New Mexico Red Chile Sauce is a staple of New Mexican cuisine. This spicy red chile sauce gets poured over huevos rancheros, enchiladas, breakfast burritos and more.
I fell in love with the food in Santa Fe, and while I was there I realized that if I wanted to make New Mexican meals at home I would need to make New Mexico Red Chile Sauce. When we took a day trip to Taos our tour guide George, introduced us to Alfredo Bacca who has a small shop in Chimayo.
Alfredo prides himself on his chiles powders and spice mixes and he led us through a tasting. He would sprinkle a touch of salt into our palms, add one pistachio, and then pour about 1/8 teaspoon of chile powder on top. Then we tasted. We tasted the difference between red chile powder and green chile powder, and learned how red chile powder can be used to make this New Mexico Red Chile Sauce.
Alfredo taught me the most basic recipe for red chile sauce. He said to pour a bit of vegetable oil into a pot and to add flour. Then mix in the chile powder and water. It seemed simple. I did some research to check the proportions and learned that it is common to add onion, garlic, cumin, and oregano to the sauce. I used Alfredo’s instructions along with these additional seasonings.
New Mexico is known for both red chile sauce and green chile sauce. Red chile sauce is made from dried red chile powder. First, the chiles are dried in a ristra and then ground up into powder. Then the powder is used to make the sauce. Usually, green chile sauce is made from fresh roasted green chiles. Since I can’t rely on finding New Mexico green hatch chiles in Chicago, I bought some of Alfredo’s green chile powder. I have been making green chile sauce the same way that I have been making the red chile sauce. It isn’t the traditional way but it works and it is delicious. It is also easier than roasting and peeling chiles to make a sauce. If you do want to make a roasted green chile sauce, try my poblano cream sauce.
I think that it is best to make the sauce and let it sit in the fridge for a day before eating it. Letting the sauce sit gives the flavors time to marry. When you taste the sauce right away you tend to only taste the spice and not the other seasonings.
The most important thing to know about this recipe is that different brands and batches of red chile have different spice levels. We bought mild red chile powder from Alfredo, and it is so spicy!
You can add red chile sauce to anything you like. I love it on a grits breakfast bowl, in huevos rancheros, or over enchiladas.
Just a note on the spelling, in New Mexico they do spell chile with an “e”. And a warning – red chile sauce can stain clothing, so it’s best not to wear light colors when making it.
How to make New Mexico Red Chile Sauce:
- 5 tablespoons Vegetable Oil
- 2 cloves of Garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup finely chopped Onion (I use Yellow)
- 3 tablespoons Flour
- 3/4 cup New Mexico Red Chile Powder
- 3 cups of Water
- 1 teaspoon of Salt
- 1/2 teaspoon of Cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon of Oregano
Heat the vegetable oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Once hot, add the garlic and the onion. Saute in the oil for about 3 minutes, until the onion is translucent. Then whisk in the flour. Let the flour cook for 2 minutes, whisking it frequently.
In a large bowl, whisk the red chile powder and the water together. While whisking the flour mixture, slowly add the red chile and water mixture. Whisk until smooth and bring to a steady simmer and let the sauce thicken over medium-low heat for 5 minutes. Stir frequently.
Once the sauce has thickened, add the salt, cumin, and oregano. Let the sauce simmer on low for another 3 minutes. I like to bottle the sauce up in mason jars. I think the sauce tastes best after it has been sitting in the fridge overnight.
This recipe yields 3 3/4 cups of red chile powder. Charles and I ate it all in 5 days.