If the spicy, rich flavors of Central America are among your favorites in the culinary world, and if you are looking for a delicious way to warm up on a chilly evening, consider making a Mexican soup or stew.
If you have a preference for beef, chicken, or pork as your main ingredient, then you have several options from meatballs to pork stew.
You can make a traditional Mexican soup, menudo, that can be made with offal, the cast-off parts like pigs feet or beef tongue. Or you can incorporate green chilies with chicken or pork to make a slow-cooked meal with hearty, well-developed flavors that will keep you returning to the pot for more.
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Albondigas, meaning "meatballs" in Spanish, is a thin meatball soup that will warm you up without a lot of extra calories. You are probably familiar with how to make Italian meatballs, traditionally using breadcrumbs. This Mexican recipe instead incorporates cooked white rice as the starchy component. Combined with vegetables, the meatballs add a wonderful texture to the light chicken broth.
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Menudo, meaning "insignificant" in Spanish, is perhaps a reference to the cuts of meat used as the main ingredient in this soup dish. It is usually made with unique ingredients such as beef tripe (stomach lining) and pigs feet. It is flavored with ancho and poblano chiles as well as onions and garlic.
Menudo is known traditionally as a folk remedy for a hangover. It might be the reason the dish is popular on January 1, a day when many reach for a morning-after cure for one too many drinks.
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Tinga de pollo (chicken tinga) is a flavorful stew that features chipotle peppers. This recipe uses the slow cooker, though there is a stovetop option, too.
The pepper's smokiness is enhanced by browning the chicken and charring the tomatoes before adding them to the pot. Add sliced onion, chopped garlic, and bay leaves, and let it cook all day. It's great on its own and works wonderfully as a taco, burrito, or enchilada filling.
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Pozole, also spelled posole, means "hominy" in Spanish. This soup is a perfect way to enjoy pork with hominy, a form of soaked field corn. It is simmered with hominy in a broth usually seasoned with chilies, cumin, oregano, and garlic.
There are a number of variations on this classic dish, including a red, green, or white broth. The coloring of the broth is influenced by the type of chilies used. The white broth variety, pozole blanco, has no chilies. The green variation usually has tomatillos and jalapenos. The red version is usually flavored with ancho, guajillo, or piquin chilies.Continue to 5 of 6 below.
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Chile verde means "green chili" and is a thick stew usually made with pork or chicken and green chilies. Tomatillos, garlic, and onion round out the hearty flavors. Popular green chilies to use in this dish are Anaheim, Hatch, or poblanos.
The resulting stew can be served over rice or tucked into a tortilla. The stew usually cooks in a slow cooker or in a dutch oven for the flavors to develop and meld together over time.
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Tender chunks of chicken combine with the creamy texture of avocado to make a light, yet filling soup. Onions, cilantro, and garlic flavor the broth. To give the soup more depth of flavor, you can add a variety of common soup vegetables like peas or carrots.
For a little zing, you can add thinly sliced jalapenos or sprinkle in the juice from a wedge of lime. For an even heartier meal, you add rice or pasta to the broth.