Many different foods at a thanksgiving dinner in New Mexico, including red and green chile sauces

New Mexican Food

A Culinary Adventure in New Mexico: A Celebration of Chile, Posole, Pinto Beans, and Tradition

New Mexico’s vibrant culinary scene presents a symphony of flavors, deeply rooted in Native American, Spanish, and Mexican influences. Our state’s unique cuisine is a testament to its rich cultural heritage, where the humble chile pepper reigns supreme and traditional ingredients like hominy and pinto beans nourish and delight.

The Soul of New Mexican Cuisine: Roasted Green Chile, Dried Red Chile, and Posole

New Mexican food is inseparable from our beloved red and green chile, which come in two essential forms and can be found at many different chile roasters during the chile season:

  • Roasted Green Chile: Harvested before fully ripe, these peppers offer a vibrant green color, a fresh, sometimes fiery flavor, and a delightful smoky aroma when roasted over an open flame. Green chile is the backbone of sauces, a topping for countless dishes, the star of chiles rellenos, and adds depth to stews and soups.
  • Dried Red Chile: These fully ripened peppers develop a deep red hue and an earthy, complex flavor profile. Dried and ground, they form the base of flavorful sauces, marinades (like the iconic carne adovada), and contribute a rich smokiness to countless dishes. Roasted red chile is also becoming more popular, but red chile sauce made with dried red chile pods is still the favorite for most people.

Posole: A source of Warmth in cold times

Made from dried corn kernels treated with an alkaline solution to create a plump, chewy texture, hominy is the star of posole. This comforting stew typically features pork or chicken, vegetables, and a generous dose of spices, creating a hearty and satisfying meal perfect for colder weather. It is something that just about everyone here has a nostalgic feeling of having at their grandma’s house at Christmas.

The Humble Pinto Bean: A New Mexican Staple

Pinto beans, with their speckled appearance and earthy flavor, are a staple in New Mexican kitchens, offering versatility and a budget-friendly source of protein:

  • Posole’s Partner: Pinto beans add a delightful creaminess and boost the protein content of this classic stew.
  • Refried Royalty: Mashed, seasoned, and often cooked with lard or bacon drippings, refried pinto beans are a beloved side dish enjoyed with tortillas, as a base for various toppings, or as an essential element of classic burritos.
  • Filling for Endless Possibilities: Seasoned simply or enhanced with green or red chile, pinto beans make a flavorful and satisfying filling for tacos and burritos.
  • Soup Staple: New Mexico’s diverse soups, from hearty albondigas (meatball soup) to the lighter calabacita (squash soup), often feature pinto beans for added sustenance and texture. Green chile stew also frequently includes pinto beans too. This is my favorite stew personally.

Hatch Chile Season: A Time to Savor and Celebrate

Each year, New Mexico bursts into life with the arrival of Hatch chile season, typically from early August to late October. Celebrated for their unique flavor and heat, these chiles are grown in the Hatch Valley, where the ideal climate conditions create a truly special pepper. The entire Rio Grande valley is a great region to grow chile in New Mexico, and there are many great farms outside of the Hatch area too, The aroma of roasting chiles fills the air, farmers’ markets brim with vibrant green treasures, and the Hatch Chile Festival draws visitors from far and wide. This is the best time to experience the magic of New Mexican cuisine!

As we are centrally located in Albuquerque, we would be remiss if we didn’t recommend to give us a visit at 2010 Eubank Blvd NE during chile season. We have a bunch of different red and green chile products available, fresh, dried, and frozen. Additionally, if you are looking for travel ideas, we have a guide to Albuquerque, as well as many other ideas for travel in New Mexico. Whether you are here on a road trip or flying in, we are sure you can get some insight into things to do in New Mexico from our travel section!

Cooking with NM Chile

Calabacitas: A Summertime Delight

Calabacitas is a quintessential New Mexican dish showcasing the bounty of summer. This simple yet satisfying dish features:

  • Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Summer staples add freshness and a subtle sweetness.
  • Corn: Fresh sweet corn kernels bring sweetness and a delightful pop of texture.
  • Onion and Garlic: Provide the savory base for the dish.
  • Green Chile (Optional): Adds a touch of heat and undeniable New Mexican flair.
  • Cheese: A sprinkle of melting cheese offers richness and a finishing touch.

Recipes: Taste the Magic

Here are recipes to help you recreate the magic of New Mexican cuisine in your own kitchen:


This is a classic recipe that just about everyone makes here when they are just learning how to cook, including me. It is a basic recipe, which is quite easy overall to make, and very difficult to mess up.

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 cups zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups yellow squash, diced
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 1/2 cup chopped roasted green chile (optional)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup shredded cheese (optional)
  1. Sauté onion and garlic in oil until softened.
  2. Add zucchini, squash, corn, and green chile (if using). Cook, stirring occasionally for 5-7 minutes, until vegetables are tender-crisp.
  3. Season with salt and pepper. Top with cheese (if desired) and serve warm.

Other New Mexican Cuisine

Be sure to check out our recipes section for more ideas about delicious New Mexican dishes to make. Naturally, they will be mostly focused on using red and green chile, but you probably like that if you read this far! We have great chile, chile rellenos, enchiladas, tamales, green chile stew, and much, much more.

There are many varieties of chile, so be sure to ask at whatever chile roaster you end up going to. In case you are a fan of chile rellenos, I recommend getting Big Jim chile specifically for them.