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ACVB_photo_tacosNew Mexican cuisine is based on native ingredients such as corn, beans, squash and chiles. It incorporates Mexican, Native American and Spanish flavors. Chile, whether red or green, is always the most important element. In fact, our official state question is, "Red or green?" Both types of chile can be instantly must-have, as you'll find out when you try these Southwestern cooking recipes to spice up your next dinner. The New Mexico red or green chile sauce recipes can make even the most mundane meal quite remarkable! 

Burrito Express

Burritos are the ultimate hearty meal on the go. They are typically made with a flour tortilla, filled with meat, beans, cheese, salsa or a combination of these, and rolled. When not served "to go," they are often served smothered with chile sauce and melted cheese.

  • ½ pound meat of your choice (vegetarians can use rice or beans)
  • ½ cup grated cheese
  • 4 flour tortillas
  • 2 cups or 1 16-ounce jar of green chile sauce

Warm up the green chile sauce. Add meat, green chile sauce and cheese on warm tortilla and roll up. 

Makes 4 burritos

Recipe courtesy of El Pinto Restaurant & Cantina,

Fiesta Tacos

A Southwestern staple, the taco is made with a corn tortilla fried into a crescent shape and filled with meats, cheese or beans, and fresh chopped lettuce, onions, tomatoes and cheese.

  • 2 pounds ground beef or chicken
  • 2 cups or 1 16-ounce jar green chile sauce
  • 6 flour, corn or hard shell tortillas
  • ⅔ cup grated cheese
  • ⅔ cup shredded lettuce
  • ⅔ cup chopped tomatoes
  • ⅔ cup chopped onions
  • ½ cup sour cream

Cook ground beef or chicken and strain. Add green chile sauce and simmer on medium heat. Salt and pepper to taste. Add meat to soft flour, corn or hard shell tortillas. Top with grated cheese, lettuce, diced tomatoes, onions and sour cream.

Makes 6 servings

Recipe courtesy of El Pinto Restaurant & Cantina,

Green Chile Enchiladas

These tasty flat or rolled treats are made with corn tortillas filled with meat and/or cheese, either rolled or stacked, and covered with chile sauce and cheese. Enchiladas are easy to make and always hit the spot!

  • ½ pound meat (chicken, pork or beef), chopped, shredded or ground
  • 2 cups or 1 16-ounce jar green chile sauce (try the New Mexico green chile sauce recipe, below)
  • 1 dozen 6-inch corn tortillas
  • 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup sour cream (optional)

Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly fry corn tortilla in hot oil (steam for low-fat option). Put tortillas on paper towel to drain excess oil. Place tortilla on dinner plate. Add preheated green chile, cooked meat and cheddar cheese (lightly sprinkled). Add another tortilla and build two more layers. Top with green chile and sprinkle more cheese on top. Place in preheated oven broiler until cheese is melted (approximately 5 minutes). Garnish with sour cream and serve.

Makes 4 servings

Recipe courtesy of El Pinto Restaurant & Cantina,

New Mexico Green Chile Sauce

Chile is a sauce made from red or green chiles and served hot over many New Mexican dishes. Chile does not use vinegar, unlike most salsas, picantes and other hot sauces. This basic yet versatile sauce can be used to create enchiladas or poured over chimichangas, tacos or burritos.

  • 1 tablespoon butter or lard
  • ⅔ cup chopped onion
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1-½ cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 cup (or more) chopped green chiles
  • 1 large clove garlic, finely minced
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • Dash of ground cumin

Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Sauté the onion until soft. Stir in the flour. Add the broth. Then add chiles, garlic, salt and cumin. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Makes 2 cups

Recipe courtesy of Jane Butel’s Southwestern

New Mexico Red Chile Sauce

This version of New Mexico’s famous red chile sauce is from ABQ cuisine expert Gwyneth Doland. Mixed with shredded pork, it is used as a tamale filling, but all by itself it is also ladled over tamales, enchiladas, huevos rancheros, breakfast burritos, stuffed sopaipillas, chiles rellenos and almost anything else you can think of. You may not need four cups of the sauce for your recipe, but you might as well make the whole batch; freeze extra portions in small resealable plastic containers for later use.

  • 24 dried red New Mexico chiles
  • 4 cups beef stock, chicken stock or water
  • 2 tablespoons bacon grease, lard or vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano
  • Salt
  • Honey (optional)

In a large cast-iron skillet over medium heat, roast the chiles on both sides (you’ll have to do this in batches) until they soften slightly and become aromatic. When the chiles are cool enough to handle, remove the stems and seeds.

Transfer the chiles to a deep saucepan and pour the stock or water over them. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and allow the chiles to rest, about 15 minutes.

Working in batches, puree the chiles with their soaking liquid.

In the cast-iron skillet, over medium heat, melt the bacon grease or lard, or heat the oil. Add the garlic and flour and cook, stirring, until the mixture becomes golden. Add the pureed chiles, and stir quickly while the sauce bubbles and spatters. Reduce the heat, add the oregano, and simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt. If the sauce is a little bitter, mellow it with about a teaspoon of honey, to taste.

Makes about 4 cups

Recipe courtesy of ABQ cuisine expert Gwyneth Doland.

Pork and Red Chile Tamales

Nothing says the holidays to many New Mexicans like a warm tamale. Unwrapping the tamale is like unwrapping a little present. Tamales consist of a cornmeal dough made from hominy (called masa) and are usually filled with sweet or savory filling, wrapped in corn husks and steamed until firm. Tamales were one of the staples found by the Spanish when they first arrived in Mexico. Tamales are very time intensive and often made in large batches for special occasions, with many people in a family or community participating in the tradition. These pork and red chile tamales from ABQ cuisine expert Gwyneth Doland's cookbook "Tantalizing Tamales" are some of the most common tamales in the Southwest. They can be found in restaurants, cafés and coolers toted by strolling vendors. Everybody loves them, so make a bunch and freeze any leftovers. This recipe produces enough pork filling to make another batch of tamales, but you can always just use the extra pork for burritos or freeze it for later use.

  • 2 ½ pounds boneless pork butt, trimmed of excess fat
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon black peppercorns
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Water
  • 4 cups red chile sauce
  • About 2 pounds of masa
  • At least 36 softened corn husks, plus 36 strips for tying

Arrange the pork butt in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stockpot. Add the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves and salt. Add enough cold water to cover by several inches. Bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered, for about 2 hours. Transfer the pork to a cutting board and allow it to rest 20 minutes. Using two forks, shred the meat. In a bowl, combine 2 cups of the shredded pork with enough New Mexico red chile sauce to thoroughly moisten the meat. To assemble the tamales, spread about ½ cup masa onto the center of each corn husk. Spoon some of the shredded pork filling down the center of the dough. Fold and tie the tamale; repeat with the remaining ingredients and husks. Steam the tamales for 1 hour and serve slathered with the remaining New Mexico red chile sauce. 

Makes about 24 tamales

Recipe courtesy of ABQ cuisine expert Gwyneth Doland.

Chile-Seared Salmon with Sweet Pear Pineapple Salsa

Chiles love salmon; they add just the right accent to flavor the salmon to its greatest dimension. Fruity salsa, spiked with chiles, adds an excellent complement.

  • 1 tablespoon ground mild red chile
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for sprinkling
  • ¼ pound fresh salmon filet, deboned
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil (optional)
  • 1 cup sweet pear pineapple salsa (see appetizers for recipe)

In a small bowl, combine the chile, sugar and salt. Cut the salmon into two pieces. Rinse, then pat dry with a paper towel. Rub the chile mixture evenly over the salmon. Sprinkle salt in a heavy seasoned skillet (or an unseasoned skillet to which you have added the oil). Place over medium-high heat until hot. Sauté the salmon for 3 to 5 minutes per side, until crisp and brown on the outside and still moist and bright pink on the inside. Serve on a pool of salsa.

Makes 2 servings

Recipe courtesy of Jane Butel’s Southwestern Kitchen,

Red vs. Green Chile

Chile comes in two varieties, depending on the stage of ripeness at which they were picked. Long, narrow green chiles are served freshly roasted and peeled. Most commonly, green chile is made into a spicy sauce that is ladled over many foods. Red chiles are left on the plants to ripen to a deep garnet color, and they are strung in ristras to dry. After drying, the chiles are ground into a powder. These dried red chiles are rehydrated and pureed into a smooth sauce to flavor many foods.  

Find more delicious New Mexico recipes