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.

What I’ve included here is a jazzy version adapted from Santa Fe School of Cooking, with garlic and onion, and cumin…and that spoon of flour which makes it easier for novices to thicken the sauce.

New Mexico Red Chile
Print Recipe
This is a basic New Mexico red sauce. Most often, it covers enchiladas, burritos, tamales or even eggs (like huevos rancheros). Once you are addicted to the earthy heat, you will find new uses for this sauce.
New Mexico Red Chile
Print Recipe
This is a basic New Mexico red sauce. Most often, it covers enchiladas, burritos, tamales or even eggs (like huevos rancheros). Once you are addicted to the earthy heat, you will find new uses for this sauce.
Ingredients
Servings:
Instructions
  1. Heat vegetable oil in a pan (medium-low heat).
  2. Add garlic and onion. Cook until slightly soft.
  3. Whisk in flour to make a smooth, thick paste (a roux).
  4. Add about 1/2 of the water. Whisk to incorporate.
  5. Slowly, whisk in the red chile powder, adding remaining water as needed. (Whisk constantly to work out lumps and to avoid scorching the chile).
  6. Add cumin and oregano.
  7. Cook (and whisk) for about 10 mins, until the chile sauce is the consistency of a medium-thick gravy. Add extra water if needed to thicken the sauce.
  8. Serve sauce over your favorite enchiladas, burritos, huevos rancheros or use as a base for a "bowl" of red, with beans, meat and onions.
Recipe Notes

Note: Red chile can be on the hot side. If you are new to the experience, try a spoonful or so before you pour it over your food. Keep in mind your base dish (like enchiladas) will help mitigate the heat. If the heat builds while eating, try a dollop of sour cream to tame it.

Share this Recipe
 

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *