Mexican – Guatemalan hybrid and does not. Can’t grow Hass variety due to cold so can not comment.
Since you love fishing, have you tried steaming any fish wrapped in avocado leaves?
I gave this delicious recipe four stars only because of the time needed to prepare this if using wild boar, otherwise it is delicious. I live in a smallish town and was unable to find the chilaca chilies, but I did use Anaheim and the serrano chilis. I thought this dish pretty daggone spicy. I used 8 Anaheim chilis and 5 serrano. I blistered the Anaheim chilis on a grill (used the hot coals to make elote corn). I served the stew with rice – and I used the extra broth to make the rice. I admit I used the left over cheese mixture from the elote corn to cool the spiciness of the stew.
In a pinch, and I know Hank probably won’t agree with me, I think you could successfully use a jar of salsa verde and a good quality Italian tomato sauce as a substitute for the tomatillos and the roma tomatoes. The stew has a good earthiness to it, and would be a great meal for a family or a small gathering of friends/family. It presents well.