Chile Colorado

Chile Colorado (sometimes spelled Chili Colorado) is a Mexican dish featuring a red sauce and tender pieces of beef.

There is a lot of excessive naming in the world of chile peppers. For example, the primary chile used in this dish, the New Mexico chile, is often called a Chile Colorado in Mexico; it’s not due to a poor grasp of American geography, but because the names once denoted their place of origin. Similarly, the Anaheim chile, which is a milder version of the New Mexico chile, is so named. The Spanish word Colorado also can mean “red”, so who knows. Granted, each of these peppers have subtle differences in flavor, but it all makes for a confusing shopping experience.

To give the sauce its best flavor, I found that blending a fresh jalapeño into the sauce adds a tangy dynamic. If possible, use a ripe red jalapeño, also known as a Fresno chile (see! confusion!) instead of a green one, as the former will have an earthier taste; but it’s not a deal breaker.

To get a nice, balanced flavor, I prefer to use a variety of dried peppers in my dishes. In this case, I used a combination of large red chiles (New Mexico, Guajillo, or Anaheim will all do the trick) and Ancho chiles (which is actually just a dried Poblano chile – it never ends!).

Dusting the beef pieces in white rice flour gives them a tasty texture and also thickens the sauce. Win-win. Coconut flour or Otto’s Cassava Flour will work as well.

Chile Colorado (Gluten-free, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet)

  • Servings: 4
  • Time: 1 hour 20 minutes
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Print

4 cups chicken broth
6 dried large red chili peppers (New Mexico, Guajillo, or Anaheim), stems removed and seeded
3 dried Ancho chili peppers, stems removed and seeded
2 lbs beef stew meat
1 tbsp white rice flour (coconut flour okay)
1/2 tsp salt, more to taste
1/4 tsp pepper, more to taste
2 tbsp olive oil or ghee
1/2 medium white onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp dried oregano
juice of 1/2 lime (1 tbsp)

To serve (optional):
Mexican Rice
sliced radishes
sliced jalapeño peppers
cilantro leaves
lime wedges

1. In a stockpot or dutch oven, bring the chicken broth to a boil. As the broth heats, tear the chili peppers into large pieces and place them in a large bowl; once the broth is boiling, add it to the bowl of peppers. Loosely cover with a towel and steep for 20 minutes to soften the peppers. Rinse out the dutch oven.

2. About 10 minutes before the peppers are softened, prepare the meat and aromatics. Toss the beef with the flour, salt, and pepper. In the dutch oven, heat the oil over med/high heat until shimmering, about 1 minute. Add the beef pieces and brown, about 5 minutes altogether, turning occasionally (brown in batches if needed to keep the beef from overcrowding). Remove the beef and set aside, then reduce heat to medium and add the onions. Sauté until softened, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. As the onions soften, blend the sauce. Pour the reconstituted peppers, chicken broth, and jalapeño into a blender and blend until smooth, then set aside.

4. Once the onions are soft, add the garlic, cumin, and oregano. Sauté until aromatic, about 30 seconds, then return the beef (and its accumulated juices) to the dutch oven. Through a strainer, pour the sauce into the dutch oven. Discard the solids that accumulate in the strainer (see the picture below). Bring to a simmer, then cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until the beef is tender, about 45 minutes.

5. When the beef is ready, uncover and add the lime juice and taste; add salt and/or pepper if needed. Increase the heat to medium and allow to simmer uncovered until slightly thickened, about 5-10 minutes. If you want to add more spice to the dish, now would be a good time to add a hot sauce of your choice, like Chipotle Tabasco sauce. Serve with whatever you’d like, but you can’t go wrong with rice, radishes, peppers, cilantro, and lime wedges. Or maybe some grilled cactus?

Softened onions, garlic, cumin and oregano – ready for the beef.

Blended broth and peppers. Terribly ugly, I know.

Pesky solids that wouldn’t blend.

81 thoughts on “Chile Colorado

  1. WOW! This was really helpful for me to read .I find your posts clear and inspiring.
    This recipe looks great .The images looks very nutritious and a healthy recipe. Can’t wait to try this chile colorado recipe. Thanks for this blog. Perfect for a meal :-)

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  2. Made for dinner tonight and my husband who is Mexican was excited to walk in from work and have our home smelling like his mom’s house :) Served with Mexican rice…very yummy! Thank you for all your awesome recipes :)

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  3. This looks fantastic! Already pre-ordered your next book. How did you get the sauce so smooth? I don’t see the onions in the sauce, but the recipe instructions do not have the onions blended with the sauce.

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    1. Hi Regina, you may have already figured it out, but the onions aren’t blended so they do end up a little chunky in the sauce. I liked the extra texture so I kept them that way! :)

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      1. thanks! I had homemade beef and chicken bone broth so i did half of each. Also, i added a teaspoon of ancho chili powder and some cayenne. This was absolutely outstanding!!! Thanks!

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    1. The Ancho is there to provide richness and a bit deeper flavor than the other chiles; if you’re not able to find it, I would just sub with a few more of whatever large red dried chile is available to you. Best of luck!

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  4. Do you think it would be possible to do steps 1-4 in a cast iron pan, and then put the chile Colorado in a crock pot for the 45 minutes? I do not own a dutch oven. :(

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    1. I used a crockpot when I made it, but cooked it for hours, ate some, cooked it some more, ate some more. In fact, I ate the entire 2lbs in one day throughout the day, and it simmered in the crockpot the entire time!

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  5. Chili Colorado is one of my all time favorites, and I’ve been searching for a good recipe! I’m trying this out for the firs time in Nebraska, where I had a ridiculously difficult time finding the right peppers. (I’ll have to try it again when I get back to DC). I’m using chicken instead of beef, dried red peppers, fresh Fresno peppers, and fresh jalapeños. Going to let it simmer for a couple of hours! Can’t wait to try it!

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  6. Excellent recipe! Just finished making this for my husband who’s Mexican and only likes authentic mexican dishes. He loved it! I will definitely save this recipe!

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  7. HELP! I’m making this recipe tonight and am confused about one thing…..when you say add ‘aromatics’ do you mean the spices? It appears that the spices are added at a later time….my first time making this and I want it to be right!

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  8. I make something very similar that my dad taught me however, I have never used Chile ancho I have always used just the Chile guajillo
    I like your idea of the chicken broth in the sauce I’m definitely going to make this today I will let you know how it turns out I love cooking Mexican food as well as Italian food

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  9. I made this last night and it was so delicious loved it… of course I added a some other items i like spicy so a few Serrano peppers and a few arbol dried chilies to the sauce thanks for the recipe

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  10. Hey there, Russ. I’ve made this recipe before on the stove like how you suggest but I would like to make it in the instantpot. How long do you think I should cook this in that? Also, if I can’t find dried ancho chiles, what should I sub for those?

    Thanks for the amazing recipe!

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  11. Made this last night, and it was excellent matching the picture that is shown (I made rice too). Switched to pork shoulder, added a tablespoon of chipotle and a tablespoon of paprika to add a bit of smokiness to the dish, and backed off to 1 tspn of cumin. I did cheat, and used dried spices (it was just too late last night to reconstitute the chiles), but used new mexico and ancho as directed.

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  12. My husband and I have become obsessed with different chills and are excited to try this! Question though…we’ve been taking our dried chills that we buy and blending them up in the Blendtec into a fine chili powder (i’ve never actually tried rehydrating them)…couldn’t using these already ground peppers save the step of rehydrating the peppers then blending and straining? Or is there something magical about the rehydrating and then blending process? Thanks for the recipe and chili knowledge!

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    1. I would say the reconstituting process has one thing going for it: There are unblendable solids you don’t want in the finished product. If you want a truly SMOOTH sauce, reconstitute the peppers as described and strain the broth/peppers. If you don’t mind the presence of unblendable solids, don’t bother.

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  13. Just to add to the confusion about chilis….fresh poblanos may also be called pasillas….
    Great recipe, I am fortunate enough to have a very good source of dried chiles here in Oregon. Amazon.com has just about any flavor of dried chili that you need.

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  14. Loved this recipe Russ! Tried it tonight and will make it for the Cowboy Church Roping event on Tues. as I run the concession stand that night!! Should be a huge hit with the everybody!! Keep ’em comin’!

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  15. Yesterday, I had the most heavenly Mexican food — in a restaurant. Today, I’m making your Chile Colorado — AND IT SMELLS THE SAME!! I had it in a burro that didn’t say what it was — just red sauce — but I can’t wait for dinner tonight.

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  16. Thank you so much for sharing this recipe. I have been searching for an authentic mexican chili colorado that reminds me of my childhood. I made it last night with my Instant Pot and it is ABSOLUTELY AMAZING!! I brought it in for lunch today at work and shared it with my sister… We are relishing the sweet memories growing up with a Domestic Dad:) You are a blessing! Oh, I made burritos with the meat and sauce only, using “uncooked” organic flour tortillas and cooked them on the spot… a little taste of heaven!

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