They’re all the rage. Learn more about what makes Hatch chiles a hot commodity.
Hatch green chiles are grown in the Hatch Valley of southwestern New Mexico’s Rio Grande region. The soil, weather and altitude of this area all contribute to bountiful crops and acre upon acre of wonderful chiles that start out green and ripen to a bright red. In fact, more chiles per acre are grown in the Hatch Valley than anywhere in the world.
What Makes a Hatch Chile?
To be a true Hatch chile, the vegetable must be certified to have been grown in the Hatch Valley. Beware of Hatch imposters—some chiles labeled as “Hatch” or “New Mexican” simply aren’t authentic. Look for the “New Mexico Certified Chile™” guarantee.
Why’s Everyone Talking About Hatch Chiles?
What Do Hatch Chiles Taste Like?
Hatch green chiles are said to get their flavor from the ideal growing conditions in the valley - blazing hot days and cooler desert nights. Their flavor can be described as earthy and slightly pungent like an onion. Hatch chiles are most often roasted before use, which gives them a smoky, rich, almost buttery flavor (yum).
How Hot Are Hatch Chiles?
Some like it hot - smoke-coming-out-of-your-ears hot. The more timid among us prefer chiles with just a slight hint of heat. Whatever your preference, there’s a Hatch chile for you. Varieties range from mild to quite hot - but most fall somewhere in between. As the chiles ripen and turn red, their sweetness somewhat overtakes the heat.
Roasting Hatch Chiles
Hatch chiles are typically roasted before eating or prior to freezing for later use (more on that later). Roasting really brings out the best in a Hatch, which is why the aroma of roasting chiles fills the air in and around the Hatch Valley during peak season. Most area grocery stores and other chile purveyors will roast chiles in a huge, rotating roaster right where you buy them, but it’s also quite easy to roast them at home. Here are a few ways to do it:
- Place the chiles directly onto a hot grill. When the bottoms start to turn black, charred or blistered, use tongs to turn them over and repeat on the other side.
- Hold chiles over your stove’s gas flame with a long fork or tongs while roasting on all sides.
- Place chiles under the broiler, watching carefully, until they blacken. Turn chiles over and roast the other side.
As soon as they’re done roasting, put the chiles in a paper or plastic bag, seal tightly and let them sit for about 10 minutes to cool. Once cooled, the skins should peel right off.
Freeze Hatch Chiles to Enjoy All Year Long
The Hatch chile season is short - normally late August into early October, depending on weather - so get them while you can. The biggest fans often buy them by the case and freeze them after roasting. You can freeze them fresh and unroasted, but roasting first helps to preserve their wonderful flavor and makes them easier to use later. Simply store them whole, sliced or chopped, in a freezer-ready storage bag (removing as much air as possible before sealing) or a shallow freezer-proof lidded container. Then you can use them any time during the year in all kinds of dishes.
Where to Find Hatch Chiles
Did you catch the Hatch fever? Are you ready to join the Hatch fan club? Remember - prime time for fresh Hatch New Mexican chiles is late August into September or early October. If you can’t make a trip to the Hatch Valley, many of our stores offer the chiles in the fresh Produce section as soon as they arrive from New Mexico. Some of our stores even host Hatch roasting events. Be sure to check out our website to see if there’s an event near you. Our aisles are filled with everything else you need to create tantalizing recipes family and friends will love.
A Colorful Tradition
“Red or green?” is New Mexico’s official “State Question.” The “State Answer”? “Red,” “Green,” or “Christmas” - depending on whether you want red or green chile sauce - or both - with your meal.
The Hatch Chile Festival
Hatch, New Mexico, is the self-proclaimed “Chile Capital of the World.” And every Labor Day weekend, it’s easy to believe. During that weekend, up to 30,000 people from around the world visit Hatch’s Chile Festival to enjoy food (from salsas to Hatch chile ice cream), live music, arts and crafts, and cooking competitions…and of course to buy their stash of chiles to take home.
Fun Fact: “Chili” - ending in the letter “i” - refers to the meat-and-bean stew we love topped with sour cream and grated cheese. “Chile” - with an “e” on the end - is the correct spelling for the vegetable.