Many different varieties of New Mexico chile, including Big Jim, Miss Junie, and Lumbre

The Gentle Giant: All About the Big Jim Chile Pepper

Among the fiery pantheon of New Mexico chile, the Big Jim stands out as a gentle giant. While Hatch chiles are synonymous with the region, it’s the Big Jim that offers versatility and a milder heat profile, making it a favorite among those who love chile flavor without overwhelming spice. In the realm of peppers, the Big Jim embodies approachability, perfect for introducing newcomers to the world of New Mexican cuisine or adding a subtle smoky depth to everyday dishes.

A Hybrid with Heritage:

The Big Jim’s story begins in 1975 at New Mexico State University. Dr. Roy Nakayama, a renowned chile breeder, worked in collaboration with Jim Lytle, a local farmer, to develop this unique breed. Their goal was to create a larger and milder variation of the iconic New Mexican chiles. The result was a hybrid, a cross between native New Mexican chiles and a Peruvian pepper, aptly named the “Big Jim” in honor of its co-creator.

What sets the Big Jim apart is its size. These peppers boast impressive lengths, often reaching up to a foot long! Their elongated, tapered shape offers ample room for stuffing and grilling, making them an ideal choice for those iconic chile rellenos. Don’t let their size intimidate you; these chiles pack a surprisingly gentle heat. The Scoville heat unit scale, a measure of a pepper’s capsaicin content, places the Big Jim in the mild range, typically between 500 and 3,000 SHU. This makes it far less fiery than a jalapeño, offering a pleasant level of warmth rather than tongue-searing spiciness.

Beyond the Heat: A Flavor Profile to Savor:

The Big Jim isn’t just about size and a gentle disposition. Like its New Mexican brethren, it brings a unique flavor profile to the table. Roasting is where the magic happens, unlocking the pepper’s smoky sweetness and intensifying its character. Imagine the aroma of Big Jims blistering over an open flame or under a hot oven broiler; their skins charring, releasing a sweet and earthy fragrance that fills the kitchen. When we roast on our barrel roasters, the full smell of New Mexico is unleashed!

When tasted, you’ll discover a slightly sweet note followed by a pleasant warmth that lingers without overpowering. This makes the Big Jim incredibly adaptable. It adds depth to salsas, sauces, soups, and stews without dominating the other flavors.

Culinary Versatility: The Big Jim Advantage:

In the kitchen, the Big Jim shines in its versatility. Here’s where this mild giant takes center stage:

  • Chile Rellenos: The true test for a Big Jim. Their generous size creates the perfect vessel for cheese fillings – Monterey Jack, cheddar, or a blend of your favorites. The milder heat complements the cheese’s richness without competing. Imagine biting into a crispy chile relleno – a molten cheese center against the smoky sweetness and mild spice of the pepper. Big Jim is a thick meaty chile, which gives a great texture contrast.
  • Green Chile Sauce: A green chile sauce with Big Jim won’t burn your face off, but still give a nice bit of spice to a dish. If you want more spice, consider adding a couple hotter varieties, like Sandia, Miss Junie, or even Lumbre chile to your sauce, or use a hotter chile powder to calibrate the heat level.
  • Stuffed and Grilled: Grilling enhances the Big Jim’s smoky flavor. Cored and stuffed with seasoned ground meat, rice, vegetables, or even quinoa, Big Jims become a flavorful and satisfying main course. The possibilities are endless!
  • Sauces and Salsas: Whether diced and incorporated into a chunky salsa or blended into a smooth sauce, Big Jims add a subtle chile presence and a smoky depth to your favorite recipes. Think of a rich tomato sauce simmered with roasted Big Jims, creating a base for enchiladas or huevos rancheros.
  • Beyond Mexican Cuisine: Don’t limit the Big Jim to just New Mexican flavors. Their sweeter notes and mild heat profile shine in a wide range of dishes. Incorporate them into a spicy and smoky stir-fry, grill them alongside seasonal vegetables, or toss them into pasta dishes for an unexpected twist.

Growing Your Own Big Jims:

The Big Jim pepper’s mild heat and large size have made it a favorite in home gardens. They’re relatively easy to grow and thrive in warm, sunny climates. Watching your Big Jims transform from tiny green pods to impressive red giants is a rewarding experience, and the flavor of fresh homegrown chiles is unmatched. In case you would like to grow Big Jim, you can follow our guide to growing chile!

From Field to Fiesta:

The Big Jim chile pepper isn’t just a delicious ingredient; it’s a culinary ambassador of New Mexico. Its gentler heat and smoky sweetness invite everyone to the table, a testament to the versatility and approachability of its state’s rich chile culture. So, next time you’re craving a taste of the Southwest, remember the Big Jim. They might not set your mouth on fire, but they’ll ignite your kitchen with a world of creative possibilities and that unmistakable smoky charm of New Mexican cuisine.

Big Jim Green Chile at Farmers Chile Market

For us at Farmers Chile Market, the chile season is like a 3 month long fiesta, going the months of August, September, and October. During this time, we roast up all different kinds of chile, including Big Jim. It is our Medium chile variety, and our second biggest seller. As the majority of our customers are local New Mexicans, Hot varieties are our most popular. Whatever your flavor preference, we should have it available for you every day of the chile season. We hope to be your favorite place to get green and red chile in Albuquerque!