In New Mexico, it’s Chile, not chili!
And, when you visit you must know (or quickly discover!) your answer to the question, “Red, Green, or Christmas?” When I share my love for NM Chile on instagram, I receive lots of questions about it, so it was time for a post devoted to one of my favorite foods on earth…
Chile is a traditional New Mexican sauce, made from red or green chile peppers grown in New Mexico. It’s a beloved staple in home cooking and on restaurant menus. Chili is a hearty soup, not to be confused! Red or Green Chile sauce can be used in many ways, see below for examples. Roasted and chopped green chile is also commonly used on its own, (not as a sauce) and those who love it usually keep their refrigerator, pantry, or freezer stocked with a supply year round!
Chile is the crowning touch to many New Mexican specialties, a flavor that evokes home and my Northern NM upbringing…
When ordering an entree that includes chile in a NM restaurant, you’ll be asked if you want red, green, or Christmas (both!). The choice is personal, most people know which they prefer. But, if you want to try a little of both, choose Christmas or ask your server for a recommendation. Tip: never order your enchiladas “without chile” or “chile on the side.” Major faux pas!
Although I live in Texas now, I’m a Taoseña at heart. Our family loves red and green chile and both are a part of our meals regularly!
I have not perfected a green chile sauce (once I do, I promise I’ll share) but I can make a darn good red! However, I incorporate roasted chopped green chile often, in my breakfast casserole, as a hamburger or pizza topping, or in my favorite green chile chicken soup. I purchase it frozen or jarred. (See sources at the end of the post.)
When I started my Whole30 journey I wanted to find a way to enjoy traditional Red Chile but had to find a substitute for the flour used in the recipe. I adapted the recipe using arrowroot flour to make it Whole30 compliant and my family and I think it’s wonderful! If you try it, let me know what you think…
New Mexico Red Chile (Whole30 Compliant)
Traditional NM Red Chile sauce recipe, recreated to be gluten free/Whole30 friendly!
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1/4 cup diced yellow onion
- 1 lb ground beef
- 1 container (14 oz) Bueno Red Chile ((frozen chile puree, thawed) or 6 tbsp New Mexico Red Chile Powder (only ingredient should be "chile" or "chile pods")
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tbsp Arrowroot Flour
- 1 tbsp olive or avocado oil
- 1/4 cup water ( (to make the slurry))
- 1 1/2 cup water ((to make sauce))
Add oil to saucepan or pot, medium heat
Add diced onion and sautee until onion is translucent
Add minced garlic and lightly sautee
Add ground beef and salt to pot and cook through
While beef is cooking whisk/combine the arrowroot flour and 1/4 cup water to create a slurry, set aside.
Add the thawed red chile puree OR red chile powder to the pot and stir well
Fill the red chile container with water or 1 3/4 c water and add to pot.
Stir, and then add the slurry to the mixture, stir again to combine.
Bring to a soft boil, stir, then set heat to low and allow to simmer (not boil) at least 20 minutes.
Enjoy the spicy, savory flavor on eggs, meats, veggies and more!
You can also make this recipe without meat or substitute pork, chicken, shredded beef, or ground turkey.
You can add a bit more water to thin the sauce if it is thicker than you’d like.
It’s even better reheated the next day!
More Chile Facts:
- Made from New Mexican grown chiles and the taste/heat can vary depending on where they’re grown. Chimayó is said to have the best red chile. Green Chile is grown in southern New Mexico with Hatch being the most well known.
- Best way to describe the flavor: full bodied, spicy, savory, earthy, slightly sweet, it awakens the tastebuds!
- My favorite way to use it: as a sauce on top of my Whole30 breakfast bowl of eggs, veggies, and potatoes. (See also my Green Chile Mayo recipe)
- Traditional uses for Chile: “smothered” over enchiladas, burritos, hash browns, chile rellenos, huevos rancheros, stuffed sopapillas, over a bowl of pinto beans, spinach, and chicos, and more. You know you’re from NM if you use red chile instead of gravy over your mashed potatoes and turkey (or your entire plate) for Thanksgiving!
Where to Buy Chile (if you’re not in NM):
- Potrero Trading Post (above): sells high quality chile (including heirloom varieties), along with New Mexican folk art (in store and online). Check out their site for more info/facts on varieties of chile…
- Central Market and HEB carry Bueno Red and Green Chile in the frozen foods (vegetables) section. I have also seen it at Tom Thumb and Kroger occasionally. 505 Southwestern and Zia Chile Co. are brands of jarred green chile I recommend and can be found in many grocery stores.
- In TX, Whole Foods and Central Market roast and sell green chile on site in the fall. I sometimes purchase in bulk during this time of year to peel and freeze!
- Amazon stocks Zia Green Chile, Los Chileros Red Chile, Bueno Red Chile.
- I stock up on Chile powder when I’m in Taos! If you visit NM be sure to bring some home with you…
- See my Taos Travel Guide for my favorite spots to get a chile fix in Taos!
I’m still learning about chile but that’s the great thing about it…you don’t have to know it’s complete history to enjoy it, and you can taste your way to expertise! On my list of things to do in NM is Heritage Inspirations Magical Heirlooms of Chimayo Tour and visiting the Hatch Chile Festival in Hatch, NM…
I hope this post has been helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions or resources to add to my list. Thanks for stopping by and have a wonderful day! xx
Photography: Kristen Massad