Stovetop Diplomat

New Mexico Red Chile Sauce

New Mexico Red Chile Sauce


Most glorious of red sauces, New Mexico red chile sauce is perfect for enchiladas, smothering burritos, and so so much more.

This is something I’d like to get out there. I believe that New Mexico is one of the last American bastions of chile-based, truly excellent Mexican food. There are many  regional varieties of Mexican food  in the U.S. (Tex-mex, Californian, Colorado, and so on) but New Mexican is by far my favorite, and what I mainly grew up eating. This is my mom’s recipe straight out of The Land of Enchantment.

There are altogether too many recipes crowding up the internet for enchilada sauces that contain no red chiles. I know  I should be above gate-keeping, but I just cringe whenever I see a picture of some tomato-based concoction smothering enchiladas. It makes me sad to think that people don’t think it can get any better than that. It really, really does.

Sometimes you will see the chiles called for in this recipe as chile colorado, or dried New Mexico red chiles. This is a specific type of chile, which you can find more information about HERE. They are matured and dried Hatch green chiles, and there is no substitute for them in this recipe. If you live in the American southwest or adjacent states, these should be available in most grocery stores in the fall as well as at local pop-up sellers throughout your area. As you move away from these areas, they get much harder to find and you may need to grab them online.

If you don’t love spicy food, this is probably not the recipe for you.  It’s difficult to control the heat because you are entirely subject to the spiciness of the chiles you have. New Mexico red chiles come in varying degrees of hotness- from mild to super spicy. If you’re trying to manage the spice a little, dump out all the seeds when you break off the stems. But on a personal level, I believe you should always be leaving about half of the seeds in. Maybe more.


While you don’t necessarily need any special equipment to make New Mexico red chile sauce, I’d like to give a shoutout to the utensil above. Commonly sold as a ‘fish turner’, I use this as a flat whisk to gently stir the bottom of the pot of sauce while leaving the top undisturbed. The reason for doing this is that as your sauce cooks, it will start to develop a light yellowish-red foam on top. When this foam disappears, after about an hour or so of simmering, you know your sauce is finished. So you want to avoid stirring it into the sauce and making it appear done too early!

Once you have your red chile sauce made, what can you do with it? There of course are the obvious examples- smothering enchiladas, burritos, beans and other Mexican favorites. But don’t limit yourself! We serve New Mexico red chile sauce with everything- potatoes, any meat, eggs;   It’s even a required part of our Thanksgiving dinner, where you can find us loading up plates and dousing everything in it, like other people might gravy.

Feeling more like a chile sauce on the greener side of the spectrum? Try my New Mexican Style Hatch Green Chile Sauce or Denver Green Chile recipes!


New Mexico Red Chile Sauce

Most glorious of red sauces, New Mexico red chile sauce is perfect for enchiladas, smothering burritos, and so so much more.

Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Servings 4.5 cups


  • 20 dried New Mexico red chiles
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 tbsp salted butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp salt


  1. Break off the stems of each chile. Dump out as many seeds as you would like, depending on your heat preference.

  2. Bring red chiles and water to a boil in a large pot. Boil for about 10 minutes, until bright red and soft.

  3. Turn off the heat and let the pot cool for five or so minutes. Don't throw out the water just yet!

  4. Transfer red chiles plus 2 cups of reserved water into a large blender. Blend thoroughly until smooth. If you have a smaller blender (like I do!), you're going to have to do this in batches; start with half the chiles and half the water. Have a bowl handy to pour the blended mixture into before starting on the second batch.

  5. Once all of your chiles have been blended together, add 2 more cups of the reserved chile water to the mixture. You can throw out the remaining water now.

  6. Rinse and dry your large pot. Over medium heat, whisk together butter and flour to form a roux. Let cook, stirring often, for about a minute.

  7. Add your pureed chile mixture to the pot and whisk together thoroughly with cumin, oregano, garlic and salt.

  8. Lower heat to simmer. Let simmer for another hour or so, stirring occasionally. When stirring, try to disturb the light yellowish-red foam that builds on top as little as possible, instead keeping the motion more focused on scraping up the bottom of the pot. When all the foam on top of the sauce disappears, your sauce is done.  

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3 comments on “New Mexico Red Chile Sauce

    • stovetopdiplomat

      Unfortunately, I have not been able to successfully replicate this recipe using just chile powder. You really need the dried peppers for this recipe to work. But that does get the wheels turning for me! – I would like to work on developing a recipe where that’s possible!

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