Roasting Chiles in New Mexico

  • 01 of 07

    Piles of New Mexico Green Chiles

    Green New Mexico Chiles. Photo © Molly Watson

    Piles of New Mexico chiles like the one pictured above are found during harvest season (primarily in September) at farmers markets, farm stands, and regular grocery stores.

    In New Mexico, it's easy to find such chiles. Some specialty markets in other states will carry fresh New Mexico chiles, but those are only going to be available in-season, during harvest, mainly in September.

    Be warned: Those of us outside of New Mexico can be in for a twisted maze of false, or at least regionally different, labeling. While most New Mexico chiles, including the famous Hatch green chile, are visually indistinguishable from Anaheim chiles, and Anaheims are grown year-round in California and thus available fresh for not-perfect but workable substitute in recipes, actual Anaheim chiles are very often labeled as "poblano" chiles in markets all over the place and, of course, poblanos are then labeled Anaheims. What's a New Mexico chile-lover to do? Go by how they look. Those things above? Those are New Mexico chiles. Look for them. (Still have some confusion? Check out Types of Fresh Hot Chiles.)

    The other option, which is certainly easier, is to buy canned Hatch green chiles. They are available roasted and whole (usually about 4 chiles to a can) or roasted and diced, perfect for tossing into stews or stirring into sauces.

    For those willing to put in the time: do as those in New Mexico do and roast up a big batch in-season and pop them in the freezer to pull out whenever you crave that perfectly spicy and flavorful kick New Mexico chiles have.

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  • 02 of 07

    Green Chile, Red Chile

    Green and Red Chiles
    Green and Red New Mexico Chiles. Photo © Molly Watson
    Red and green chiles in New Mexico are the same... the same chile. It starts green and turns red. Both get roasted and peeled, although the green chiles are more commonly roasted. Once they are fully red and ripe they are usually tied in ristras and hung to dry in the arid New Mexico air, to be plucked down and ground into New Mexico chile powder as needed.
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  • 03 of 07

    Chiles Brought to Market

    Chiles and Roaster to Market
    Chiles and Roaster at the Albuquerque Farmers Market. Photo © Molly Watson

    People tend to buy a lot of chiles, enough to last them the year, in New Mexico.

    Hand-peeled chiles are widely preferred to industrial chemical-peeled versions, yet they are labor intensive. And roasting them, a necessary step to hand-peeling, is difficult to do en masse on home equipment. So farmers and vendors around the state offer roasting services for their customers (a task that used to be performed in the large ovens of neighborhood bakeries). Here a farmer arrives at the farmers market with 20-pound burlap bags of chiles and a roaster.

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  • 04 of 07

    Roasting Chiles At the Farmers Market

    New Mexico Chile Roaster
    New Mexico Chile Roaster. Photo © Molly Watson
    Roasters like this steel drum cage spun over an open flame get set up around New Mexico throughout the chile harvest, which starts in August and ends in November. Single roasters, like this one, are found at farmers markets stalls and small stands. Larger farm stands and grocery stores (including at places like Walmart) set up multiple roasters where customers line up to have their 20, 40, 60 pounds (or more!) of chiles roasted.
    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07

    Roasted Chiles, Ready to Sweat

    Sweating Roasted Chiles
    Sweating Roasted Chiles. Photo © Molly Watson
    Once the chiles in the roasting drum are charred and cooked through, the cage is opened and the roaster shepherds the limp chiles into a waiting plastic bag-lined box or bucket. There the chiles will sit, "sweating," which loosens the last bits of skin from the chiles.
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  • 06 of 07

    Roasted Chiles, Ready to Take Home and Peel

    Bag of Roasted Chiles
    Bag of Roasted Chiles. Photo © Molly Watson
    The chile roaster then pulls the chile-filled plastic bag out of its box or bucket and hands it off to the chile buyer. (The bag pictured above holds the roasted-down contents of one of those much larger 20-pound burlap sacks!) They are ready to take home, peel, and freeze for the coming year.
    Continue to 7 of 7 below.
  • 07 of 07

    Peeling Roasted Chiles

    Peeling Roasted Chiles
    Peeling Chiles. Photo © Molly Watson

    Peeling roasted chiles is easy, although if you've roasted enough of them it can take some time. The skins should just slip right off.

    Don't have professional roasters around? See How to Roast Chiles at Home. A small warning: you will need to work in much smaller batches than 20 pounds at once.

    Once you have roasted chiles, you can freeze them in portions large or small. Green chiles chopped with a bit of onion is a simple condiment found on many New Mexico tables. Or, make Green Chile Pork Stew and swoon. Another personal favorite is this Cream of Green Chile Soup.