Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce


Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce

This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had.

The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.

It’s become the trump card I pull out for guests that love unusual and authentic flavors from Mexico. The best part of it is, the hardest part about making it, is waiting for the brisket to cook on its own.

I first tried a version of it in Santa Fé de la Laguna, Michoacán. A popular dish in that region, it goes by the name of Carne Enchilada. A young and knowledgeable Purépecha cook, Berenice Flores, showed me how to make it at her home. When my whole family sat down to eat it, we kept asking her for more corn tortillas to wipe the sauce clean off the plates.

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In Michoacán its typically made with pork, but when I got back home to DC, I couldn’t resist trying it with brisket. As well as adding a layer of seasoned onion to the sauce.

When Cecilia Ramos, Executive Director for Mexico and the Dominican Republic at the IADB, invited me to cook an authentic Mexican menu for the monthly Board of Directors, the first thing that popped into my mind was this dish.

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The sauce has a base of two exemplary Mexican ingredients that are now widely available in the US.

First, Pasilla or Black chiles, which are the dried Chilaca chiles, by far the most common chiles grown and used in Michoacán. Their flavor is earthy, a bit bitter and slightly spicy.

If you don’t find Pasillas, you can substitute with New Mexico chiles.

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Secondly, the Tomatillos, with their singular tasty tartness. The combination of the Pasillas and the Tomatillos is so good, its even hard to describe.

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Aside from having a lot of fun planning the menu, cooking at the kitchens of the IADB under the expert guidance of Chef Craig Psulgi was quite a ride.

Forget about the facility: It’s any cook’s dream. What’s more, the cooking team he directs is a group of international hard working people with the friendliest of dispositions.

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They are used to making all sorts of Latin American meals, focusing on different national cuisines to satiate the cravings of the multicultural staff from the IADB. Thus making a unique Mexican menu at the IADB is one big challenge.

In the end, what I really wanted, was to make the Mexican patrons there feel back at home.

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Though I had thought of a full menu, I didn’t consider the appetizer for the pre-lunch hour. Since they had some beautiful shrimp, we came up with a tasty appetizer: quickly sauteed shrimp on top of a brioche toast, smothered with an easy Mexican avocado cream, topped with a spicy red bell pepper sauce.

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For the salad, we had watercress and spinach with a Jamaica vinaigrette.

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We offered a choice between Pasilla and Tomatillo brisket and an Acapulco style fish. Both with a side of a comfy Mexican rice and a pickled chayote side
(sorry about the photo with the fluorescent lighting of the professional kitchen…)

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Yes there is always one or another kind of drama in the kitchen.

We almost dropped the entire tray with all of the brisket on the floor.

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Chef Psulgi caught it just on time.

And with that extra adrenaline rush, plating away we went.

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Always have to put a finishing touch in there…

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The waiters, I must say, were quite patient and helpful.

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And right before the luncheon started, I was invited to step out to describe what it was that they were all about to eat, that was on their menus…

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I’m happy to say that everyone seemed to love the brisket. Yes. Even the ones who opted for fish, because I insisted they try the brisket too…

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For dessert we offered black and white Tres Leches Cake
Because it was a soothing end, for the feast of flavors that came beforehand…

Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce

Carne Enchilada
6 to 8 servings
Pati Jinich
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Jewish, Mexican
Keyword: beef, chile, garlic, Jewish Mexican, pasilla, pati's mexican table, piloncillo, Recipe, tomatillos
Author:Pati Jinich
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 4 hours 15 minutes
This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had. The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.


  • 3 pounds trimmed brisket of beef, rinsed and cut into about 2-inch chunks (leave some fat on!)
  • 5 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt, divided (plus more to taste)
  • 1 pound tomatillos, husks removed and rinsed
  • 3 ounces black or pasilla chiles, (may sub for New Mexico chiles) stems and seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons corn or safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion, chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups meat cooking liquid
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • Chopped white onion and cilantro leaves, optional garnish

To Prepare

  • Place meat chunks in a large cooking pot along with 5 garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt. Cover with water, bring to a boil, cover partially and simmer over medium heat for 3 hours, or until meat is very soft. Drain and reserve 2 cups of its cooking liquid.
  • Meanwhile, char or roast the tomatillos on a baking sheet under the broiler, or directly on the comal or dry skillet or grill over medium heat, for about 10 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times. Tomatillos are ready when their skin is blistered and lightly charred, and their flesh is soft, mushy and juicy.
  • Toast chiles on a hot comal or dry skillet over-medium heat for 5 to 10 seconds per side. Chiles will release their aroma and become more pliable, and their inner skin will become a bit opaque. Don't let them burn.
  • Place toasted chiles and roasted or charred tomatillos in a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water and 2 cups of reserved meat cooking liquid (if you don't have 2 cups, add more water). Let this mixture soak for at least a half-hour and up to 4 hours. Pour the mixture into the blender or food processor, puree until smooth and reserve.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of corn or safflower oil to the same pot in which meat was cooked, and heat over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add cooked meat chunks and brown them, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the chopped onion, and stir as you continue to brown the meat for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Incorporate pureed chile mixture, a teaspoon of salt and the piloncillo or brown sugar. Stir and simmer over medium heat for about 10 more minutes. The meat should be completely tender, yet still in chunks. The sauce should be think enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, but not pasty. Taste for salt and add more if need be. To serve, you can garnish with some raw chopped onion and cilantro leaves.
  • If there is any meat left over, you can cool, store and refrigerate it in a closed contained and then reheat, covered over a low simmer.

110 comments on “Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce

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  1. I made this last Christmas for the first time and my family asked that I make it once again. Thank you Patti for bringing delicious food into our home.

  2. I made this dish last Saturday, it came out delicious
    It’s even better the next day. It seems the chilies
    marinated the meat even more.
    Love your show & the directions of the recipe were great.

    Thank You,
    Julieta Pontecorvo

  3. The instructions were easy to follow and it turned out delicious! This will be in regular rotation at our home. Thanks for an amazing recipe!

  4. we have made this with both brisket and Chuck roast. it is absolutely one of your best recipes! The sauce freezes beautifully . Leftovers make fantastic tacos, tamale pie and quesadillas!

  5. Hola! And L’shana tova, Pati! I am planning on making this dish during these Days of Awe. Can the first step of cooking the meat be done one day and the dish finished the next if I give enough time for it to come back up to temperature? Thank you.

  6. I could not find chile pasilla but used mulato instead and it came out great! Just had to adjust the pilconcillo.

  7. Made this today….damn good. Soy Dominicano y esta salsa es bien rica….yo la hicé dos pero uno con salsa mole….even better!

  8. Are pasilla and ancho chiles the same? I have seen them labeled seperately and also found some labeled with both.

  9. Hi, I always watch your show! I try to incorporate methods my mom snd granny taught me, we are ethnic German from Serbia so we have a mix of everything Balkan, Hungarian and left over Turkish. I always use lard to sautee onions when making refried black beans! I will try to find some brisket, I make a beef pot roast for tacos,I always brown the roast, then put fire roasted tomatoes, chipotles and adobo
    , a whole onion, a few garlic cloves
    , chili and ancho powder with oregeno, all spice, cumin and whatever else I think will fit in a blender and puree for my cooking liquid, a bit of beef stock if needed and put it in the oven to slow cook ( thank god for my wife who got me a LaCreuset dutch oven!) The meat comes out perfect and the sauce I could eat like soup!! I get lots of ideas from your shows and try to freelance. I learned to cook by sight and not by exact measures, I always thought roux was fancy french cooking until I realized that was the base for most of my mom’s sauces and I had been making them since I was 8! Thanks again for your hard work and great shows!!!!!!!

    1. Thanks Peter for tuning in and for sharing this wonderful recipe of beef roast for tacos, it looks delicious! Keep having fun in the kitchen 😉

  10. Saw this recipe on tv and was drooling even while the foods were put together and the meat came from the oven…Delicioso!!! And, I’ve been cooking my brisket with Coka-Cola y vegetables. This recipe provided by Pati is soo good and different. Thank you…muy gracias!

  11. Hi Pati,
    I just recently found your show on PBS and I love watching it while I prep dinner for my family. I decided to try your brisket recipe for my Passover dinner next week to change things up a bit. Do you have any suggestions for interesting side dishes that may be good for Passover; no flour, but rice, potatoes or matzoh are fine.


  12. Dear Pati,
    I prepared this dish for dinner and I can tell you it was exquisite! Thanks you so much for your great job

  13. Hi Pati, love watching your show–and cooking your recipes! You mentioned the recipe traditionally uses pork; I presume I’d cook it for the same length of time? If I sub w pork will the recipe be much different in flavor? Or would it be better to do chuck? At almost $9 an Lb for brisket, it’s pricey for 14 people +.

    My friends were amazed I made your sweet potato & black tamales by myself! I did add some chorizo to 1/2 of the batch.

    1. Thank you for watching, Toni! And yes cook the pork for the same amount of time…and it will be equally as yum! Or chuck will work really great as well.

  14. Hi Pati, I cannot find whole dried Pasilla chiles where I live, but I did find them ground up. How much ground chile should I use to equal the amt. of chilies in the recipe?

    1. This recipe really works with the whole rehydrated chile’s because they provide not only taste but consistency to the dish. Try to order them online!

  15. Hi Pati I just posted to you photos of your entire thanksgiving menu that I made for my colleagues at work in a restaurant here in Las Vegas on 11/5. Turkey, stuffings, sweet potatoes purée and the Brussel spouts dish. It was very well received. I am holding off on the brisket in Padilla Chile …. until next week until I hear from you as regards the best substitute for brisket. This cut of meat is so expensive here. About $37.00 for a 6 lbder. Is chuck roast the best substitute? The same braising time? Please let me know.

    1. ​Oh thanks for posting those photos! So happy to hear everyone liked the menu. Of course, you can sub for chuck roast and cook the same amount of time… they are both meats that love to be braised.

  16. Pati I saw you make a beef brisket recipe this morning and it looked so good. I cannot find the recipe. It was cooked in the oven in a dutch oven. Help! You also made the Tiger cake that looked good also I found that recipe am going to make that today. Thanks

      1. Help, I also watched you make this crmalized did not say remove the seeds and stems in tis receipe..I am roasting fresh pasilla as yu say..put in with meat seeds???? You have said you like the test of tis receipe?

        1. Oh I say to remove the seeds and stems from the chiles in the ingredients section and not the prepare section. I hope you enjoy it!

  17. This is a wonderful dish. I made this for a crowd and everybody loved it. The pasilla chiles are flavorful, but not hot, so even people who don’t like spicy food could eat it. You could probably kick it up by adding a couple chopped seranos or some habanero sauce if you wanted to. I served it with refried black beans, white rice, and, sliced avocado, and pickled onions.

  18. Your amazing!!!! Can you post a suadero recipe soon!!!! Also we use a lot of chile manzano and I don’t see very many recipes for this chile. Would love to entice your imagination.

  19. Hi, I love all of your recipes and your show! If I use pork for this recipe do you think I should cook it for the same 3 hours? Also is the sauce too spicy for little kids? Mine are 3 and almost 2. Thanks!

    1. Hi! Should work as well for pork. In regards to spiciness, Pasillas are not very spicy, my kids have had this salsa since very young. You can have corn tortillas and/or white rice to accompany the meat, and then serve the meat with little sauce and they can add more if they liked it!

  20. Is the name of this meat cut at the hispanic grocery pecho de rez? Also if you know the cut for suadero (tacos) I would GREATLY appreciate that as well! Thank you!

    1. Hola Jenni, Pecho de res is beef brisket. Suadero comes from the part between the cow’s belly and leg — or you can always use flank steak in its place, too.

  21. This looks so good, my mouth is watering! One question, for Pati, do you know if brisket is available in Mexico, in particular, Oaxaca? I will be living there quite soon and would love to make this. Thank you so much.

    1. Hola Melinda, Thank you for your message! Yes, brisket is available in Oaxaca. Good luck with your move — you will love it!

  22. Pati I made the recipe with a chuck roast in stead of brisket and it was every bit as good as I hoped it would be and then some the whole family loved it. Made your yellow rice recipe as a side and it was equally well received. Thanks again for your wonderful recipes.

  23. Pati hello, I have made a few of your recipes and found them to be excellent and keep coming back for more to try. Thank you for all your work. Could this one be done with a Chuck Roast in lieu of a brisket cut?

    1. Hi Tim, I’m so happy you are trying the recipes! Yes, you can try it with chuck roast. Let me know how it turns out.

    1. Hola Min, Yes, you can use a slow cooker! Cook for the same amount of time as the recipe calls for. I hope you try it.

  24. Hi Patti!
    I don’t want to change this recipe at all however I would like to get a smoked meat taste. How would you do that?

    1. Hello, Caleb!
      This dish has TONS of intricate flavors. Have you tried it yet? The pasilla is very deep, slightly bitter and smoky… and the tomatillos are charred as well, which gives it an even deeper rustic flavor…

  25. Hola Pati! I just wanted to first off by saying thank you for posting a variety of recipes from all over Mexico that really shows the difference in regional cuisine. I was looking for Purepecha food recipes because my paternal grandparents are Purepecha from Zamora, Michoacan; and I was trying to get in touch with my culture on a different level. It just so happened that when I was looking this up your website popped up; and to my amazement you have indigenous cuisine recipes!I am very interested in making the Carne Enchilada, but I saw that you said in the original recipe it called for pork and I was thinking of trying it with that 🙂 Is it a certain cut of pork? And also is their anyway you can perhaps send more Purepecha recipes my way? That would be awesome!
    Muchisimas Gracias 🙂
    Sincerely, Danielle

    1. Hola Danielle!
      I have Season 3 of my TV show coming out in January 2014 and guess where I go visit: Michoacán! Hope you tune in. Will be adding those recipes soon to the site. Yes of course try it with pork and any cut of pork will work, from butt, to shoulder to tenderloin. Just make sure you add it in chunks. Tenderloin will be a bit more dry, but still tasty…

  26. I made this last Cinco de Mayo and it was a hit. I plan to make it again this year but will strain the sauce as there were alot of seeds left that the blender did not pulverize. Unless I did something incorrect. It was great though.

    1. It is one of my favorite party dishes! Absolutely, you can strain the sauce if you want a more refined and smooth feel…

  27. I just made this last night for my Mexican-American husband and he LOVED it! We live in Germany now, so I had to make a a few major substitutions but it still turned out really good. I used ancho chiles instead of pasilla, and there are NO tomatillos here, especially in the winter, nor do they sell them in cans, so I used canned Herdez salsa verde. I wasn’t sure it would work, but it tasted amazing. I did have to add about a tablespoon of sugar to the sauce to round out the flavors, but wow, the taste was amazing. My husband loved it and he was thrilled to have such a unique Mexican dish at home, cooked by his gringa wife 🙂

  28. This recipe looks great! I plan to make it for mom’s birthday this weekend! Question, if I plan to make double the amout, does it mean I should let the brisket cook twice amout of time? Or will 3 hours still suffice?

    1. Hi Raquel, The brisket should take about the same amount of time to cook, no matter how much, if you are still cutting it into 2-inch chunks as in the recipe. Check it after three hours and just keep cooking if you don’t feel it’s ready. I hope your mom’s birthday is lovely!

  29. Hi Pati,
    My mom and I are big fans! I was wondering what kind of liquid did you mean in your ingredient list for “2 cups of meat cooking liquid”? Is it just water or a beef broth?

    1. Hola Melanie, The meat cooking liquid is the water reserved after you boil the meat (refer to the first paragraph in the procedure). I hope that clears it up. Thank you for sending me your question!

    1. Dennis – Yes, of course! About 40 minutes in a pressure cooker for the brisket. Just be careful with the pressure cooker!

  30. Hola, Pati! Yo hice esta receta hoy para mi familia y yo. Todo era fabuloso pero despues tres horas de coccion de la carne todavia parecia un poco dura. Yo he tenido esta problem antes con la carne. Yo estoy usando la carne para desmechada de que puedo comprar en el mercado cerca de mi casa. Yo creo que la proxima vez que puedo tratar esta receta yo voy a usar mi crock pot. Cuales son sus reccomendaciones para carne mas tierna. Y tambien yo tengo que decir que la salsa con los tomatillos fue muy deliciosa. mi papa no podia dejar de comerlo. entonces mucha gracia para su ayuda. cioa! -Evie

  31. Do you think if I make it with Pork Brisket and maybe a little less tomatillo, it could still work? For dietary restrictions, my husband can’t eat tomatoes, but we’e dying to try this recipe…..By the way, he is homebound and loves your show. Calls me at work to print the recipes and try them later….Yummy…

    1. Hi Becky, I am so happy you and your husband enjoy the show and recipes. Yes, of course you can use pork but the tomatillos are harder to substitute and are essential to this recipe. I would not recommend changing the amount of tomatillos. However, I have another recipe for you to try where you do not have to worry about dietary restrictions and is equally delicious! It is seared duck breast with hibiscus flower and orange sauce, but you can use whatever meat or poultry you like. You can find the recipe here Please let me know if you have any more questions 🙂

  32. THank you so much for this recipe. I love Mexican food and – living in Germany – have first grown my own tomatillos this year as they’re not available here. Now I have a big crop to use up and this recipe will be a keeper. It’s easy to do, it contains beef and even people who generally find chili too hot loved this. No one guessed the tang came from tomatillos, not vinegar.
    Wish your show’d be on television here…
    THanks again, Susanne
    Susanne | September 12, 2011 2:59 AM | Reply

    1. Hola Susanne,
      That is so exciting you are living in Germany….and growing tomatillos! Fresh tomatillos are the best. I am so glad you enjoyed this recipe, and I have more tomatillo recipes on the website if you are looking for new ideas for your crop 🙂

  33. Pati, I saw your show for the first time this afternoon and loved it! You really have a way with words to make a person want to get in their kitchen and start cooking those delicious recipes. From now on I will be a regular viewer of your show on Sat. afternoons!
    Thank you

    1. Hola Lupe, You are too kind. I’m so happy that you enjoyed the show. Keep cooking till your heart is content!

  34. This recipe sounds delicious. I will definitely be making this soon. Thanks for celebrating our Mexican kitchen. I love these flavors and am always looking for a new way to incorporate them into my cooking. I usually ask my mom for recipes but now I have you to go to as well. I saw your show and love how you speak about our ingredients. Your passion really comes through.

    1. Hola Bertha,
      Aww that is so sweet of you to say! Enjoy the brisket! I hope you find it to be as tasty as your mom’s recipes.

  35. I love your show because you have such a pleasant way of
    explaining things its very warm and inviting,I cant wait to
    try this brisket recipe it looks delicious!! Thank you

  36. Chicken in tomatillo, chipotle and brown sugar sauce was delicious. But the sauce didn’t thicken. Is it because I used a dutch oven? I agree with other fans that I could use help with suggestions for other dishes to accompany the entree.
    But I love the music you use for the cooking show. How about the name of the opening piece, “Dame, dame, dame el piloncillo…” and the artist? I think your music selection and volume are just right for the food you present!
    Thank you for the delicious dinner and the food knowledge.

    1. Hey Susan,
      I’m glad you enjoyed the recipe, sorry the sauce didn’t thicken enough! Did you keep the lid on the dutch oven while it simmered? The recipe comes out best if you allow the sauce to simmer for a long time uncovered. That allows the sauce to concentrate and it will deepen in color as it thickens. And it’s great to hear you enjoyed the music from the show. The theme song is called “Dame” and is by Domingo Siete. Thanks for the comments!

  37. I found your show on my local PBS station here in Dallas (KERA) this morning, and my wife and I loved it. This brisket recipe looks great and I can’t wait to try it. Question: Would using a slow cooker to cook the brisket work just as well as a large pot? Thank you.

    1. Hola John,
      It’s so nice to hear that you are enjoying the show! You can definitely use a slow cooker to make the brisket. It should work just as well as a large pot. Hope you enjoy it!

  38. My girlfriend made this for me one night, and yes, it is indeed by far the best brisket I have ever had. Thank you so much for the recipe, and good call on insisting that everyone at the Luncheon try this. ¡Que rico!

    1. Well, if you have the canned, you may want to rinse them well before you use them and not let them go to waste… But truth is, it tastes much better when they are cooked from fresh.

  39. Pati,
    Quiero hacer esto esta semana, pero no estoy segura qué carne de res comprar en México. ¿Qué crees que me conviene :Pecho o falda?
    mmm, también quiero hacer tu postre! yum yum!

  40. This looks amazing and I can’t wait to try it! I noticed the black tres leches cake you served for dessert… do you have the recipe for that?? I have made your tres leches cake and love it. Thanks for your wonderful website!

    1. Thank you Judy!
      All you need for that dark chocolate version is to turn that vanilla sauce into a chocolate one ; ) Just simmer it with about 6 to 9 ounces of bittersweet chocolate and let it cool before you pour it onto the cake!