New Mexico Red Chile

When the Answer is “Red”

The official New Mexico state question is “red or green?” You will hear it the very first time you order New Mexican food. What your server is asking is, “which chile (sauce) do you want on your food?”

New Mexico Red
Red chili topping stacked enchiladas

Red or green — there is never a wrong answer — but when the answer is red, you will be getting a rich, gravy-like sauce made from ripened and dried New Mexico chili pods. (The “green” is the same type of chili, but picked younger and cooked when it is fresh).

New Mexico red chile
Whole, dried red chili pods ready to be turned into your abuela’s pot of “red.”

Traditionally, for the red, whole chili pods are cooked, then pureed into a sauce. However, you can make excellent red chile with pre-ground red chile powder.

Either way you start, everyone has their own spin on what is supposed to go into chile — add cumin or not, use stock or water — not to mention the debate about the “cheater” addition of flour. The common ingredients, of course are red chile and a desire for that tongue-tingling bright, earthy rush when red chile meets your mouth.

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