Edgar Castrejón’s Thanksgivings in Oakland, California, were a whole-family affair. His mother had a demanding schedule as a single parent and hotel housekeeping staff member, so everyone pitched in. “Everyone would bring something to the table,” the self-taught chef, photographer, and author said of his family’s massive holiday feasts. (His mom’s 11 siblings attended, and they invited neighbors, too.)
Birria, ensalada de nopales (cactus-paddle salad), frijoles de la olla, pupusas, Spanish rice, tamales, and enchiladas filled the tables, along with cheesecake, flan, and arroz con leche (rice pudding). Castrejón’s mother always purchased a holiday-sale turkey and simmered it into a big pot of posole rojo. Rooted in pre-Columbian traditions, the slightly smoky chile-laden stew warmed and comforted the crowd.
“Our tables were always full, filled with everybody’s food, and it felt like we were rich,” he said. Castrejón’s studies in horticulture, plant science, and nutrition; concerns about animal welfare and his family’s health; plus conversations with his grandma about her traditional diet (meat is a luxury where she is from in Mexico) fueled his efforts to veganize favorite recipes, which were published in Provecho, his debut cookbook.
This vegan posole rojo recipe is from Castrejón’s cookbook. It is velvety and rich, smartly employing mushrooms for earthy flavor and slight chew. The result is just as satisfying as a meat-laden posole, and leftovers are fabulous.
Dishes like this sensational mushroomy posole rojo have persuaded his family to eat a more plant-centered diet. In 2021, Castrejón’s mom, now a small-business owner with more time on her hands around the holiday, prepared two vegan dishes for Thanksgiving. They were completely devoured. — Andrea Nguyen