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New Mexican holiday traditions are unique, festive and filled with delightful foods. Celebrate the holiday spirit by making the treats below for friends and family.

Biscochitos or Bizcochitos

These spicy, anise-flavored cookies from New Mexico are rich, crisp and very easy to make. Biscochitos are a holiday cookie staple in New Mexico. The biscochito is New Mexico’s official state cookie, as declared by the New Mexico Legislature in 1989. Biscochitos were first introduced to Mexico by Spanish settlers who brought the recipe from Spain. Stored in a tightly sealed container, they can be frozen for up to six months.

  • 1 ½ cups lard, chilled*
  • 1 cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons anise seeds
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • About 3 tablespoons brandy, apple juice, or milk*
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

*Notes: Butter or margarine can be substituted for the lard. However, the cookies will not be as crisp and moist. Apple juice or milk can be substituted for the brandy; however, they are not quite as good.


Preheat oven to 350°F. Beat lard and 1 cup sugar in a bowl until fluffy. Add eggs and anise seeds, and beat until very light and fluffy. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to creamed mixture along with the brandy. Mix thoroughly to make a stiff dough. Place dough on a long piece, about three feet, of waxed paper at one end. Bring the long end over the top and press to about one inch or slightly less in thickness and refrigerate until chilled.

Roll out dough between waxed paper to just under ½-inch thickness. Cut with flour-dusted cutters into the traditional fleur de lis shape or into 3-inch rounds. Combine the 3 remaining tablespoons sugar and the cinnamon in a shallow bowl; dip unbaked cookies into the sugar-cinnamon mixture on one side. Place cookies on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until tops of cookies are just firm. Cool cookies on wire racks.

Makes 4 dozen cookies

Recipe courtesy of Jane Butel’s Southwestern Kitchen,

Download printer-friendly PDF of the biscochitos recipe.


Posole, or pozole, is a spicy corn stew traditionally made with pork. New Mexicans have been enjoying posole for centuries. Posole is a ceremonial dish for celebrating life's blessings. Traditional posole is made with large-kernel white corn that has been soaked in a solution of lime and then dehydrated. Hominy is often used as a substitution for true posole.

  • 1 pound of posole corn or hominy
  • 1 medium to large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 10 cups water
  • ¼ teaspoon oregano
  • 1 pound pork loin, bite-sized
  • 2 cups red or green chile
  • 1 teaspoon salt

Rinse posole corn until water runs clear; drain. Place posole corn, pork and 10 cups water in large stewing pot. Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 hours. Add remaining ingredients and additional water if needed, and continue to simmer for another 2 hours or until posole corn kernels open and are soft but not falling apart.

Makes 8-12 cups

Recipe courtesy of Marie Coleman, Casa de Ruiz - Church Street Cafe,

Download printer-friendly PDF of posole recipe.

Traditional Empanadas

The word empanada comes from the Spanish verb empanar, meaning to wrap or coat in bread. These delicious little pastries are made by wrapping a round dough pastry in half over a filling of meat, seafood, vegetables or fruit, forming a semicircle. They are baked or fried. Empanadas are a delicious holiday tradition in many New Mexican homes.

  • Pie crust
  • 14-ounce or 1 can of pumpkin puree 
  • ¼ cup sugar
  • 1 egg 
  • ¼ cup heavy cream
  • Pinch nutmeg 
  • Pinch cinnamon 
  • 2 ounces raisins (optional)

Cut 6-inch circles with a cookie cutter from your favorite pie dough. Place 2 ounces of filling in the center of each dough circle. Fold dough over like a big half moon, then crimp edges with a fork. Beat one egg in a separate bowl for "egg wash." Dip brush in egg wash and brush over empanada. Sprinkle top with coarse sugar. Bake at 315° for 20 minutes. Time and temperature may vary depending on your oven.

Makes 12 cookies

Recipe courtesy of Flying Star Cafe

Download printer-friendly PDF of empanadas recipe.


Nothing says 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 shoulder, 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 shoulder 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.

Download printer-friendly PDF of tamales recipe.