Red Chile Sauce
Have you ever been asked the question, “Red or Green”? If you’ve ever dined in a New Mexican restaurant, you know what I am talking about. The question is asking whether you want your enchiladas, stuffed sopapillas or burritos smothered in red chile sauce or green chile sauce. You can even ask for “Christmas”, in which case, it would be smothered in half red and half green.
Several years ago, my mom lived in Hatch, New Mexico. Have you heard of Hatch? They are famous for their world-renowned green chiles. One summer I went to visit her, and I fell in love with the area. It’s a small town, surrounded by fields of corn, onions, and green chile. There is a peace and tranquility there that I have never experienced anywhere else. It is absolutely gorgeous.
My mom lived in a remote area outside of Hatch, and all 4 sides of her house were surrounded by fields and fields of onions and green chiles. I was lucky enough to be saying there the evening they harvested the onions. The fresh scent of onions permeated the house, and we could discern the sweet lingering smell for days. With permission from the owners, we were even able to walk the fields, barefoot, and pick the famous peppers right off the plants.
But… back to the red chile sauce. You can make it from red chile powder, frozen red peppers, or from dried red chile pods. I prefer to make it from chile pods, because it is the least processed, and tastes the best, in my opinion.
And I should also mention… since I’m throwing around words like “authentic”, I should clarify that this recipe is authentic to New Mexican cuisine. New Mexican cuisine has been Americanized some from traditional Mexican cuisine, but it’s not like Tex-Mex. It is its own special spin on Mexican food, and it is tasty.
Alright, on to the good stuff. To make this amazing sauce, start with a large bag of red chile pods. These are usually found seasonally, and may be tough to find outside of New Mexico, but you can order it online from Amazon.
Start by putting on some gloves. Some of the peppers are mild, some are scorching, but if you’re handling a large volume of these peppers, it’s best to go ahead and glove up, to protect your hands (and keep those fingers away from your eyes!).
Grab two bowls: one for trash, and the other for the pods. With scissors, cut off the stems of the peppers:
Then cut down the pepper, lengthwise, and remove the seeds.
This process is a little tedious, so put on some music or a good tv show, and grab a seat at the kitchen table while you work.
Once all of the stems and seeds have been removed (and discarded), take the peppers and place into a large stockpot and fill it with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and allow to gently boil for about an hour.
Once the peppers are soft and boiled, place approximately 15 peppers into a blender, along with 2 cups of the water you used to boil the peppers in, and the following spices:
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp salt
Do not fill your blender more than half way full. Trust me… the heat from the peppers and water will cause a huge, messy, and potentially dangerous blender explosion. Just don’t do it.
Blend until well incorporated and all chunks have been broken down, about 30-60 seconds.
Strain the sauce through a fine colander or strainer to separate the peels from the sauce. Those peels are unpleasant to eat, so this is an important step.
You can use a spatula to help push through the liquid to expedite this process.
Return the blender and repeat the recipe until all of the peppers have been blended and strained, and you’re left with a delicious, vibrant, and spicy red chile sauce.
My 1 lb bag of chile pods yielded around 8 cups of red chile sauce, so I typically freeze it in 2 cup servings. This is quite a lengthy process, and I don’t have unlimited time to whip up a fresh batch every time I’m in the mood for posole. It freezes well for up to 6 months: just reheat on the stove top when you’re ready to use it!
A quick note: many people find the sauce too bitter. If you want to tone down the bitterness and add a more robust flavor, try cutting some of the red sauce with chicken or vegetable broth. Start with a 1:1 ratio, and go from there.
Freeze unused sauce in 2 cup servings for up to 6 months.
Authentic Red Chile Sauce (for enchiladas, posole, or huevos rancheros)
- 1 pound dried red chile pods
- 2 - 3 tbsp garlic powder
- 2 - 3 tbsp cumin powder
- 2 - 3 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 - 2 tbsp salt
- Bring a large stock pot of water to a boil. Remove stems from the red chile pods, and discard. You can remove the seeds if you desire (but I've found it isn't necessary). Add red chile pods to boiling water, and reduce heat to medium. Allow chile pods to simmer for one hour.
- Add 10 chile pods to the blender, along with 2 cups of the liquid from the stock pot. Add in 1 tsp each of garlic, cumin and oregano, and ½ tsp of salt. Blend until smooth, and then strain liquid through a strainer into a bowl, to separate the red chile sauce from the chile peels. (You can discard the peels)
- Repeat until all chiles have been blended.
- Freeze unused sauce in 2 cup servings for up to 6 months.