5 Things to Know About Santa Fe Green Chiles

updated May 1, 2019
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(Image credit: Erin Wengrovius)

If you’ve ever been to Santa Fe, chances are you’ve tried the state’s famous green chiles. Even if you’ve never been to Santa Fe, you’ve probably at least heard of them.

But what’s so special about them? you might wonder. Well, you really do have to taste them to believe, but here’s everything you need to know about these world-famous chiles — plus five of my favorite places to eat them.

1. They spell “chile” with an e.

Yes, we know: Chili is normally spelled with an “i.” In New Mexico, however, they spell chile with an “e.”

2. Peak season runs from mid-July to mid-October.

The peak season for the “long green” or New Mexico chiles runs from mid-July to mid-October, when farmers throughout the state harvest the crop. As the season hits full swing, chile roasters appear outside at grocery store parking lots and at the farmers market, rotating large batches of fresh chiles in gas-powered roasters.

3. There are a lot of different kinds of green chile. (Like, really a lot.)

According to Matt Romero, owner of Romero Farms, the long green chile may have close to 100 different strains in New Mexico alone. Many are named after the town or area in New Mexico where they are grown, such as Chimayó, Alcalde Improved, and Hatch. Each variation has a unique flavor and heat proflie.

Hatch Chile Breakfast Casserole (Image credit: Lauren Volo)

4. Green chiles go with everything.

As a green chile fanatic, I can’t imagine going more than a few days without. For topping burgers, roasted green chiles are simply chopped, but one of the most common ways to prepare green chiles is to make it in a sauce — peeled and chopped roasted green chiles are cooked with water or broth, salt, garlic, and sometimes cumin or oregano. It’s the perfect accompaniment to everything, and I remain skeptical that breakfast burritos could ever approach their full potential without this magical ingredient.

5. Red chiles are just mature green chiles.

Green chiles turn red after only a few days, so you’ll find red chiles (and rich, earthy red chile sauce) in addition to green chiles. For those who can’t choose between red and green, “Christmas style,” a combination of both sauces, is your best bet.

5 Places to Eat Green (and Red) Chiles in Santa Fe

Green (and red) chiles can be found in restaurants throughout the state, but in Santa Fe, the chile culture really shines. You’ll find them stuffed inside breakfast burritos, smothered over enchiladas or sopapillas, added to pork stews, and even paired with dessert. Many non-New Mexican restaurants offer a nod to the ingredient, too (green chile on your sushi, anyone?).

There are countless places to get your chile fix in Santa Fe, but there are a few standouts. Among the time-honored favorites are La Choza, The Pantry, Plaza Café (try the Southside location for a less touristy experience), and Posa’s (the best handheld green chile and bacon breakfast burritos in town).

These are all great options, but my favorite green chile can be found at Valentina’s, an unassuming New Mexican/Mexican café that sits just outside of the historic Plaza area. Perfectly spicy and with great depth of flavor, if Valentina’s sold its chile by the gallon, I’d hoard it away in my kitchen.