If you want to know how to make Chile Colorado at home, this easy and healthy recipe is for you!
Chile Colorado is beef cooked in an aromatic, richly-flavored, chile-based red sauce. Some of us may have enjoyed it at our favorite Mexican restaurant, some may have had the pleasure of enjoying a homemade version from recipes passed down from generation to generation. I’ve enjoyed my mother-in-law’s version, and it is delicious. She grows all of her own chiles on her ranch, so the flavor of everything she makes with those magic peppers tastes super vibrant, and incredible. Chile Colorado is essentially a thick beef stew, typically eaten with beans, rice, and tortillas.
Is Chile Colorado spicy?
Chile Colorado is not typically a spicy dish. Spiced – yes. Rich and flavorful – yes. The base for this recipe is typically made by soaking lots of New Mexico chiles, then blending them up with onions, water, spices, and often oil as the base. Since New Mexico chiles are not very spicy, the resulting flavor base is mild for most palates. *In my husband’s family, it is NOT mild. He grew up eating really spicy foods, probably because my mother-in-law also grows incredible Chile de Arbol chilies. She uses them in most of her dishes, so I’m always prepared for a good sweat when I get the opportunity to eat her home-cooking!
A healthy, simple shortcut Chile Colorado sauce for the slow cooker and Instant Pot.
I set out to put Mesa de Vida Latin cooking sauce to the test: Could our healthy cooking and seasoning sauce be used as a shortcut flavor base, allow you to make this recipe at home with just 3 ingredients, while still honoring the classic flavor of Chile Colorado? More importantly: Would this version pass the ultimate test – approval from my husband?
As with most mole’s, arroz, frijoles, tamales, and more, everybody’s mom makes THE best version. Every family’s recipe is different, and many an argument has ensued over who’s mom’s recipe is the “real” recipe, or – don’t even go there – the best. (In my family, this is the case for the Norwegian lefse recipes handed down.) Some families include chocolate in their homemade Chile Colorado recipe, some use Guajillo, Pasilla, or Ancho chiles, and some use tomatoes as the base. My test for the shortcut, healthy recipes I make is to get them as close to my mother-in-law’s original recipe, and if I get the “this is almost like my mom’s!” comment, then I know I’ve got a winner!
Our Latin cooking and seasoning sauce is made with a base of whole ground New Mexico chiles, cumin, onion, garlic, oregano – all of the classic ingredients are there. Our clean ingredient list also includes a tiny bit of jalapeno, cilantro, smoked paprika, lime juice, and some carrot, plum, and vinegar for brightness and balance. While our shortcut sauce also has tomato paste in it, which isn’t traditional in most Chile Colorado recipes, I found that the depth of the concentrated tomatoes lent itself well for this easy Chile Colorado recipe, and even gave the resulting gravy a rich texture, without having to use flour to thicken it.
Our multi-tasking Latin flavor base transforms itself into a base that helps you create recipes inspired by all of the Latin countries, from Spanish paella, to Mexican arroz con pollo, Pozole, Brazilian Feijoada, the Tex-Mex classic Chili, and even brings new and exciting flavor inspiration to classics such as meatloaf, or simple roasted potatoes.
The Latin countries share a heritage rich in flavor, and I hope to honor their cultures by sharing our cooking sauces that help make it easy for everyone to enjoy these beautiful flavors, and bring life to their table more often – even on busy nights, and even if you think you can’t cook! If you think you have to go out to enjoy your favorite global gourmet meals, I want to help you feel confident that you can make them yourself, right at home, not have to compromise your health goals for great taste, and most importantly, spend more time around your family table.
As a chef, I spent years studying and making these authentic recipes, but when I’d get home, as a busy mom that needed to get dinner on the table quick, I was disappointed by the dried, sodium-and-sugar based seasoning blends, or oil and water-based, single-use sauces that never delivered the flavor and versatility I needed. And thus, Mesa de Vida was born. Our Latin sauce was the first sauce I created, and you can read the rest of the story here if you’d like!
I’ve also included instructions to make this Chili Colorado recipe in the crock pot. The classic recipe is simmered on the stove-top though, and I have to say, this is the way I recommend making it, if you have the time. But, if you need to leave the house, or just want to set it and forget it, once you simmer all of the ingredients on the stove top, if you want to transfer everything to your slow cooker to cook on low, you will be rewarded with an incredible meal when you get home. What about the Instant Pot? I’m going to share a post and a video on this soon, but not everything is best prepared in the Instant Pot. This recipe needs time to simmer slowly, and most importantly reduce a bit so the flavors concentrate (just like my favorite oven-braised one-pot recipes). While you’ll get a perfectly delicious Chile Colorado if you make this recipe in your Instant Pot or electric pressure cooker, you’ll definitely be missing out on the thick, rich sauce that comes with the simmering process. And honestly (please – Instant Pot police don’t come after me for this), by the time the pressure cooker comes to temperature, and you wait for the pressure to release, there often is no real time saved. (I am a fan of the Instant Pot for many things though, keep an eye out for that video coming soon!)
Get inspired and create something new for your Paleo or Whole30 lifestyle.
While the classic recipe is eaten like a stew, along with rice, beans, and often tortillas – and that is how my family will always request it – if you’re cooking it, you can enjoy it how you like it! I personally eat a grain-free, mostly Paleo or Whole30 diet, so I like to enjoy my Chile Colorado eaten just as a stew, out of the bowl. Since I tolerate dairy just fine, a spoon of sour cream on top tastes amazing. I enjoy a salad on the side, and I’m a super happy camper!
If you’d like to turn this into a whole new recipe that becomes a complete one-pot meal, you can make it your own and add beans, chopped potatoes, carrots, whatever you like. Don’t have beef on hand, or want to use cubed pork shoulder instead? Go ahead and make it anyway, it will be delicious!
Even if you are only serving 4 people, I highly recommend making the full recipe with 2 pounds of meat. The leftovers are incredible, too, and this freezes beautifully, making it perfect for a meal-prep staple recipe!
I’m pretty sure that once you make this homemade Chile Colorado recipe with Mesa de Vida Latin cooking and seasoning sauce, it will become a meal you look forward to enjoying at least a few times a month. With our sauce on hand (waiting in your pantry like your private sous chef ready to go to work for you anytime), you’ll be able to enjoy this even on your busiest weeknight!
Note on the chocolate: The chocolate in this is entirely optional, but we found it added such an incredible element of flavor that we will always make it this way from now on! I used 90% dark chocolate, but if you follow a strict Paleo diet, or are on a round of Whole30, you can use 100% cacao bakers chocolate. This Chile Colorado recipe, including the chocolate, was in a lineup of several different contenders in a blind-tasting mole competition a friend of mine recently held at his home. Although this isn’t a traditional mole recipe, this recipe won hands down, across the board, best tasting dish! Take that with a grain of salt, but I certainly found some satisfaction in that fun fact. 🙂