What Are Hatch Chiles?
Hatch chiles are a seasonal and regional pepper with nothing less than a cult following in New Mexico, where they are grown. Hatch, New Mexico is the chile capital of the world, according to Robert Scheuller, resident produce Guru at Melissa’s produce. More chiles (or chilis) are grown per square acre in Hatch than anywhere in the world. 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.
Please meet Robert Scheuller, here to tell us all about Hatch Chiles! And…he literally wrote the book on Hatch Chiles.
Where Are Hatch Chiles Grown?
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, and 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 – and that’s due to the 5,550-6,500 foot attitude of this area of New Mexico, which allows for these temperature fluctuations, unusual in chile growing areas.
Other New Mexico chilies are similar, but thanks to a 2012 law they should be labeled New Mexican chilies, not Hatch chilies, or even further, labeled Not Grown in New Mexico if applicable.
Are Hatch Chile Peppers Hot?
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!
How Do I Know Hot How My Hatch Chiles Are?
You can’t tell by looking at them! So you have to look at the side of the box or whatever container they are sold in to see if they are mild, medium, hot or extra hot.
What Do Hatch Chiles Taste Like?
Their flavor is sometimes described as earthy or oniony, and again, the heat level varies.
When is Hatch Chili Season?
Hatch chile season typically begins at the beginning of August, and goes through mid October. During this time you can buy fresh Hatch chiles, and 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 roasting them on site where they buy them, or roasting them at home, and then freezing them.
How Do I 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 Do I Buy Hatch Chiles?
They can be purchased all over New Mexico, and in surrounding states for sure, but now 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, which is one of the leading purveyors of authentic Hatch Chilies.
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What can I substitute for Hatch Chiles?
Anaheim peppers looks 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 the place of mild Hatch chiles.
How Do I Store Hatch Chiles?
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. Once frozen, they will last for at least a year in the freezer (just in time for the next Hatch chile season).
How Do I Cook Hatch Chiles?
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.
You can also do the same thing over a gas burner on the stove, or do this under the broiler. Then you need to peel them.
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. You can then freeze the chiles.
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.
How to Freeze Hatch Chiles
Once they are 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 of 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.
What Kind of Pepper is a Hatch Green Chile?
There are a number of peppers that can be called Hatch chilies, in that they grown in and around the Hatch Valley. These peppers are all part of the Capsicum family.
What Are Hatch Chiles Used For?
Hatch chilies can be used in all kinds of ways. They are almost always roasted before using them (directions for that below). You can use them to make chilis rellenos, various types of chili, and once roasted they can be added to salads, grain salads, gazpacho, guacamole, soups, stews, dips, and sandwiches.
What is a Chile Roasting?
Because the skin is very thick, the chilies have to be roasted and the skin has to be peeled to 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 so that you can get your chilies roasted, so when you take them home they are ready to use, or to freeze. Since Hatch chilies are often sold and purchased by the case (with 25 pounds of Hatch chilies in each) this saves an awful lots of time. During Hatch chile season, there are roastings in about 40 states currently.
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.
What Are Dried Hatch Chiles?
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.
What is Hatch Chile Powder?
Hatch chili powder is available in red and green varieties, as well as mild in hot in both colors. The red powder is sweeter than the green powder.
What’s the Deal with the Hatch Chile festival?
The Hatch Chile Festival is a 2-day festival in the town of Hatch which is a celebration of all things Hatch Chiles. 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 camp out, 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!
Below, How to Roast Hatch Chiles
On a grill, in the oven, or on the stovetop – 3 methods, you choose the one that works for you! The grill is best for roasting large amounts, but all three methods will get you roasted Hatch chile peppers.
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How Roast Hatch Chiles
- 20 Hatch chilies or any amount!
- 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 the 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 freezer (see directions for freezing above).
- Preheat the broiler, and place the top oven rack about 6 inches from the heat source. Place the chiles on the 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 the 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 freezer (see directions for freezing above).
- This only works 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 the 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).
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