Chile Relleno Quinoa Bites

So I really wish I could start off this post by telling you about my love of finger foods. And then give some serious props to Laura and her Chile Rellenos Casserole, which — with its two astounding and delicious pounds of cheese — has plagued my thoughts for over a month now. But I can’t. Because before I do anything else, I need to whine. Like a big baby.

Here’s why: This Saturday, fueled by some serious can-do-will-do ambition, I decided it was time for garden prep work. This was especially exciting for me, because this year I have ALL of the garden space to myself, thanks to my new neighbors who happily told me to have at it (yay!). And as I was ripping out weeds and dried-up remnants of tomato plants, I began to notice all of the other things I could clean up. Mainly, the leaves, which were still leftover from the fall. I’m guessing that’s due to the fact that none of us own a rake, which is kind of essential. But I was determined, so I set about clearing a 3′ x 15′ patch from the front of our house. And when I finished, I felt super proud. Hurray me. Then I woke up the next day and tried to walk.

Apparently, clearing a semi-large patch of leaves by hand is the equivalent of doing squat thrusts for 45 minutes straight. It’s two days later, and I’m still in pain. And I can’t decide if I should be proud of my groundskeeping-related aches, or slightly ashamed that two hours of yard work has rendered me an insufferable baby with the mobility of an old arthritic dog. So instead, I’ll just focus on the fact that my lawn is clean, my seedlings are planted, and I got some serious exercise in the process. And now, I’m done whining (thank you for listening!). On to the bites!

Seriously, I think about that casserole at least three times a week. It’s spicy. It’s cheesy. I love it. I need it. And when Easter rolled around, I finally had an excuse to re-purpose it into an appetizer.

For the purpose of making these things mold-able, I added in polenta and quinoa. The polenta helped the bites hold their shape, and the quinoa added a nice texture (and some of that great quinoa nutrition!). I was extremely happy with the way these things turned out, especially considering that I was winging it on a very hectic food day. I will definitely be making them again. And when I get around to making the casserole version, polenta and quinoa are going in that too. Yummm!

(Speaking of winging it, I’d like to note that many of my measurements below are approximations, based on the fact that I was eyeballing everything and not paying much attention to anything but the consistency of the batter. Please adjust things as you see fit, and let me know if you find that anything is way off.)

Chile Relleno Quinoa Bites

(adapted from Winner Dinners)

yield: approximately 3 dozen bites

For the bites:

  • 1/2 cup of quinoa (plus 1 – 1 1/2 cups of water, for cooking)
  • 1/2 cup of polenta (plus 2 cups of water, for cooking)
  • 2–3 roasted poblano peppers, peeled, de-seeded, and diced (I used 2, but I think it could have used a little more spice)
  • 1 cup of cheddar cheese (smoked cheddar, if you can find it)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup of tomato purée
  • a few dashes of salt and pepper
  • breadcrumbs if necessary — just enough to make the batter mold-able

For the dipping sauce:

  • 2 cups of tomato purée
  • 1 roasted jalapeno pepper, peeled, de-seeded, and diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • a few pinches of oregano
  • salt and pepper, to taste

To roast the peppers:

Preheat the oven to 450°. Rub the outside of your jalapeno and poblanos with olive oil and place on a baking tray. Roast peppers until skin begins to blacken and blister. Turn peppers and roast until the other side does the same. Remove from oven and transfer to a paper bag. Seal bag and let the peppers sit for about 15 minutes (this helps them steam, and makes removing the skin much easier). Once they are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, then cut open the peppers and remove the seeds. Dice peppers and set aside.

To make the bites:

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bring water for quinoa to a boil, then add quinoa, cover, and reduce to a simmer. Once all of the water has been absorbed, remove from heat and set aside. Do the same for the polenta. (Most polenta recipes recommend constant stirring, but I really don’t think that’s necessary for these purposes. Just it a few times in the beginning, then cover it and keep an eye on it.)

Combine together everything except for the breadcrumbs and mix until well combined. If your batter seems a bit wet, add breadcrumbs until it takes on a sticker, more-solid texture.

Line a baking sheet with a silpat mat or parchment paper. Form bites into 1 1/4-inch balls, and place fairly close together (they don’t need much room). Bake for 20–30 minutes, or until they begin to brown and the outside, and feel a bit crispy to the touch.

For the dipping sauce:

While the bites are baking, saute onion over medium heat in a saucepan until translucent. Add garlic and saute for a couple minutes more, then add everything else (tomato purée, jalapeno, and spices). Reduce heat to low, cover, and let simmer for around 20 minutes. Remove from heat a let cool a little bit, then purée sauce in a blender or food processor until smooth.

Serve while the bites are nice and hot!


  1. says

    These sound like a great plan! I would probably make a double batch and keep a bunch in the freezer for emergency dinners and/or snacks. And yay for gardening–at least you know the pain will be worth it when you’re eating your hard-won vegetables, right?

    • says

      They’d be perfect for that — I think I might do the same! The gardening is definitely worth the pain, especially since I’ll be planting tons of flowers in addition to my herbs and veggies this year. :)

  2. says

    Hey Carey! I noticed I was getting some visitors to my site from a website I wasn’t familiar with, so I decided to check it out. Wow! That’s great that my chile rellenos casserole inspired you to create an appetizer. It looks wonderful, and what a great photo that is. I’ve never used quinoa or polenta, but from reading your recipe and looking at the photo, I’m guessing it’s some kind of grain. How clever of you to put that with the chile rellenos ingredients. I enjoyed reading your comments about my recipe—thanks—-they made me smile!

    • says

      Hi Laura! I’m so glad you got a chance to check these out! Quinoa is very grain-like (though apparently it’s technically a seed), and I love its semi-crunchy texture. Polenta is coarsely-ground cornmeal. I’ve seen a few recipes for chile rellenos that call for breading the pepper in a cornmeal batter, which is what inspired me to use it in these. I’m so glad I finally had a chance to make something inspired by your amazing casserole! (I seriously spent the past month saying to myself, “if you make this casserole, will you share it equally, or will you secretly eat most of it in 48 hours?” I told myself I’d share, but I knew it was a lie!) :D

  3. says

    I am loving this!! These look so deep fried, I can’t believe you baked them. Have gotto try it soon!! Beautiful photos and such a wonderful blog you have :)

  4. Sara says

    These sound amazing! Are they good cold? I’d like to take them to a party but it’s a 45 minute drive…

    • says

      Thanks, Sara! Unfortunately, I didn’t think they were as good when they cooled down, since they didn’t seem to really pack the same flavor they had when they were warm. It’s possible this could be remedied by opting to use three poblanos instead of two, and maybe adding in a bit more cheese. Or you could just pop them in the oven for 10 minutes at the party before serving, and that would do the trick too.

      • Sara says

        Thanks Carey! I don’t think I’ll make it for this party but it’s a brilliant recipe for another time!

  5. Scot says

    I just found your site tonight and I am looking forward to trying some of your recipes. I an definitely going to try this one. By chance I had Chile Rellenos for dinner tonight. I always use Anaheim peppers when I make them. Their tast is so smooth and multi-layered. I think poblanos, like a cheap whisky or cheap tequila don’t “finish” well. My Grandmother (Mom’s Mom) was from deep in the south of Mexico. She was the one who taught me how to make chile rellenos. I usually stuff them with asadero cheese, or any good goat’s milk cheese and chorizo. Sooooo yummy!

    As an aside, thanks for posting such a great site! I’ll be back often.

    • says

      Thank you, Scot! I will definitely keep an eye out for Anaheim peppers. I am sad to say that I am not nearly as versed in different varieties of peppers as I would like to be. (I can blame part of that on living in the Northeast, but most of the blame should be placed on me and my own laziness.) Next time I make traditional chile rellenos, I would love to try doing so with anaheims, asadero, and chorizo. Thank you for the tips! :)

  6. Kim Newton says

    Hey Carey, these look and sound so good. I can’t wait to try them. I’m on a low carb diet and was wondering if you had any nutrition information on these. Thanks

    • says

      Thanks, Kim! Oh boy, I’m not positive about the nutritional information. But I plugged the ingredients into’s handy little recipe analysis thing, and it calculated 3.3g of carbohydrates per each bite (or 1% DV). Hope this helps!

    • says

      What I used was labeled under the name tomato puree, and was essentially just pureed tomatoes. (The consistency of sauce, but without any added ingredients.) If you can’t find it a simple sauce would work well as a substitute.


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