Main dish Tex-Mex

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style | Homesick Texan

When I first read the recipe for chile relleno casserole I found in my family’s stash of cards, I was struck by the instruction to use a one-inch layer of cheese on top of chiles already bathed in eggs and milk. How much is that, I wondered? When I posed the question to others, I soon learned that it was about eight cups of cheese, which translates to two pounds. As much as I love creamy dishes, it all seemed a bit much. So my quest for a chile relleno casserole continued.

Now, for those unfamiliar with chile rellenos, they are peppers that have been stuffed with cheese, which are then battered and fried. Long green chiles or poblanos are the chiles most often used (though I did read about a Texas restaurant in the 1970s that made its with bell peppers, which is simply wrong), and other proteins such as meat, seafood, or refried beans can be added, too.

Chile rellenos are incredibly delicious but they require a ton of work, and during the week, messing with a batter and a hot skillet of oil may be more than one wishes to tackle. Yet, they’re incredibly satisfying, which is why I was hoping to find a baked version that reduced some of the effort. While there is no shortage of green chile casseroles, each one I read had an emphasis on the dairy, like my family’s. The thing I love about chile rellenos, however, is its celebration of the pepper with the batter and stuffing serving to enhance the chile, not mask it.

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style | Homesick Texan

On a recent afternoon, however, I was flipping through the El Paso Junior League’s fine cookbook Seasoned with Sun, and I spotted a baked chile recipe that read very close to the classic rendition of the dish. For instance, the traditional battering of the chiles is with eggs that have been separated, beaten, then folded into each other. Likewise, chile rellenos are often served with a simple tomato salsa. This El Paso casserole included both of these hallmarks. Cheese was also present, of course, but not in excess. The recipe sounded promising, so I took it for a spin.

The ingredients were few and after roasting the chiles (though I believe canned whole chiles would work well, too), it had you cook canned tomatoes with aromatics and spices, layer the chiles with cheese and the salsa, then make the egg batter and spoon it evenly on top. After a time in the oven, the dish comes out browned and bubbling. You then slice it and serve.

As I tucked into a hearty wedge of gooey cheese, tender chiles, bright salsa, and a light, puffed topping, I was struck by how much it resembled its more complicated fried namesake. The cheese and chiles were at the center of the dish, with the salsa and batter adding the right amount of contrast. It was excellent and considering how quickly it came together, I didn’t miss frying the chiles at all.

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style | Homesick Texan

If you have the time, chile rellenos are a fun project, but on a busy night you want something delicious that requires little thought. This El Paso take on a chile relleno casserole is an excellent example of this type of meal, and will be a welcome addition to your dinner rotation.

Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style | Homesick Texan
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Chile relleno casserole, El Paso style

Servings 6
Author Adapted by Lisa Fain from Seasoned with Sun

Ingredients

  • 10 long green chiles such as Hatch or Anaheim
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • ½ medium yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 (14.5-ounce) can stewed tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Salt
  • 2 large eggs, separated
  • 8 ounces (2 cups) Monterey Jack, shredded

Instructions

  1. First you’ll need to roast the chiles. Place the chiles under the broiler until blackened, about 5 minutes per side. Place the chiles in a paper sack or plastic food-storage bag, close it tight and let the chiles steam for 20 minutes. Take the chiles out of the bag and gently rub off the skin. Remove the stem and seeds, then slice the chiles from top to bottom to open them up.


  2. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a large cast-iron skillet or a 2 ½ quart casserole dish with 1 tablespoon of the butter.


  3. To make the salsa, heat the remaining tablespoon of butter in a pan on medium-low heat then add the onions. While stirring occasionally, cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for 30 more seconds.


  4. Pour into the pan the tomatoes, and add the cumin. While stirring, cook for 10 minutes, then taste and add salt. Turn off the heat.


  5. To make the batter, whip the egg whites until so stiff that when you tip the bowl they do not move. Beat the yolks and lightly season with salt, then gently fold the whites into the yolks and gently stir until combined.


  6. To assemble the casserole, pour half the salsa into the bottom of the pan. Place on top half the chiles, laying them flat, then evenly cover the chiles with the shredded cheese. Place on top the remaining chiles, laying them flat, then pour over the remaining salsa.


  7. Gently spread the batter evenly over the casserole, then bake uncovered until brown and bubbling, 40-45 minutes. Serve warm.


Recipe Notes

To substitute with canned green chiles, use 2 4-ounce cans of whole green chiles, drained. You can also substitute with poblano chiles, if you prefer.

  1. Randy Lea

    I hate cleaning up the kitchen. I use a small butane single-burner stove outdoors when I fry something or cook fish, so I don’t have to clean up the kitchen or stink up the house. These stoves are inexpensive, I clean mine outdoors with the water hose, but they will fit in a sink.

    • Lisa Fain

      Randy–That’s a great idea to do your frying and fish cooking outside! Thanks for the tip!

  2. I have canned green chiles and so I can make this in Germany! This is so exciting!

  3. elisabeth

    I grew up with Hatch chile, having grown up in that area, and absolutely LUV chile rellenos. So this is a great way to still enjoy the great flavor but in an easy to put together and take to a party version! Thanks for sharing – I’ll be pulling out my frozen chile soon to make this!

    • Lisa Fain

      Elisabeth–Yes, it’s a terrific way to feed people at a party! Enjoy!

  4. Oh, oh, oh! I LOVE chiles relleno!! But, would never do them at home.

    This looks PERFECT!!!!

    Yes, I may be just little bit excited with this recipe. Just a bit…

    • Lisa Fain

      Pete–May this recipe change your home chile relleno game!

  5. Debra in Texas

    Two words: weekend breakfast! 🙂

  6. I’m off grains and keeping things low-carb, and this recipe sounds just perfect. It’s hard to eat Mexican without rice and corn, but this fits the bill. Lovely!

    • Lisa Fain

      Sara–This is certainly filling enough that you may not even miss the rice and beans.

  7. Lisa, I love Seasoned with Sun! I’ve carried this cookbook with me long after I left El Paso. Thank you for this recipe and reminding me to make this yummy dish again.

    • Lisa Fain

      Deb–Isn’t it a terrific book? Every time I look at it I find something new and delicious to cook.

  8. We also left El Paso after living there for over 40 years, and that cookbook is one of the few we brought with us to Ft. Worth. This is a great recipe, btw, and Seasoned with Sun (and it’s version for younger chefs) has many, many more that are outstanding!

    • Lisa Fain

      Nikki–It’s one of my all-time favorite cookbooks. I love the food of El Paso!

  9. Yum–a way to use some of those roasted Hatch chiles I stuck in the freezer last month! I have been known to fry them, using an old Houston recipe, but it’s a bit of a chore. I tend to avoid them in many restaurants as they come to the table swimming in oil, which my home fried ones do not–the egg batter shouldn’t soak up much fat from the frying, and a minute on paper towels takes up most residue. Some restaurants use a flour batter.

    This cookbook is still available–several editions (1993 and 2009) are posted on that best known online bookstore, and used copies are quite inexpensive–a few new copies, too.

    • Lisa Fain

      Janet–It’s an excellent way to use up some of your stash! And like you, if I have the time I enjoy frying them but it can be quite the production.

  10. A nice take on EZ rellenos and I do like that type of batter, but why wouldn’t one want to add the cumin w/ the garlic so it can bloom a bit?

  11. stephanie

    chiles rellenos casserole is a classic i stumbled upon a few years ago when looking to see what people made with hatch chiles. i make it once or twice a year when we get hatch chiles – it’s delicious and my partner and i could eat nearly the whole thing in one sitting, lol! but it’s nothing like “real” chiles rellenos IMHO. (sure it has all the same ingredients, but that’s about where the similarities end.) it is a LOT of cheese but weirdly it doesn’t taste like that much. still, these days instead of measuring out the whole ton of it, i just grate up whatever i have that’s suitable and make two nice layers. doesn’t seem to matter if it’s less than called for.

    anyway, all that to say i’m definitely going to try this version – seems to have much more in common with real chiles rellenos as opposed to the other version!

    • Lisa Fain

      Stephanie–That other version may not be as close to real chile rellenos but I do agree that it’s indeed delicious!

  12. Amanda K McClendon

    Oh my gosh, this sounds AMAZING. My gluten-intolerant self appreciates its lack of flour in the batter, too.

  13. My Mother-in-Law made something like this for years. She said she found the recipe on a can of chilies. It was super popular on the west coast the 70’s. It called for a batter of half-and-half, flour and eggs, poured over two layers of canned, sliced-open, whole green chilies, with an unholy amount of cheddar or jack heaped between layers… then a cup of tomato salsa poured over the top and baked. I still make it about once a year… ya know… for old times sake. It’s just GOOD.

  14. This was SO DARNED GOOD! And SO DARNED EASY! It was even good left over (I was a bit dubious if it would be). I used really hot Hatch chiles that I’d frozen, so with the mild tomato sauce, it all balanced out perfectly. Yum! Thanks for such a great recipe – a real keeper, for sure.

    • Lisa Fain

      Amy–This makes my day! I’m so glad you loved the casserole!

  15. My guys LOVED this recipe! We had leftovers warmed up with our eggs the next morning. I did add twice as many chiles as my large, 10 oz. can only covered one layer. I ran to the store but they only had the chopped, so two of those on the second layer…and I added even more cheese…about three cups! I shared it on facebook with my friends and so far, everyone there loves it too!

    • Lisa Fain

      Janet–Love the addition of extra cheese and so glad you and your friends are enjoying it!

    • Danielle

      I had the same issue with a 10 oz can of whole chiles not being enough. I ran to get more, and ending up adding two more cans of chopped chiles. 2 or 3 – 10 oz cans of whole chiles would probably work better in the recipe 🙂

  16. Lisa, thanks for a delicious dish. I’m a household of one and enjoy tinkering to scale down recipes when I’m not hosting guests. I essentially halved all the ingredients, still cut back on the cheese, and used my Zyliss battery-powered frothed to whip the lonely egg white. The results would have served two generously, and the roasted poblanos I used starred. Guess what I’m having for breakfast tomorrow!

  17. Lisa, thanks for the great recipe! I used 2 cans (10 oz each) of whole green mild chiles. So delicious! Not a fan of frying so I’m glad I can make my husband’s favorite dish so easily and with such great results! Thanks again from Austin. Finally feeling like fall here.

    • Lisa Fain

      Cathy–So good to hear that it’s delicious with canned chiles. Glad you enjoyed the recipe and hooray for fall!

  18. This looks fantastic. One question please: if using poblano chiles instead of hatch or anaheim, how many would you recommend? Maybe 6 or 7?
    Thanks from Houston!

    • Lisa Fain

      Jim–Depending on how large they are, 6 or 7 sounds about right.

      • Made this last night with poblano chiles and it was delicious, my family loved it. Thank you Lisa for this great recipe and your wonderful website that celebrates our food.

        • Lisa Fain

          Jim–So glad you enjoyed it and thank you for the kind words! It’s a joy to celebrate Texas cuisine and share that joy with others.

  19. debbie c.

    i made this monday (with fresh poblano chilies) for my husband who adores chili rellenos. he loved it. it was such a hit with my family that before we were finished with the meal my daughter called dibs on the leftovers. will be making again soon–a double recipe!

    thanks from sunny so cal!

  20. Judy Laney

    Looking for further shortcuts-would this work just using already-made salsa? Either home canned or Pace….. Recipe looks great!

  21. Duncan Campbell

    Hi Lisa, just out of the oven, I’m eating it as I type, it’s delicious…I used a 27 ounce can of whole green chilis and made 3 layers.

    duncan

  22. I have had that cookbook for years, one of my favorite go to for inspiration. I also love the squash and green chile casserole too.

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