I don’t know anyone who doesn’t love Mexican food. But it's not always easy to find whole food plant-based options in Mexican restaurants. The dishes are typically high in fat, either from being fried in oil or loaded with cheese. Or in the case of chile rellenos--both! But Hemant loves this dish, so I set out to make Healthy Vegan Chile Relleno to fit our whole food, plant-base lifestyle.
What I Love About this Healthy Chile Relleno Recipe
This vegan chile relleno is full of nutritious veggies (eight!), beans and quinoa. And rather than being stuffed full of high-fat cheese, the homemade vegan cheddar cheese sauce—which is completely optional—gets drizzled lightly over the top.
For more healthy Mexican sauce goodness, check out my Oil Free Vegan Enchilada Sauce recipe.
I did try a version where the cheese sauce is stuffed inside with the filling. It was good, but we enjoy this version so much better. You get more veggies in your filling, and just enough cheddar sauce to bring a bit of richness without too much extra fat and calories.
And of course, there’s no frying in this healthy chile relleno recipe. The poblano peppers are simply stuffed and baked in a flavorful, mildly spicy bath of blended up roasted veggies.
How to Make Healthy Vegan Chile Relleno
This recipe has several steps, but each one is simple. You need to roast some veggies on a sheet pan. Saute your filling for a few minutes. Blend up a sauce (or two.)
And of course, stuff your peppers. That’s probably the hardest part of this entire vegan chile relleno recipe, but if you take your time, even this isn’t too hard.
I love the texture and protein of tricolored quinoa in this dish. But if you don’t have any cooked quinoa and want to skip that step, you can simply increase your other filling ingredients. Just make sure to make about 3 to 3 ½ cups of filling for your peppers.
Does this healthy chile relleno recipe taste just like classic version? Nope, not really. But in this case, I'm thinking that's probably a good thing.
If you like this whole food plant-based recipe, you might also like:
- Red Quinoa Tacos
- Smokey Vegan Rice and Beans
- Mini Taco Cups
- Scallion Cashew Cheese Quesadillas
- Inside Out Guacamole
- Easy Slow Cooker Black Beans
- Easy Cheezy Sauce
Healthy Vegan Chile Relleno
- 4 poblano peppers whole with stems on (about 1 pound)
- 1 pound Roma tomatoes cut in half (about 4-5)
- 1 serrano pepper cut in half and seeded
- ½ white onion cut into ½ inch slices
- 1 small garlic bulb bottom trimmed off to expose cloves (or ½ large bulb)
- 1 15 ounce can black beans (or 1 ½ cups cooked dried beans)
- 4 packed cups spinach leaves chopped
- 1 cup cooked quinoa (I used tri-colored-see notes)
- ½ cup corn kernels (I used frozen)
- 1 teaspoon taco seasoning (or make your own-see notes)
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- Optional: Cheddar Sauce for topping
- Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. (Use 2 if necessary.)
- Place the whole poblano peppers and onions slices on the baking sheet. Then place the cut vegetables--tomatoes, serrano pepper and garlic bulb--on the baking sheet, cut side down. Roast for 25-30 minutes, turning the peppers and onions over halfway through cooking, until the peppers are blistered on both sides the veggies are cooked.
- Optional: Make the Cheddar Sauce if using. Set aside.
- To make the filling: While the vegetables are roasting, in a pot or large skillet, cook the spinach, and drain the excess liquid. Add the cooked quinoa, black beans, corn, and taco seasoning, and cook a few minutes over medium heat, just enough to heat and blend the flavors and spices. Add a little water if needed to keep things from sticking--but allow it to cook off so the filling is not too wet. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Set aside.
- When the veggies finish roasting, remove them from the oven, and reduce the heat to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
- To make the sauce: Use a spatula to add the tomatoes, onions and serrano pepper to a blender. Use a towel to grasp the garlic bulb, squeeze the cloves out of their skins, and add them to the blender. Add the tomato paste and cilantro to the blender, and process on low, gradually increasing to high speed, being careful to let some steam escape. Add sea salt to taste. Pour the sauce into the bottom of a baking dish just large enough for the peppers, about 13 x 9 inches.
- Place the poblano peppers on a cutting board. Carefully slice one side of each pepper down the center lengthwise to form a pocket, being sure not to pierce the other side. Use a spoon (or your fingers) to gently scoop the seeds and membrane out of each pepper.
- Fill each pepper with ¼ of the filling, and place into the baking dish, cut side up.
- Cover and bake 20-25 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit, or until the filling is hot and the sauce is bubbling.
- If desired, drizzle gently warmed cheddar sauce over the top. (See notes)
- To make your own taco seasoning, combine: ½ teaspoon chili powder, ¼ teaspoon ground cumin, ⅛ teaspoon oregano, ⅛ teaspoon onion powder, 1 pinch of cayenne, garlic powder and sea salt.
- I always keep cooked grains around, and I like quinoa in this recipe for its texture and protein. But if you want to skip the step of cooking quinoa, you can simply increase the other filling ingredients. You'll need about 3 to 3 ½ cup to fill the peppers.
- Don't overheat the cheddar sauce. Cook in a sauce pan on medium low heat, stirring frequently so that it doesn’t separate.