Hatch chiles are a seasonal and regional pepper with nothing less than a cult following in New Mexico, where they are grown. These peppers are earthy, oniony, smoky and range from mild to super hot and everything in between. When you are lucky enough to lay your hands on them, you’re going to want to roast them (in your oven! or on a gas burner! or on the grill!)) and freeze them to you can make use of them all year long.
Hatch, New Mexico, is the chile capital of the world, according to Robert Scheuller, my friend and resident produce Guru at Melissa’s Produce. Robert is one of the foremost experts on Hatch chile peppers in the U.S. He says that more chiles (or chilis) are grown per square acre in Hatch than anywhere in the world. Try them in Hatch Chicken Chili or Hot Hatch Chile Dip.
Read on for everything you need to know about this beloved seasonal pepper!
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What Are Hatch Chiles?
There are a number of peppers that can be called Hatch chiles. These peppers are all part of the Capsicum family.
Specifically, Hatch chilies are grown in the Hatch Valley region of New Mexico. Yes, they can be grown just outside of Hatch (the peppers aren’t geographically protected in the exact same way as European DOP products, like Prosciutto or Gruyere cheese), but the majority of them come from the valley of Hatch. Purists believe the very best Hatch chiles are grown within the borders of the Hatch Valley region.
The specific soil and growing conditions are what make Hatch chilies Hatch chilies. They are very fast growing, thanks to the wide temperature swing from the nights to the days. The temperature fluctuation is due to the 5,550-6,500 foot attitude of this area of New Mexico, unusual in chile growing areas.
Other New Mexico chilies are similar, but thanks to a 2012 law, they should be labeled New Mexican chiles, not Hatch chiles. They might even be labeled “Not Grown in New Mexico” if applicable.
Sometimes there are several varieties of Hatch chilies grown and sold: mild, medium, hot, or extra hot. They can range on the Scoville scale from 2,000 SHU (Scoville heat unit) to 8,000 SHU. The boxes or containers they are sold in should be labeled with the level of heat of the chilies. You won’t be able to tell how hot the pepper is from appearance, so read that fine print!
Their flavor is sometimes described as earthy or oniony, with smoky undertones, and again, the heat level varies.
Hatch chile season typically begins at the beginning of August and goes through mid-October. During this time, you can buy fresh Hatch chiles. If you buy them in areas where a lot are sold and used (again, all over New Mexico and the surrounding areas), you will likely be buying them by the case. Hatch chile fanatics are only too happy to bring home a case, either getting them roasting them on site where they buy them or roasting them at home and then freezing them.
The Hatch Chile Festival is a 2-day festival in the town of Hatch which is a celebration of all things Hatch Chiles. In 2023, it will be held from September 1-3, over Labor Day weekend.
People travel to attend from all over the country, even the world. Because it’s an agricultural area, apparently, the town looks like a giant campout, with tens of thousands of people descending up a pretty small town. And all you eat at the festival are foods made with Hatch chiles, from Chile Rellenos to Hatch Chile Ice Cream. It is 100% on my bucket list!
How to Choose Hatch Chiles
Looks for peppers with smooth, glossy, firm skin. No wrinkling or dark spots, or dings. The flesh should be fairly thick.
Where to Find Hatch Chiles
Hatch chiles can be purchased all over New Mexico and in surrounding states for sure. During their short season, due to popular demand, they are available in lots of markets in lots of states.
You can also buy them frozen, usually roasted and frozen. They also may be canned or jarred, having been roasted and peeled first. During the season, they are available via many online sites, including Melissa’s Produce, which is one of the leading purveyors of authentic Hatch Chilies.
What Is a Hatch Chile Roasting?
Because the skin is very thick, the chilies have to be roasted, and the skin has to be peeled for them to be edible (unless you dice them super fine; then you can use them raw).
And once you purchase your Hatch chiles, you can often bring them outside the market, where roasting stations will be set up in the parking lot. There you can get your chilies roasted in large commercial roasters designed for this purpose. Then when you take them home, they are ready to use or freeze. Since Hatch chilies are often sold and purchased by the case (with 25 pounds of Hatch chilies in each), this saves an awful lot of time. During Hatch chile season, there are currently roastings in about 40 states.
You can certainly roast them yourself (see the video for how to do that and the three recipe options for doing it at home below), but if you have the opportunity to attend a Hatch Chili Roasting, don’t miss it.
Dried Hatch Chiles and Powder
Dried Hatch chiles are available year-round. They can be ground into a powder or reconstituted. Their flavor is more concentrated, so you will use less dried Hatch chile than you would fresh. These are great to keep on hand when fresh chiles aren’t in season (and you don’t have any left in the freezer!).
Hatch chili powder is available in red and green varieties, as well as mild and hot in both colors. The red powder is sweeter than the green powder. Use it as you would other pure chile powders. Taste before adding to get a sense of the heat level.
Anaheim peppers look very much like Hatch peppers. They are mild, so can only be used in place of mild Hatch chilies. Poblanos may also be used in place of mild Hatch chiles. Southwestern green chilies are grown all over Southern California, Texas, Arizona, and other places in New Mexico, and other types of chiles are grown all over the country, but they are not Hatch Chilies.
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How to Roast Hatch Chiles 3 Ways
If you have access to Hatch peppers but not to a batch chile roasting station, you can cook them at home. There are three methods most commonly used — choose the one that works best for you!
You can cook them on a grill, in the oven using the broiler, or on a gas stove. (Only gas will work for this method, not electric or induction). The grill is best for roasting large amounts, but all three methods will get you roasted Hatch chile peppers.
- Grill: Heat a grill to medium. Once hot, place the chiles on the grill and cook them until they are blackened and blistered on the bottom. Turn them so that they end up blistered all over, probably about 4 turns in all, about 10 minutes in all.
- Gas Burner: Turn your gas burner to medium-high or high. Place a couple of the chiles on the burner and cook them until they are blackened and blistered on the bottom. Turn them so that they end up blistered all over, about 10 minutes in all.
- Broiler: Preheat the broiler. Place the chiles on a rimmed baking sheet, and place about 6 inches away from the heart source. Broil and turn the chiles so that they end up blistered all over, about 10 minutes in all.
How to Peel Hatch Chile Peppers
After roasting or grilling, let them sit on the counter or a cutting board for about 20 minutes to sweat. Then, pop out the stem, and most of the seeds should come right out as well.
If the peppers are the hot variety, and you want to modulate the heat, remove most or all of the seeds. If you like more heat, you can leave some of them in. Then, peel the skin off.
Once they are grilled or roasted, they can be seeded, and then you may puree them, dice them, or use them whole or in larger pieces. Or, you can then freeze the chiles.
Fresh Hatch chilies may be stored in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to 2 weeks, and then you have to use them or roast or grill them and freeze them.
How to Freeze Hatch Chiles
Once either grilled or roasted, they can be frozen. Again, once seeded, you may puree them, chop or dice them, or lay them flat between layers of parchment or wax paper and then freeze them in a freezer-proof container.
Try to remove any excess air from the container or freezer-proof plastic bag you are storing the chilies in before you freeze them. They will keep in the freezer for up to 1 year, just in time for you to lay in your new supply of hatch peppers (just in time for the next Hatch chile season).
How to Use Hatch Chile Peppers
Hatch chilies can be used in all kinds of ways. They are almost always roasted before using them (directions for that are below). You can use them to make chilis rellenos and various types of chili. Once roasted, they can be added to salads, grain salads, gazpacho, guacamole, soups, stews, dips, and sandwiches.
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How to Roast Hatch Chiles
- 20 Hatch chiles (or any amount!)
- To Grill Hatch Peppers: Preheat the grill to medium-high. Place the chiles on the grill grates, and grill (or roast) until the bottoms are blistered and blackened in spots, about 4 minutes. Turn the chiles over and grill until the other sides are blistered and blackened in spots. Use tongs to transfer the chiles to a bowl, and cover the bowl with foil, plastic wrap, or a clean dishtowel. Let sit for about 20 minutes, then pull out the stems, pulling out all of the seeds (or leaving some in, as desired, for more heat). Peel the skin from the peppers. Use as desired or freeze (see directions for freezing above).
- To Broil Hatch Peppers: Preheat the broiler, and place the top oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Place the chiles on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Broil until the tops are blistered and blackened in spots, about 4 minutes. Turn the chiles over and broil until the other sides are blistered and blackened in spots. Use tongs to transfer the chiles to a bowl, and cover the bowl with foil, plastic wrap, or a clean dishtowel. Let sit for about 20 minutes, then pull out the stems, pulling out all of the seeds (or leaving some in, as desired, for more heat). Peel the skin from the peppers. Use as desired or freeze (see directions for freezing above).
- To Cook Hatch Peppers on a Gas Stove: Turn the burner (or burners) to medium-high. Place the chiles directly on the burner, and roast until the bottoms are blistered and blackened in spots, about 4 minutes. Turn the chiles over and roast until the other sides are blistered and blackened in spots. Use tongs to transfer the chiles to a bowl, and cover the bowl with foil, plastic wrap, or a clean dishtowel. Let sit for about 20 minutes, then pull out the stem, pulling out all of the seeds (or leaving some in, as desired, for more heat). Peel the skin from the peppers. Use as desired or freeze (see directions for freezing above).
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.