What are chiles rellenos made of?

Quick Answer

Chiles rellenos are a classic Mexican dish made of roasted and peeled green chiles that are stuffed with cheese, dipped in an egg batter, and fried. The most common fillings are cheese like Oaxaca, Chihuahua, or Monterey Jack. Other fillings like picadillo (spiced ground meat), potatoes, beans, or seafood can also be used. The stuffed chiles are dipped in a light egg batter before being fried until golden brown. They are often served with a tomato sauce on top.

What are the main ingredients in chiles rellenos?

The main ingredients in chiles rellenos are:

  • Poblano or Anaheim chiles – These mild, green chiles are roasted, peeled, deseeded, and stuffed.
  • Cheese – Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Monterey Jack, or queso fresco are commonly used as fillings.
  • Egg batter – A light batter made of flour, eggs, milk or water, salt, and sometimes baking powder.
  • Oil for frying – Vegetable oil is used to pan-fry the battered chiles.
  • Sauce – A tomato sauce, ranchera sauce, or creamy gravy is often served over the top.

Additional ingredients can include:

  • Onion, garlic – Sauteed and added to the filling.
  • Spices – Like cumin, garlic powder, oregano, chili powder.
  • Herbs – Cilantro, epazote.
  • Meat – Ground beef, chorizo, chicken can be used as fillings.
  • Potato, rice – Also used as fillings.

Chile Peppers

Chiles rellenos start with fresh, whole chile peppers. The most commonly used varieties are:

  • Poblano – A medium-sized, triangular shaped green chile. It has a mild heat level.
  • Anaheim – A long, light green chile similar in flavor to poblanos but slightly spicier.
  • Jalapeño – Small, smooth green chiles with more heat. Often used for a spicier relleno.
  • Hatch – A seasonal chile grown in Hatch, New Mexico. It has a deep, earthy flavor.

Preparing the Chile Peppers

The chiles must be prepared before being stuffed:

  1. Roast the chiles over an open flame, under a broiler, or even in the oven at 425°F until the skin is charred and blistered black in spots.
  2. Place the roasted chiles in a covered bowl or plastic bag to steam for 10-15 minutes. This helps loosen the skins.
  3. Gently peel off the charred skin from the chiles. Make sure to remove all of it.
  4. Slice a slit down one side of the chile and gently remove the seeds and membranes.
  5. Rinse the chiles to remove any remaining bits of skin or seeds.
  6. Gently flatten the chiles open to make them ready for stuffing.

This process of charring, steaming, peeling, and deseeding helps soften the chiles and brings out their flavor.

Stuffing the Chiles

With the roasted chiles prepped, it’s time to stuff them. There are many possible fillings, but the most common are cheeses like:

  • Oaxaca – A semi-soft white cheese similar to mozzarella or string cheese.
  • Chihuahua – A mild white cheese that melts smoothly.
  • Monterey Jack – A semi-soft white cheese good for melting.
  • Queso Fresco – A fresh white cheese with a crumbly texture.

The cheese filling is often flavored with onions, garlic, cumin, oregano, and other spices sauteed in oil. Some recipes also add rice, potatoes, or meats to the filling.

To stuff the chiles:

  1. Lay each chile flat and place 1-2 tablespoons of the filling in the center of the pepper.
  2. Gently fold the sides of the chile over the filling and place it seam-side down in a baking dish.
  3. Continue until all chiles are stuffed. The stuffed chiles can be prepared to this point and then refrigerated until ready to fry.

Egg Batter

Before frying, the stuffed chiles are dipped into a light egg batter. This helps seal in the filling and creates a delicate, crispy coating when fried.

A basic batter contains:

  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Milk or water
  • Salt
  • Baking powder (optional)

The specific proportions vary across recipes, but generally:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup milk or water
  • 1⁄4 teaspoon salt
  • 1⁄2 teaspoon baking powder (optional)

The eggs help bind and add structure, the flour thickens the batter, the milk or water thins it out, salt seasons it, and baking powder can add lift if a lighter texture is desired.

Beating the egg whites until fluffy can also lighten the batter. The batter should coat the chiles easily and be thin enough to quickly fry into a delicate crust.

Frying the Chiles Rellenos

With the chiles stuffed and dipped in batter, it’s time to fry:

  1. Heat about 1⁄2 inch of vegetable oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat to 350°F.
  2. Carefully place the battered stuffed chiles in the hot oil. Do not overcrowd the pan.
  3. Fry for 1-2 minutes per side, turning gently with tongs, until golden brown.
  4. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.
  5. Repeat with remaining chiles. Adjust heat as needed to maintain oil temperature.

Frying gently helps prevent the filling from escaping the battered chiles. Keeping the oil consistently hot ensures the batter crisps up into a light, delicate crust.

Draining on paper towels removes excess grease for a crisper relleno. Serve warm right away, or keep hot in a low oven if frying in batches.

Serving Chiles Rellenos

There are many options for topping and serving chiles rellenos:

  • Tomato salsa or sauce – The richness of the fried chiles is perfectly balanced by an acidic, tomato-based sauce.
  • Ranchera sauce – A Mexican sauce made with tomatoes, onions, garlic, and mild chiles.
  • Cheese sauce – A creamy, cheesy sauce makes them extra indulgent.
  • On their own – They can be served plain to highlight the flavors of the chiles and filling.
  • Over rice – White rice or Mexican rice complement their flavors.
  • Frijoles – Refried or whole beans served on the side balance their richness.

A garnish of crumbled queso fresco, cilantro, sliced radishes, or crema fresca finishes them beautifully. Enjoy chiles rellenos warm right after frying for the crispiest texture.

Ingredients Needed

To make chiles rellenos, you will need:

For the chiles:

  • Poblano, Anaheim, or jalapeño chiles

For the filling:

  • Cheese like Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Monterey Jack, or queso fresco
  • Onion, garlic
  • Spices like cumin, oregano, chili powder
  • Herbs like cilantro, epazote (optional)
  • Rice, potatoes, meats (optional)

For the batter:

  • Eggs
  • Flour
  • Milk or water
  • Salt
  • Baking powder (optional)

For frying:

  • Vegetable oil

For serving:

  • Tomato salsa or sauce
  • Ranchera sauce
  • Cheese sauce
  • Rice, beans, tortillas
  • Garnishes like queso fresco, cilantro, radishes, crema

Having these ingredients on hand will allow you to make fantastic chiles rellenos at home!

Chiles Rellenos Step-by-Step

Here is a summary of the entire chiles rellenos process from start to finish:

  1. Roast the chiles until charred. Steam in a covered bowl for 10-15 minutes.
  2. Peel off all the charred skin from the chiles.
  3. Deseed the chiles by slicing open and removing membranes and seeds.
  4. Flatten the peeled chiles for stuffing.
  5. Prepare filling by sauteeing aromatics and combining with cheese and other ingredients.
  6. Stuff the chiles with 1-2 Tbsp filling.
  7. Mix batter of eggs, flour, milk, salt, and baking powder if using.
  8. Dip stuffed chiles into the batter to coat completely.
  9. Fry in hot oil 1-2 minutes per side until golden brown.
  10. Drain on paper towels.
  11. Serve with desired sauces or sides and garnishes.

Following these steps will yield you perfect chiles rellenos worthy of any Mexican restaurant! Adjust fillings and toppings to customize them just how you like.

Common Questions

Are chiles rellenos spicy?

Chiles rellenos can range from very mild to quite spicy depending on the type of chiles used. Poblanos are the traditional choice and have only mild heat. However, spicier chiles like jalapeños or serranos can be used for a hotter relleno.

What sauce is used for chiles rellenos?

The most common sauces paired with chiles rellenos are tomato salsa, roasted tomato or ranchera sauce, and cheese sauce. A traditional Mexican red sauce adds nice acidity to balance the richness.

Do you stuff chiles rellenos with cheese?

The most common filling for chiles rellenos is cheese. Oaxaca, Chihuahua, Monterey Jack, and queso fresco are all good melty choices. Other fillings like meats, potatoes, or rice can also be used.

What kind of peppers are used for chiles rellenos?

Poblano peppers are the classic choice, though Anaheim and jalapeño peppers also work well. Occasionally, spicier peppers like serranos or hatch chiles are used. The peppers should have thick, sturdy walls that can hold up to stuffing and frying.

How do you keep chiles rellenos closed?

Using a toothpick or wooden skewer to pin the stuffed chile closed can help the filling stay inside during cooking. Folding the sides of the pepper over the center helps as well. Dipping the stuffed chile completely in egg batter then frying until set also seals in the filling.

Tips for Making Perfect Chiles Rellenos

  • Roast peppers until completely blackened and blistered for the best flavor.
  • Use an oil with a high smoke point like vegetable, avocado, or grapeseed oil for frying.
  • Keep the oil between 350-375°F for even frying. Use a thermometer to monitor temp.
  • Gently turn rellenos while frying so filling stays inside.
  • Fry in batches to prevent crowding the pan and lowering oil temp.
  • Let filling ingredients cool before stuffing peppers so cheese doesn’t melt early.
  • Serve rellenos right after frying for optimum texture and flavor.
  • Use a slotted spoon or spider strainer to carefully transfer fried rellenos to paper towels.
  • Leftover batter can be refrigerated and reused. Add a splash of milk or water to thin out before reusing.

With these handy tips, you’ll be a pro at cooking up the perfect batch of chiles rellenos in no time!


There are many ways to customize chiles rellenos:


  • Shredded chicken, pork, or beef
  • Chorizo or smoked sausage
  • Cheese-stuffed meatballs
  • Refried or black beans
  • Sauteed vegetables
  • Corn and zucchini
  • Shrimp, crab, or lobster


  • Jalapeño
  • Hatch
  • Guajillo
  • Pasilla
  • Mulato
  • Ancho
  • Serrano


  • Cornmeal for crunch
  • Baking powder for lighter texture
  • Beer or soda water for added flavor
  • Spices like cumin, chili powder, or paprika


  • Avocado, mango, or pineapple salsa
  • Mole sauce
  • Crema, cotija cheese, cilantro
  • Onion, radish, lime
  • Over rice, quinoa, or cauliflower rice

Get creative with different combinations to make chiles rellenos your own!


Chiles rellenos are a cherished Mexican appetizer or main entree made of roasted, stuffed, and fried peppers bathed in flavorful sauces. While the basic ingredients of peppers, cheese, eggs, and oil are simple, each step of preparation from charring and peeling the chiles to whipping up a light batter and frying requires care and finesse. With the right techniques, home cooks can master restaurant-quality chiles rellenos. Stuff with cheese, meat, beans, seafood or anything you crave, then top with tomato salsa, creamy ranchera sauce, or cheesy sauce for a satisfying meal. Vary the fillings, peppers, sauces and toppings to suit your tastes. Made right, chiles rellenos are an impressive yet easy Mexican dish perfect for any occasion.

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