Chile Colorado

published Sep 9, 2023
Chile Colorado Recipe

Learn how to make traditional Mexican Chile Colorado, a beef stew simmered in homemade chile sauce.

Serves 6 to 8

Makesabout 5 cups

Prep20 minutes

Cook2 hours 30 minutes

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Overhead view of chile colorado and rice in a green bowl topped with radishes and cilantro. Half a lime in the top left corner of the shot, and 3 tortillas peeking in on the bottom left corner of the shot.
Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

I love all manners of chili, and chile Colorado is my new favorite. It’s a traditional Mexican stew of tender, braised beef or pork in a red chile sauce that makes enough to feed a crowd (or it could simply feed you for days). Better yet are the leftovers tucked into a burrito, which I can say is glorious. 

The sauce is what makes chile Colorado so special. Dried chiles are rehydrated and blended with aromatics and broth to make a brick-red, smooth sauce that slowly cooks down with the braising liquid until the whole thing is just velvety. Some recipes call for flour as a thickening agent, but you don’t need it — just give the stew time to thicken on its own. Plus, this keeps it gluten-free.

You can serve chile Colorado over rice or tortillas, or on its own. Personally, I love scooping the braised beef into warm flour tortillas with some radishes and lime juice squeezed over top, and maybe some diced white onion (but only if I already have it on hand). Even if you’re not cooking for a crowd, I recommend making a full batch and freezing half for later. Your future self will thank you for the cozy meal.

What Is Chile Colorado?

Chile Colorado is a traditional Mexican stew of either braised beef or pork that’s simmered low and slow in a red chile sauce. The dish comes from the Chihuahua region of Mexico, so the name does not, in fact, come from the state of Colorado. 

Instead, it’s named for the color of the dish. The name comes from the Spanish word colorado, which means “colored red.” Dried chiles are rehydrated and blended with aromatics and broth to make a rich, brick-red sauce that gives the braised beef depth and a smoky flavor.

Credit: Photo: Alex Lepe ; Food Stylist: Rachel Perlmutter

Ingredients in Chile Colorado

  • Dried chiles. Rehydrated and blended pasilla, guajillo, and ancho chilies give chile Colorado its signature burnished-red hue. If you want a little more heat, add a few arbol chiles to the mix.
  • Aromatics. Blending the garlic and onions with the chile sauce evenly distributes their flavor throughout, while also yielding a silky texture.
  • Dried spices. Ground cumin, oregano, and bay leaves add an earthy richness to the stew.
  • Chicken broth. The beef is braised in chicken broth, but you could also use beef or vegetable broth if that’s what you have on hand. 
  • Braising beef. Tough cuts like beef chuck or chuck shoulder roast are perfect for this stew, as they will become tender without completely falling apart.

What to Serve with Chile Colorado

  • Rice. Tomato rice or plain steamed rice makes the perfect base for the saucy stewed beef.
  • Flour tortillas. While flour tortillas are the traditional accompaniment to northern Mexican cuisine, you can use warm corn tortillas if you prefer.
  • Cilantro. Cilantro adds herby freshness to the stew.
  • Lime. A squeeze of lime juice over the top cuts through the richness.
  • Radishes. Add a nice crunch that contrasts the tender beef.
  • Other toppings. If you have some white onion or shredded cheese on hand, throw them on — customizable toppings will make this dish your own.

Chile Colorado Recipe

Learn how to make traditional Mexican Chile Colorado, a beef stew simmered in homemade chile sauce.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 2 hours 30 minutes

Makes about 5 cups

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info


For the chile:

  • 5

    dried ancho chilis

  • 2

    dried pasilla chilis

  • 3

    dried guajillo or New Mexican chilis

  • 1 (32-ounce) carton

    low-sodium chicken broth (about 4 cups), divided

  • 1

    medium yellow onion

  • 3 cloves


  • 1

    (2 1/2-pound) boneless beef chuck or chuck shoulder roast

  • 2 teaspoons

    kosher salt, divided, plus more as needed

  • 1 tablespoon

    neutral oil, such as vegetable or canola

  • 1 teaspoon

    dried oregano

  • 1 teaspoon

    ground cumin

  • 2

    bay leaves

  • 2 cups


Serving options:

  • 2

    medium limes

  • 4

    medium radishes

  • 10 sprigs

    fresh cilantro

  • 12 to 16

    small (about 6-inch) flour tortillas

  • Cooked rice


  1. Prepare the following, adding each to the same medium heavy-bottomed pot as you complete it: Remove the stems and seeds from 5 dried ancho, 2 dried pasilla, and 3 guajillo chilis. Coarsely chop 1 medium yellow onion and 3 garlic cloves.

  2. Add 2 cups of the low-sodium chicken broth and bring to a boil over medium heat. Boil for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover, and let steep until the chilis are softened and plump, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, trim 1 (2 1/2-pound) boneless beef chuck or chuck shoulder roast of any gristle and cut into 1/2-inch pieces. Season with 1 teaspoon of the kosher salt.

  3. Transfer the chili mixture to a blender and blend until smooth.

  4. Heat 1 tablespoon neutral oil in the now-empty pot (no need to wipe out) over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the beef in a single layer and sear undisturbed until the bottom of the beef develops a dark brown crust, about 4 minutes. Stir and continue cooking until browned all over, about 4 minutes more.

  5. Transfer to a plate. Repeat searing the remaining beef. Return the first batch of beef to the pot.

  6. Add 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, and 2 bay leaves. Cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the remaining 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth, 2 cups water, and remaining 1 teaspoon kosher salt. Scrape up any browned bits off the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon.

  7. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium. Simmer uncovered for 1 hour, stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat as needed to maintain a gentle simmer.

  8. Add the chili mixture and simmer until beef is tender and the sauce is thickened and a deep reddish brown, about 45 minutes more.

  9. About 15 minutes before the chile is ready, prepare the toppings and tortillas: Cut 2 medium limes into wedges. Thinly slice 4 radishes. Pick the leaves and tender stems from 10 fresh cilantro sprigs. Cook rice or warm 12 to 16 small flour tortillas one at a time by holding them directly over a medium flame on a gas stove, or in a skillet over medium heat, flipping occasionally, until charred in spots and pliable. Stack and wrap in a clean kitchen towel or aluminum foil to keep warm.

  10. Remove the pot from the heat. Taste and season with more kosher salt as needed. Serve with rice or spoon the chile into the tortillas and top with the radishes, cilantro, and lime juice.

Recipe Notes

Make ahead: Chile Colorado can be made up to 3 days ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Reheat on the stovetop over low heat, adding a splash of water as needed to thin out the sauce.

Storage: Leftovers can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 4 days or frozen for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.