Chiles en nogada, main course, of course, or… dessert?

It was the Augustinian nuns of the Santa Monica convent in Puebla who, in honor of independence hero Agustín de Iturbide, created Mexico’s exquisite national dish chiles en nogada. While its story has many twists and turns, what we at this gastronomic column have found most controversial is the fact that this dish was originally presented as a dessert! 

Photo: ©Marcos Elihu via

Apparently, the nuns were inspired by a recipe dating back to the 16th century, which consisted of chilies stuffed with minced meat and dried fruits and nuts that were dipped in a white sauce made from walnuts. Sounds familiar to the modern version we know, doesn’t it? It turns out that the contribution of these good women was more aesthetic than culinary, since the only thing they added was parsley and pomegranate seeds to give this delicious dish the colors of Itubide’s Trigarante Army.

Photo: ©Alexcrab via

Now, let’s get down to business and answer this burning question – can a chile en nogada actually be considered a dessert? Let’s take a look at the characteristics most desserts have.

A dessert is sweet

Thanks to the acitrón (cactus candy) and the fruits mixed into the filling, the chilies undoubtedly have this sweet feature, which combines well with the nutty sauce.

Photo: ©Juan José Alvarado via

A dessert often has different textures and temperatures

Another check, as the batter contrasts with the meat filling, fruit chunks, and seeds. In addition, many versions are served with the filling hot and the sauce cold.

It is colorful

Well, a sure win in this category for its patriotic combination of green, white, and red.

Photo: ©Gogadicta via

It is served as a final touch at the end of the meal

This is where the argument falls apart, as it’s doubtful you would ever see a chile en nogada served after a full meal. This time of year they ARE the meal. 

After a hearty binge of chiles en nogada, we think it’s unlikely you would want to eat anything afterwards. But whether as a dessert or as a main dish, be sure not to miss out on this seasonal Mexican delicacy.Don’t know where to try them? Here are some suggestions.

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