When it comes to authentic Mexican soups, few dishes are as well known as pozole and menudo. These dishes are both rich, flavorful, and perfect for a rainy day or as a get-well soup when you’re sick. There are some important differences though. And if your family is from Mexico, you probably have a distinct preference for one of these soups, and certainly not the other!
There are a lot of similarities though, especially if you aren't already familiar with Mexican cuisine. Both feature similar spices, a lot of meat, and hominy and are often served with additional fresh toppings to add flavor and variation to the meal.
So, what is the main difference between pozole and menudo? We’re glad you asked!
|Origin||Aztec Empire||Northern and Central Mexico|
|Primary Protein||Pork or chicken||Cow tripe|
|Varieties||Red, green, and white||Red and White|
What is Pozole
Pozole is a truly ancient recipe, thought to originate in the Aztec empire before the arrival of the Spanish Conquistadores, and could be even older than that. As you might expect from such an old recipe, there are a lot of different variations and takes on Pozole, and almost every family has their own recipe for the meal.
That said, almost all of them rely on a couple of different things, a flavorful (and hot) combination of stewed chilies, and pork or chicken, with hominy providing a nutty and toothsome background.
Different Types of Pozole
Partially because of how old pozole is, it shouldn’t be a surprise that there are several different versions of this soup.
The key difference between different kinds of pozole, red, white, and green, are what kinds of peppers you use with them. Green pozole would be familiar to green chili lovers, thanks to its combination of jalapeno, tomatillo, serrano, and other green peppers. Red pozole is defined instead by ancho, guajillo, and chile de arbol peppers (note that one of the differences is that these are dried peppers and turn red, red/brown in the drying process.
White pozole, rather than being defined by the peppers in the mix, is defined by their lack. There may be a small amount of any of the peppers we listed above in white pozole, but not usually in large quantities or enough of them to change the color of the soup.
How Do You Make Pozole?
Be prepared, if you’re making pozole from scratch this is a day-long soup. You do not want to rush pozole, partially because you’re looking for all of the ingredients to fully hydrate, fully cook, and then meld the flavors together.
Hominy, and those dried peppers in particular (if you’re making red pozole) take some time to cook and get to a desirable texture.
Often, the pork and chicken are slowly simmered in with the stock and vegetables and peppers until they are shreddable.
Want to make an especially traditional rich pozole? Don’t be afraid to make your own broth with chicken feet or pork hocks to get all the umami and thickening healthy fats into your soup.
Delicious Posole Ingredients And Sides
Posole starts with a base of hominy, onion, garlic, peppers of your choice, and pork or chicken for your meal. Chicken is a good option if you’re looking for a lighter and healthier version of posole, while pork is perfect for cold winters or long work days when you need a little extra depth in your meal.
Posole is often served with fresh avocado, cheese, tortilla or tostada, shredded cabbage, lime, fresh cilantro, radish, and chicharron.
A great pozole spread includes not just the soup, but a wide range of garnishes so everyone can customize their bowl.
Great Pozole Recipes You Should Try
Want to try pozole for yourself? Food and Wine has you covered with a delicious green chicken pozole that comes together a lot quicker than most and gives you a lot of insight into the ingredients and how to bring it all together into a single bowl. Looking instead of a red posole? Food.com has a fantastic posole recipe that's almost a hybrid but relies on the smokey flavor of ancho chilies to make a delicious red soup.
What Is Menudo?
Menudo is a much more recent soup out of Mexico, though it's difficult to know exactly where Menudo comes from. Menudo is one of the many amazing dishes that was born out of hardship and is a dish of the working class first and foremost.
What is menudo? It’s similar to posole in spices and ingredients, with one big exception. Instead of pork or chicken, menudo calls for a very specific protein, beef tripe.
That's actually part of how we know that menudo was likely created by and for workers because beef tripe is one of the least popular parts of a beef cow, but it’s a great source of protein and nutrients. That means that beef tripe was affordable, effective for nutrition and energy, and widely available.
These days, you might have to go to a butcher or a specialty grocery store to get beef tripe, but you really don't want to make menudo with a different protein. The chewy bites of beef tripe are an incredible addition to this soup, and add a lot of variety in texture and flavor in one bowl.
Different Styles Of Menudo
There are two types of Menudo, red and green. You’ll notice that there isn’t any white menudo though, unlike posole. There are a couple of reasons for that. For one thing, the strong flavor of beef tripe really is better balanced when you add peppers to help provide both acidity and heat.
The other reason is that menudo is a much newer dish, so caters to newer tastes, which, in this case, means that it’s got plenty of spice.
How Do You Make Menudo?
Like posole, menudo is often a process of many hours to make. That’s even more important with this soup because the second type of protein that is required, not optional for the best menudo, is pork feet or cow feet.
You can substitute chicken feet if you want a lighter flavor while still getting plenty of collagen to thicken the soup.
This is important in part because beef tripe is leaner than pork, and, unlike chicken, really needs some added fat to avoid becoming too chewy to be enjoyable.
If you can’t source pork or cow feet, try using bone broth, and consider getting a little plain unflavored gelatin to add to the soup for a little added collagen and thickness.
Menudo Ingredients and Toppings To Try
Menudo often includes more herby aromatics like rosemary, oregano, and bay leaf in addition to cumin, onion, and garlic. Beef tripe is a must, as are cow or pig feet, but where you can really customize menudo is in the garnishes. Lime, fresh cilantro, and shredded lettuce are all common additions, but so are carnitas as a garnish, and tortillas are almost always served with menudo.
Rice and beans and plenty of other side dishes also go well with menudo, so feel free to pick a couple of your favorites to serve along with this meal.
Top Menudo Recipes You’re Sure To Love
If you want to make top-notch red menudo, the New York Times has you covered. This recipe is delicious, designed to be made at home, and comes with some ideas of how to customize your menudo for a perfect bowl.
For menudo Verde, La Pina en La Cocina has a menudo Verde recipe that calls for ox tails instead of feet, but still gives you the thick, collagen-rich broth you want with a great menudo recipe. Better yet, since ox tails are having a renaissance, they’re a little easier to find than feet.
Wrapping Up: What are the key differences between Pozole vs. Menudo?
These two traditional Mexican soups can be similar in a lot of different ways, but there are a few key differences worth considering.
- Posole is a much older soup, and menudo is likely based on posole, but with some key differences that helped make it more affordable for certain groups.
- Menudo is made with Beef tripe, while posole is made with pork or chicken.
- Posole can be made without as many chilies, while menudo is typically always made with a lot of chilies.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Here are some of the most frequently asked questions about pozole and menudo.
Q1: Is posole or menudo healthier?
Posole can be made a bit leaner than menudo thanks to the option of making it with chicken, but both dishes are full of vegetables and different groups of nutrients, so honestly, both soups are pretty healthy overall.
Q2: Do pozole and menudo taste the same?
These two soups are definitely similar, but they are different depending on what recipes you use to make them, and they can have different seasonings as well despite having some of the same base flavors.
Q3: Why does menudo cure hangovers?
Well, Menudo might help you feel better after a hangover, but that doesn't mean it's a cure. However, both the added collagen and hot peppers both work to help you feel a bit better by giving your body important nutrients and also providing some hydration and long-lasting energy.