New Mexico Green Chiles and Red Chiles

What's the Difference Between New Mexico Green Chiles and Red Chiles?

New Mexico Chiles
Red and Green Chiles. Blaine Harrington III/Getty Images

New Mexico is famous for its chiles (the peppers) and its chilis (the stew-like dishes), both come in forms green and red. Some divide the state into the southern green-leaning part and the northern red-tending area, but it ain't quite that simple. Most restaurants throughout the state offer both - green or red chili poured over your enchiladas or your chile rellenos or really anything you can think of.

Chiles grown in New Mexico, such as the famed Hatch chiles grown in and around Hatch, New Mexico, are often just called New Mexico chiles and come in many varieties.

Red and Green: What's the Difference?

So what's the difference? Time. Time is the difference between green and red chiles in New Mexico. The green chiles turn red as they ripen. In general, fresh and/or roasted chiles are green and dried chiles and dried chile powder are red.

In any case, they start green—when many people harvest and roast them—and turn red as they ripen. Some people roast them red, but more commonly red chiles are hung to dry in bunches called ristras before being ground into a chile powder as fine and flavorful as you can imagine.

How to Use New Mexico Chiles

How you use them depends entirely on what kind you have.

For green chiles, make a green chiles sauce or, even better, this Pork Green Chili or this Turkey Green Chili.

For those with a true love of the green chile, this Cream of Green Chile Soup is sheer heaven.

Got red chiles instead? These Chicken Enchiladas with Red Chile Sauce are tasty, but an even more classic New Mexico answer would be: make Carne Adovada, a red chile pork stew.

Where to Find New Mexico Chiles

How to find them?

It's best to order them from a New Mexico source, but when they're in season many specialty markets will carry real live "Hatch green chiles." While these prized chiles are closely related to Anaheim chiles, they are often labeled "poblano chiles" outside of New Mexico (and, of course, actual poblano chiles are often labeled Anaheims). You need to go by how they look rather than how any market might label them.

Where to Buy New Mexico Chiles Online

Different strands—Sangria and Big Jim are two common ones—offer varying levels of heat for aficionados. See Fresh Hot Chiles for more varieties.

Still itching to know more? Check out Roasting Chiles In New Mexico.