The Main Dish from the Blue Team Demo, featuring chile relleno with ground turkey and chili rojo, as seen on Worst Cooks In America, Season 24.
Recipe courtesy of Cliff Crooks

Chile Relleno with Ground Turkey and Salsa Roja

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  • Level: Intermediate
  • Total: 2 hr 15 min
  • Active: 1 hr 15 min
  • Yield: 4 servings
Originally from Puebla, Mexico, this is a dish of a stuffed pepper with meat that's coated with an egg batter, then fried. This version uses ground turkey so it's a bit lighter. It's served in a salsa roja, which means red sauce, and is a tomato base.



  1. To make the salsa roja, add the tomatoes, sliced onions, smashed garlic, cilantro stems, pasilla chile and 2 cups of the chicken stock to a saucepan. Turn the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until softened, about 20 minutes.
  2. Transfer to a blender and reserve the pan. Blend the sauce until smooth. Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to the saucepan and transfer the sauce back into the pan. Bring the sauce to a boil, then reduce to a simmer on medium heat and cook until reduced and thickened, 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, add the water, the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and salt to taste to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil and add the rice. Bring back to a boil, then cover and reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, about 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then set aside.
  4. Put the poblano peppers onto an open flame on the stovetop and char until black on all sides, turning occasionally, 5 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap to steam until the skin pulls away, about 10 minutes. Using a clean kitchen towel, gently remove the skin from the pepper, being careful not to break the flesh. Cut a slit lengthwise down the center of one side of the pepper and remove the seeds and ribs.
  5. Heat a large saute pan with a little canola oil. Add the ground turkey and cook, breaking it up with a spoon, until it starts to brown, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the diced onions and cumin and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the minced garlic and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute. Add the remaining 1/2 cup chicken stock and reduce by half. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a large bowl and add the beans and cooked rice. Toss to combine, then spread onto a sheet tray to lightly cool for 10 minutes.
  6. Fill each pepper with 2 slices of Oaxaca cheese and some of the filling. Be careful not to overfill the peppers. Secure with toothpicks and season the exterior of the peppers with salt.
  7. Place the egg whites into one large bowl and the yolks into another. Whip the egg whites with a hand mixer until fluffy and they form stiff peaks. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and whip for another 30 seconds. Beat the egg yolks until the volume doubles, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle the cornstarch and 2 tablespoons of the flour into the whipped egg whites, and then pour in the beaten egg yolks. Gently whisk by hand to combine. The consistency should be light – if you use a hand mixer you risk deflating the mixture.
  8. Heat a large cast-iron pan over medium-high heat. Add the canola oil and heat until it shimmers. Test the oil by dropping a small amount of the batter into the pan.
  9. Spread the remaining 1 cup flour onto a sheet tray. Dredge the stuffed peppers in the flour, shaking off any excess, then dip into the egg batter. Lay the peppers into the oil and fry until golden brown, turning on all sides, 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and carefully take out the toothpicks.
  10. To serve, spoon some of the salsa roja onto the bottom of each plate. Place the fried chile over the top. Garnish with jalapeño, queso fresco and cilantro leaves.