4 Reasons Pozole is Better than Chicken Noodle Soup
When most Americans feel sick, chilly, or just down in the dumps, they tend to reach for a big bowl of chicken noodle soup. It’s one of our country’s most beloved comfort foods. But Mexicans, and some folks in the American Southwest, know that there’s an even better option out there—a soup that gives you all the same warm, nostalgic feelings with twice the flavor: pozole.
What is pozole, you ask? Simply put, it’s a hearty pork stew made with hominy (dried corn that’s treated with an alkali to give it a soft, chewy texture) and chilies. It’s found on most menus at authentic Mexican restaurants, and it also trumps ho-hum chicken noodle soup in almost every possible four ways.
Its origin story might be a tiny bit gruesome.
Many food historians credit Campbell’s with popularizing chicken noodle soup when they released the first cans of it in the early 1930s. Yawn. The origins of pozole are far more titillating. Centuries ago, the ancient Aztecs considered corn a sacred plant. So naturally, when they wanted a dish to eat during big celebrations, they decided to incorporate corn. But that wasn’t the only special ingredient.
By some accounts, the Aztecs also stewed people who had just been sacrificed to their gods. When Spanish conquistadors arrived, they loved the stew, but weren’t so keen on its recipe. Pork was eventually substituted.
There are a bunch of tasty—and colorful—variations.
Sure, you can add carrots or swap out the egg noodles for alphabet-shaped pasta, but chicken noodle soup recipes are all still pretty homogenous. Not true with pozole. The stew has three primary variations: pozole rojo (red), pozole verde (green), and pozole blanco (white).
Pozole rojo features a broth made from red chilies like ancho and chile de arbol, while pozole verde showcases green chilies such as poblano and jalapeño. Pozole blanco is the mildest version, seeing as it’s characterized by a clear broth free of chilies. It’s also common for this variation to call for chicken instead of pork.
There are garnishes galore.
When it comes to chicken noodle’s accoutrements, the possibilities are endless! Let’s see, you have saltines, and oyster crackers, and, uh...some other kind of cracker. Okay, there definitely is an end to the possibilities.
That’s not the case with pozole. Want some extra crunch? Toss in julienned radish or fried tortilla strips. For a burst of freshness, squeeze on some lime or add a few sprigs of cilantro. Sliced jalapeños ramp up the heat, and chunks of avocado cool it back down. In the world of soups and stews, pozole is the king of customization.
It can “cure” much more than the average cold.
Mothers from coast to coast will try to convince you that chicken noodle soup helps cure the common cold. And that may be true, at least partially. Hot broth feels soothing on a sore throat, and it also helps hydrate the body. But pozole can do all that and more.
Take the restorative properties of chicken noodle soup and add the spice of chilies, and you get a throat-soothing, hydrating, sinus-clearing, detoxifying miracle food. Those characteristics also make pozole renowned throughout Mexico as a hangover cure. It’s no coincidence that so many restaurants serve it as a special on Sunday morning.
Check and mate, chicken noodle.