What is pozole?
Pozole is a traditional Mexican stew or soup made with hominy, meat, and chili peppers. The key ingredient is dried maize (corn) that has been treated with lime (a process called nixtamalization), which is ground into hominy. Pork, chicken, or beef is typically used as the meat, along with a flavorful chile pepper broth. Common garnishes and accompaniments include lettuce, radish, onion, oregano, lime, avocado, salsa, and tostadas. Pozole is commonly served on New Year’s Eve and other celebrations in Mexico.
Is pozole good for you?
Yes, pozole can be a nutritious and healthy dish when prepared properly. Here are some of the potential health benefits of pozole:
- High in protein – The meat in pozole provides a good source of protein, which is important for building and repairing muscles.
- Fiber from hominy – The nixtamalized hominy is high in dietary fiber, which promotes good digestion and gut health.
- Vitamins and minerals – Pozole contains B vitamins from the corn, plus iron, zinc, potassium and magnesium.
- Lower glycemic index – Nixtamalized corn has a lower glycemic index, meaning it won’t spike your blood sugar as much compared to regular corn.
- Antioxidants – Corn, chiles and other vegetables in pozole supply antioxidants to combat free radicals.
- Anti-inflammatory properties – Chile peppers contain capsaicin which has anti-inflammatory effects.
So in its traditional preparation with healthy whole ingredients, pozole can certainly be considered a nutritious dish. The nixtamalized hominy, meat, and vegetables provide a good balance of protein, carbs, fiber and micronutrients.
What are the unhealthy aspects of pozole?
However, there are some ways that pozole can become an unhealthy dish:
- High in fat and calories with certain meats – Pork and beef can contribute a lot of saturated fat and calories, especially if using fatty cuts.
- Very high in sodium – Store-bought broth, bouillon cubes and salt can make pozole extremely high in sodium.
- Nixtamalized corn less healthy when ground into masa – Grinding the hominy into a refined masa flour removes the fiber.
- Large portion sizes – Pozole is typically served in very large bowls, which can mean big portion sizes.
- High calorie toppings – Fried pork rinds, avocado, cheese and sour cream can drive up the calories.
So while pozole is mostly vegetable-based, it can quickly become less healthy if not prepared with care. Choosing leaner cuts of meat, unsalted broth, keeping masa to a minimum, and limiting high-calorie toppings is key. Portion control is also important when eating this hearty and filling soup.
Tips for making healthy pozole
Here are some tips to make sure your pozole is on the healthier side:
- Use lean, trimmed cuts of meat like pork loin, sirloin or chicken breasts.
- Make your own low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth instead of canned.
- Go easy on the masa, keep corn in whole hominy form to retain the fiber.
- Use more mild dried chiles rather than salty boullion for flavor.
- Load up on fresh toppings like cabbage, radishes, cilantro and lime instead of heavy oils, creams and cheese.
- Avoid frying tortilla strips for garnish, use baked chips instead.
- Control portion sizes in smaller bowls rather than gigantic serves.
Making these simple swaps helps ensure that pozole is a nourishing meal focused on whole foods rather than being too high in fat, sodium and calories.
Healthier pozole recipe
Here is a recipe for a healthier version of pozole that is still full of authentic Mexican flavor:
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 lb boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 2 (15 oz) cans white hominy, drained and rinsed
- 1 (7 oz) can diced green chiles
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon cumin
- 1 dried guajillo chile, stemmed and seeded
- 1 cup shredded cabbage
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- 2 radishes, sliced
- 1 avocado, diced
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until soft.
- Add the chicken and cook until lightly browned, about 5-6 minutes.
- Pour in the broth and add the hominy, green chiles, bay leaves, oregano, cumin and dried guajillo chile. Bring to a boil.
- Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes until chicken is cooked through and flavors have blended.
- Remove bay leaves. Stir in the cabbage, cilantro, radishes, avocado and lime juice.
- Ladle the pozole into bowls and serve with lime wedges.
This version uses lean chicken for the protein, slashes the sodium substantially by using unsalted broth, keeps the healthy hominy whole, and skips the fatty toppings, substituting lighter garnishes instead. Making these simple adjustments results in a dish that still captures the comforting flavors of traditional pozole but is significantly healthier.
Based on the recipe above for one serving, here is the approximate nutritional breakdown (using chicken thigh instead of breast for more flavor):
As you can see, this version of healthier pozole provides a good balance of protein, fiber, and nutrients without excessive amounts of fat, sodium, sugar or calories. The large serving of lean protein will keep you full, the hominy adds gut-healthy fiber, and the sodium is drastically reduced compared to traditional preparations.
Is pozole gluten free?
Authentic pozole is naturally gluten-free, as it is made from just hominy (dried corn), meat, chile peppers and seasonings. As long as your nixtamalized hominy contains no wheat products, and you avoid flour tortillas or other wheat-based garnishes, traditional pozole contains no gluten. Those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance can enjoy pozole, a hearty and comforting gluten-free soup option.
Is pozole Keto?
Pozole isn’t strictly a keto-approved dish, but it can be adapted to be lower in carbs and fit a ketogenic diet better. Here are some tips for making keto pozole:
- Use smaller portions of hominy to reduce the carbohydrates.
- Substitute low-carb vegetables like cauliflower rice or cabbage in place of some of the corn.
- Skip higher carb garnishes like tortillas strips.
- Use avocado, cheese, sour cream for added fats to increase ketogenic ratio.
- Add more approved keto toppings like pork rinds for crunch.
- Adjust broth with salt and fat to compensate for less corn flavor.
With some modifications, people following a ketogenic diet can still enjoy pozole while limiting net carbs. Careful meal planning is needed to account for the hominy and restricted garnishes.
Comparison to other soups
How does pozole compare nutrition wise to some other common hearty soups? Here is a quick comparison:
|Soup||Calories (per 1 cup serving)||Carbs||Protein||Fat|
|Chicken Noodle Soup||140||10g||6g||6g|
|Chicken Tortilla Soup||210||23g||14g||8g|
Pozole is moderately high in carbohydrates compared to other soups due to the hominy. It is lower in fat and higher in protein than many other hearty soup options. Pozole provides a filling balance of nutrition in a bowl.
Should you eat pozole on a diet?
Pozole can be part of a healthy diet for weight loss or maintenance, in moderation. Some tips for enjoying pozole on a diet:
- Control portion size – 1 cup is a reasonable serving.
- Use leaner meats or substitute extra vegetables for some meat.
- Limit fat toppings like cheese, sour cream, avocado.
- Avoid fried tortilla strips or chips; use baked instead.
- Use broth with no added salt.
- Load up on cabbage, radishes and fresh lime instead of heavy garnishes.
- Avoid drinking your calories in sugary beverages.
With good portion control and sensible ingredients, pozole can be worked into a reduced calorie diet. It provides satiating protein and fiber. The hominy does have a moderate glycemic load so smaller portions are ideal for those limiting carbs or managing diabetes. Overall, pozole can be an occasional component of a healthy diet.
Should you eat pozole for weight gain?
For those looking to gain weight or build muscle, pozole can be a beneficial meal due to its high protein and carbohydrate content. To boost the calorie content of pozole for weight gain:
- Use higher fat meats like pork shoulder or beef chuck.
- Increase portion size to 2-3 cups.
- Add high calorie toppings like avocado, cheese, sour cream.
- Use fried tortilla strips for extra calories.
- Drink higher calorie beverages like horchata or atole with the meal.
- Add more hominy for extra carbohydrate calories.
The combination of protein from the meat and carbohydrates from the corn makes pozole a nicely balanced meal for supporting an active lifestyle and the goal of weight gain. The toppings can provide additional beneficial fats and calories. Just be mindful of also staying active to avoid excess fat gain.
Is pozole a complete protein?
No, corn is not a complete protein as it is somewhat lacking in lysine and tryptophan. However, pozole’s combination of corn paired with meat does provide all the essential amino acids required to form a complete protein. Consuming corn and meat together, as is done in pozole, allows your body to utilize the amino acids optimally. So while on their own they are incomplete proteins, the complementary proteins do result in pozole being a dish with complete proteins.
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup or stew made from nixtamalized hominy corn and meat that can be a nutritious component of your diet when prepared properly. It is rich in protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals. However, it can also become high in fat, sodium and calories depending on the specific recipe. Sticking with leaner meats, limiting refined corn products, controlling portion sizes, and avoiding fried high-calorie toppings allows you to maximize pozole’s nutritional benefits. With some simple adjustments, pozole can be enjoyed as part of an overall healthy diet, whether you are trying to lose weight or gain muscle. This hearty Mexican favorite provides delicious comfort food that can be tailored to meet your specific nutrition goals.