New Mexico chile

New Mexico chile or New Mexican chile (Spanish: chile de Nuevo México,[2] chile del norte[3]) is a group of cultivars of the chile pepper from the US State of New Mexico, first grown by Pueblo and Hispano communities throughout Santa Fe de Nuevo México.[4] These heritage chile plants were used to develop the modern New Mexico chile peppers by horticulturist Fabián Garcia and his students, including Roy Nakayama, at what is now New Mexico State University in 1894.[5][6] New Mexico chile, which typically grows from a green to a ripened red, is popular in the cuisine of the Southwestern United States, the broader Mexican cuisine, and Sonoran and Arizona cuisine, and an integral staple of New Mexican cuisine.[7] Chile is one of New Mexico's state vegetables, and is referenced in the New Mexico state question "Red or Green?".[8]

New Mexico chile
SpeciesCapsicum annuum
Cultivar groupNew Mexico[1]
Marketing namesHatch chile, green chile, red chile, Anaheim pepper
BreederFabián Garcia
OriginNew Mexico
Heat Hot
Scoville scale0–70,000 SHU

The chile grown in the Hatch Valley, in and around Hatch, New Mexico, is called Hatch chile, but no one cultivar of chile is specific to that area, which is smaller than the acreage used to produce chile with the "Hatch" label. Chile grown in the Hatch valley only, are a signature crop to New Mexico's economy and culture.[4][9][10]

New Mexico green chile flavor has been described as lightly pungent similar to an onion, or like garlic with a subtly sweet, spicy, crisp, and smoky taste.[11] The ripened red retains the flavor, but adds an earthiness and bite while aging mellows the front-heat and delivers more of a back-heat.[12][13] The spiciness depends on the variety of New Mexico chile pepper.[14]


Many types of chile plants were first grown by Pueblo residents, who continue to grow their own strains; each with a distinct pungency, sweetness, taste, and heat. For example, Zia Pueblo chile has a bitter-sweet flavor when it matures into its red color. When the Spanish arrived, they introduced European cultivation techniques to the chile plants, and eventually created cultivars in their towns.[15]

The New Mexican type cultivars were developed by pioneer horticulturist, Fabián Garcia,[4][16] whose major release was the 'New Mexico No. 9' in 1913.[17] These cultivars are "hotter" than others to suit the tastes of New Mexicans in their traditional foods. Selective breeding began with 14 lineages of 'Pasilla', 'Colorado', and 'Negro' cultivars, from throughout New Mexico and Southern Colorado. These first commercially viable peppers were created to have a "larger smoother, fleshier, more tapering and shoulderless pod for canning purposes."[18]

Internationally renowned expert on chile genetics, breeding, and germplasm evaluation, Paul Bosland, founded the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University to study New Mexico's iconic state vegetable and peppers from around the world.[19]


Fruits of New Mexico chile plants are grown from seeds – and each of the individual strains is specifically bred and grown to be disease-resistant and provide consistent and healthy plants within their specific regions. Altitude, climate, soil, and acreage affects a crop's taste and heartiness, making the New Mexican region unique for plant propagation. The Rio Grande bosque, mountains, and high deserts provide the appropriate regional environment for growing chile. To ensure that a variety's lineage remains disease-resistant and maintains optimal growth within its heritage region, seeds from specific plants are carefully selected. An example of a New Mexican chile grown outside the state is the 'Anaheim' pepper which is extremely resilient in multiple altitudes. A quirky aspect of the New Mexico chile plants regards reintroducing seeds from their heritage soil since each successive generation becomes susceptible to disease and it loses its flavor. Therefore, chile farmers usually order seeds from their heritage soils, every few generations, to reinvigorate their crop. This allows New Mexico chile growers to perpetuate successful productions.[20][21][22] Seed distributors and sellers from New Mexico, California, and Colorado provide this service to farmers.

New Mexico chile plants grown in New Mexico are the most sought after, since their flavor, texture, and hardiness are heavily dependent on their growing environment. The plants were originally grown by the Pueblo, and each of their distinct Pueblo plants grows best in its heritage soil. This same trend has continued with other New Mexico chile varietals grown by Spanish, Mexican, and American frontiersmen. Among New Mexico-grown chile, the ones with the most accolades are grown along the Rio Grande, especially along the Hatch Valley.[23][24]

A certification program was started in 2014, New Mexico Certified Chile, attempting to certify the growing of New Mexico chile plants. The program tries to protect New Mexico chile consumers from falsely labeled products, while protecting farmers from potential diminished demand, and to allow larger amounts of New Mexico chile to be grown within the state. Since the program is rather new, it has garnered some criticism, especially in regard to restrictions on farmers who have been growing chile plants from seed lineages more than 400 years old.[25][26]

Ongoing drought, unpredictable weather, and environmental concerns are straining the state's primary agricultural produce.[27]

Hatch chile

Hatch chile refers to varieties of species of the genus Capsicum which are grown in the Hatch Valley, an area stretching north and south along the Rio Grande from Arrey, New Mexico, in the north to Tonuco Mountain to the southeast of Hatch, New Mexico. The soil and growing conditions in the Hatch Valley create a unique terroir[28] which contributes to the flavor of chile grown there. Most of the varieties of chile cultivated in the Hatch Valley have been developed at New Mexico State University over the last 130 years.

Hatch chile can be purchased locally in many parts of the Southwest. Some distributors use the "Hatch" name, but do not actually grow and process their chile in the Hatch Valley.[29] To protect Hatch and other New Mexican growers, state legislators passed a 2012 law prohibiting the sale in New Mexico of chile described as "New Mexican" unless grown in New Mexico or came with a prominent "Not grown in New Mexico" disclaimer.[30] Chile grown around the town are marketed under the name of the town, and are often sold fresh-roasted in New Mexico and nationwide in late summer and early autumn.[31][32]

Pueblo chile

Pueblo chile plants have been cultivated by the Puebloan peoples of New Mexico for centuries. Acoma Pueblo chile is mild, with a lightly flavorful pungency.[33] The Isleta Pueblo chile develops a fruity sweet flavor as it grows into its red chile state. The Zia Pueblo chile develops a bitter-sweet flavor when it matures into its red color, and its heat is similar to the 'Heritage 6-4'.[34]

These ancient Pueblo varieties should not be confused with chile grown in Pueblo, Colorado, a variety of the guajillo chili, otherwise known as the mirasol pepper. They are distinct in and of themselves, but are not related to New Mexico chile.[35]

Rio Grande chile

Along the rest of the Rio Grande, outside of the Hatch Valley, multiple other locations grow award-winning chile in their own right.

Towns and cities across New Mexico have strong chile traditions, including; Chimayo, Española, Corrales, Lemitar, and San Antonio; and from Bosque, New Mexico to Los Ranchos de Albuquerque in the Albuquerque area.

Outside of New Mexico

Anaheim pepper

Anaheim pepper
Heat Low
Scoville scale500–2,500 SHU

An Anaheim pepper is a mild variety of the cultivar 'New Mexico No. 9' and commonly grown outside of New Mexico. It is related to the 'New Mexico No. 6 and 9', but when grown out of state they have a higher variability rate. The name 'Anaheim' derives from Emilio Ortega, a farmer who brought the seeds from New Mexico to the Anaheim, California, area in 1894.[36][37][38]

The chile "heat" of 'Anaheim' varies from 500 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale.[39]



Half cup of hot green chile peppers
Nutritional value per 75 grams
Energy30 kJ (7.2 kcal)
7.1 g
Sugars3.82 g
Dietary fiber1.1 g
0.15 g
Saturated0.016 g
Monounsaturated0.008 g
1.5 g
VitaminsQuantity %DV
Vitamin A equiv.
884 μg
503 μg
544 μg
Thiamine (B1)
0.068 mg
Riboflavin (B2)
0.068 mg
Niacin (B3)
0.712 mg
Pantothenic acid (B5)
0.046 mg
Vitamin B6
0.209 mg
Folate (B9)
17 μg
Vitamin C
181.9 mg
Vitamin E
0.52 mg
Vitamin K
10.7 μg
MineralsQuantity %DV
14 mg
0.9 mg
19 mg
35 mg
255 mg
5 mg
0.22 mg
Other constituentsQuantity
Water65.8 g

Percentages are roughly approximated using US recommendations for adults.

Green chile is served roasted and peeled, whole or diced, and in various sauces. The most common uses are often served diced, or within sauces and is elemental to dishes such as enchiladas, burritos, burgers, french fries, or rice. Chile is also served whole raw, fried, or baked chiles rellenos. New Mexican-style chile rellenos follow the much more traditional Mexican technique of being covered with egg batter and fried, although variations and casseroles do exist.

In addition to local restaurants, many national food chains such as McDonald's and Jack in the Box offer green chile on many of their menu items.[40]

The red chile, the matured green chile, is frequently dried and ground to a powder. These dried or powdered fruits are turned into a red chile sauce. The dried peppers are rehydrated by boiling in a pot, and then blended with various herbs and spices, such as onion, garlic, and occasionally Mexican oregano. Red chile powder is usually simply blended with water, herbs, and spices; the addition of flour or other thickening agents is often considered to be non-traditional or non-purist.

Serving both red and green chile on a dish is sometimes referred to as "Christmas" style. Both green and red chile can be dried and turned into a powder, though this is more common with red chile.


Chile roasting refers to roasting of green chile, most commonly occurring during harvest season, in autumn, throughout New Mexico. The process can be done at the time of purchase, in an oven (horno), or at home.[41]

The commercial process, done at purchase, usually involves an operator taking the part as chile roaster which involves standing near and turning a cylindrical cage drum over propane fueled flames, ensuring the chile pods are heated on every side, as they shed their skins; this ensures the chile skins blister appropriately, to allow for easier peeling of the chile. This process is the most popular method, since the smell has become a staple during the early New Mexican autumn, it offers a physical display of the chile, it offers the sound of the chiles crackling, the sight of the blistering and falling skins, accompanied by the widely distributed smell of the roasting peppers.[42][43]

Horno-roasting chile, while done less often, is a more traditional method. A more common method is simply roasting over an open flame on gas stove-tops and grills.


A ristra is an arrangement of drying chile pods, and is a popular decorative design in the state of New Mexico. Some households use ristras as a means to dry and procure red chile.

The red and green chile peppers are often depicted in New Mexican artwork as symbols of New Mexican cuisine.

Sub-cultivars and landraces

Though most New Mexico type peppers are long pod-type peppers, that ripen from green to red, the multitude of New Mexico type cultivars have a slight variance in taste, and widely varying appearances and heat levels.[44][45] Some varieties may turn yellow, orange, or brown.

The most common New Mexico chile plants are the 'New Mexico 6-4', 'Big Jim', 'Sandia', 'No. 6', and 'No. 9' cultivars. The improved 'Heritage 6-4', 'Heritage Big Jim', and 'Sandia Select' cultivars provide a better yield and uniformity. Peppers like the 'Chimayo', 'Velarde', 'Jemez', 'Escondida', 'Alcalde', 'San Filipe', 'Española', and several others, represent what is known as New Mexico's unique landrace chile, which provide their own unique tastes and usually command a higher price.

Cultivar Description Length Width Scoville heat units
Chimayo A medium pepper, green before ripening to a dark, red color. This variety is a landrace historically grown in Chimayo, New Mexico. The peppers are small and curled, and have a complex flavor described as sweet and smoky. 4.5 inches (11 cm) 4,000 ~ 6,000
Conquistador A very mild non pungent pepper, green before ripening into a red color. 6.5 inches (17 cm) 0
Eclipse Part of the Sunrise, Sunset, and Eclipse pepper line; Eclipse matures into a brown color. 5.1 inches (13 cm) 1.9 inches (4.8 cm) 300 ~ 500
R Naky Developed by Roy Nakayama in 1985, from a mix of the Rio Grande, 6-4, and Bulgarian Paprika. 5.5 inches (14 cm) 500 ~ 1,000
Sunrise Part of the Sunrise, Sunset, and Eclipse pepper line; Sunrise matures into an orange color. 7.1 inches (18 cm) 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) 500 ~ 1,000
Española An old chile pod, has a slightly stronger pungent and bitter flavor and matures early to red, first grown by the Spanish settlers in the San Juan Valley, near modern-day Española. 4.9 inches (12 cm) 1.5 inches (3.8 cm) 1,500 ~ 2,000
Española Improved Hybridization of Sandia and Española. Provides Española's taste and early maturation, with a better yield, and larger peppers. 6.0 inches (15 cm) 1.75 inches (4.4 cm) 1,500 ~ 2,000
Joe E. Parker Thicker walled 6-4, with a heat variance based on growing conditions. 6.5 inches (17 cm) 2.0 inches (5.1 cm) 1,500 ~ 4,500
Heritage 6-4 A 200-seed sample of the original "New Mexico 6-4", obtained from the Plant Germplasm Preservation Research Unit (PGPRU) at the National Center for Genetic Resources Preservation, in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The PGPRU received the seed in 1962 and placed it in cryogenic storage. The flavor of the plant was rehabilitated from these seeds. 6.7 inches (17 cm) 3.7 inches (9.4 cm) 1,559
6-4 An heirloom variety developed by Fabián Garcia. 6.6 inches (17 cm) 3.8 inches (9.7 cm) 1,786
Rio Grande 2,500 ~ 5,000
Sandia Released by Dr. Roy Harper in 1956 by cross breeding a Numex No. 9 type (originally developed by Dr. Fabian Garcia) with a Californian Anaheim-type chile. 6-7 inches 5,000 ~ 30,000
Big Jim Jim Lytle worked with Dr. Nakayama and New Mexico State University (NMSU) to develop a hatch chile that was fondly named Big Jim. This variety holds the record for the longest chile to date, which measured in at 17 inches in 2012.[46] 7-12 inches 500 ~ 3,000
Heritage Big Jim This pepper is a pod-type cultivar. ~24-36 inches 9,482
Barker's Hot The Barker’s Hot chile pepper is an exceptionally hot chile, the hottest of the Anaheim/ New Mexico variety. The peppers ripen from green to red, with the red fruits being hotter than the green ones. 5-7 inches 15,000 ~ 30,000
Luci Fairy 30,000 ~ 50,000
XX Hot Developed at New Mexico State University by The Chile Pepper Institute, NuMex XX Hot Peppers are slim with thin walls and smooth skin. 3-5 inches 60,000 ~ 70,000


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