My First try at Relleno Negro

I was watching Mexican Street Food with Mark Wiens on Amazon. It seems I should have heard of him but I had not. This man has a very successful YouTube presence across numerous food cultures and travel. He was in Merida, Mexico, on the Yucatan Peninsula. At a market stall, he got a traditional turkey dish with deep black sauce called Relleno Negro. It looked very interesting and I made a note to check it out.

I am always happy when I find something I have never heard of. My first instinct is to give it a try.

A further YouTube search led me to various videos, none of them in English. I counted 36 before I gave up although I did view several to get an idea. Like other dishes, there were as many ingredients and methods as videos. The overlap included charred chiles, onion, garlic, tomatoes, plus spices like cumin, clove, and allspice. I even looked to the Mexican food guru Rick Bayless but all I could find was a short video clip of him in factory where they were grinding the paste for sale.

The basis for this cook was found here:

The beginning of the dish is a paste made from charred dried chiles called Recado Negro. The spice mix is available in Mexican markets but often made from scratch. In addition to turkey or chicken, the rich stew includes something called the boot (but) which is a large meatball made from ground pork, beef, or both that has either a boiled egg inside like a Scotch egg or just the yoke with the egg white mixed into the mince.

I decided to give the dish a try with chicken but without the boot for now. One thing at a time. First the sauce needs to be explored. The recipes I did find call for Chile Arbol, but what I have in stock is Chile Japonase. They can be a bit hotter but without the nuttiness.

The first thing is to scorch the chiles in a hot dry pan. This is where I miss the large vent hood and mighty exhaust fan of a restaurant kitchen. If you have an outside burner, this is the time to use it. Turn on the fan you have and open the windows and doors. There may be burning eyes and perhaps a dry cough. It reminds me of the time my in laws came to visit and my father in law was roasting chiles so hot they cleared the house and actually killed my wife’s finches but that is another story.

Once the chiles are done, use the pan to char the garlic, onion, and tomato or use your broiler. One video had the onions and garlic tossed into the live coals but I am not firing up the grill for this just yet. You could also just sweat the onion and garlic in a bit of oil then add the tomatoes for a few minutes but a dry roast adds flavor. Whatever your method, cook your veggies and into an appropriate sauce pan on top of your chicken. I am using bone in thighs per usual. Pour chile paste on top. The water used to get the chile out of the blender may not be enough but just add water or stock to almost cover. The veg will cook down.

Bring your pot to a simmer, toss in a few torn epazote leaves and cover until the meat is done to your taste.

If you do not live in an area with a substantial Hispanic population, epazote may not be familiar to you, so a bit of elucidation is perhaps in order.

“The word epazote derives from Nahuatl, the language spoken by Mexican Aztecs and their ancestors. A literal translation to English would be something like “stinky sweat” (not very appetizing!). In some parts of Mexico and Guatemala, the plant is called pazote, ipasote, apazote, hierba hedionda (“stinky weed”), pazoli, and pizate, In Peru, it is known as paico, a word that comes from Quechua. In English it is sometimes called goosefoot or skunk weed.”

The above description is from Spruce Eats:

You could use a whole cut up chicken or turkey parts.

This was my first time cooking this dish having never eaten it so it’s resemblance to Relleno Negro is uncertain. It is fairly spicy but not over the top. The depth of flavor is there and I can imagine it working nicely with turkey. I used ground cloves but much less than originally called for since clove is not my favorite spice. I also did not put the garlic in the blender with the charred chiles. The sauce is not the deep black observed, but more brown and red. Perhaps I used too much liquid or did not char the chiles enough. The sauce was also thin. At least one video had it thickened with well toasted corn tortillas. This dish will be made again. Tinkering is necessary.


  • 15 chile japonase or 20 chile arbol
  • 1 onion, thick sliced
  • 2 tomatoes thick sliced, I found a massive Beefsteak tomato at the local farmers market so just one if you are so fortunate
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 5 whole allspice berries or 1 tsp ground
  • 1/4 tsp ground clove
  • 5 large cloves garlic, charred and peeled
  • ½ tsp dried oregano or 2 sprigs fresh
  • 3 or 4 epazote leaves fresh
  • 4 bone in chicken thighs


  • Stainless steel or Cast iron works best here. Dry roast your chiles until charred all around
  • Remove chiles and use same dry pan to char sliced onion and garlic. Leave skin on garlic
  • Once garlic and onion have a good set of black scorch marks, remove and treat tomatoes the same way. Once cooled, peel garlic give the veg a rough chop
  • Add chicken to pot
  • Add veg including torn epazote
  • Using as little water as necessary, get all of the chile paste to pour over the chicken
  • Bring to simmer until the meat is cooked to your liking. Bone in thighs take about 45 min
  • Serve with heated tortillas and rice

My First try at Relleno Negro

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