Pozole Is the Perfect Soup to Heal You This Winter

Chef Otoniel Michel shares his recipe for spicy and warming pozole rojo.

Pozole is a super-soup for Otoniel Michel, the chef and founder behind Chicago’s Estrella Negra. It’s a hangover cure, a medicine for “everything,” and a stroll down memory lane. “My mom would make it during Christmas, New Year’s, or birthdays—by request,” Michel explains of the not-so-simple undertaking. Lucky for Michel, helping hands weren’t too far. “My grandma lived upstairs from us and would make it with my mom.”

Those memories, smells, and tastes shaped the way Michel viewed and understood food. A born-and-raised Chicagoan, he’s comforted by the heat in pozole, both temperature and spice, as well as the soft and hearty kernels of hominy loaded in every bite. It’s part of what made him want to bring his own traditional family recipes to the city he calls home.

Located on the border of Bucktown and Logan Square, his modern Mexican-Latin restaurant, Estrella Negra, opened in 2008 and has been serving up Michel’s favorites ever since—including his own reinterpretations of pozole.

“I use chicken breast instead of pork to make a healthier version,” he explains for his pozole rojo. It’s garlicky, spicy, and wholesome. Additionally, Michel also prepares a pozole verde that’s completely vegan. “With the increase of vegetarian clientele, I had to [create] that option to give them a taste of the deliciousness that is pozole.” On some nights, the verde pozole sometimes outsells the chicken filled pozole rojo. At Estrella Negra, Michel makes sure that no one misses out.

But not everyone can get to Chicago for a chance to eat Michel’s comforting and healing soup—so he wants to spread the gospel. If the soup can heal him, it should be able to heal anybody.

“If you’re making pozole at home, you have to remember to be patient,” Michel advises. “Create your broth and adjust the recipe by tasting the flavors continually.”

Otoniel Michel’s Pozole Rojo Recipe


  • 8 quarts water
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 4 Tablespoons chicken bouillon
  • 4 Tablespoons salt
  • 1 whole onion, peeled and diced
  • 7 cups chicken breast, cubed in ½ inches
  • 1 can hominy
  • 24 ounces chili paste, recipe below

1. In a large stock pot, boil 8 quarts of water with 5 garlic cloves, 4 tablespoons of chicken bouillon, 4 tablespoons of salt, and 1 whole onion, peeled and diced.
2. Bring to a boil, then add 7 cups of ½” cubed chicken breast. Boil for 20 minutes.
3. Add 1 can of hominy and your 24 ounces of *chili paste.
4. Boil for another 20 minutes all together and you're done.

*Chile ancho and guajillo, boiled and blended to make 24 ounces of paste. Add 2 tablespoons of cayenne (adjust for personal spice level)

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Kat Thompson is a senior staff writer of food & drink at Thrillist. Follow her on Twitter @katthompsonn