Fall-apart tender chunks of beef slow-cooked in a Mexican chile sauce commonly known as Chile Colorado (Colorado meaning “red”) makes a rich, savory and complex stew – perfect for the cooler nights ahead of us as winter eases in. Although this classic Mexican dish needs several hours simmering on the stove top to give it the depth of flavor it is known for, it is not labor-intensive for the cook.
Attributes of “Authentic” Chile Colorado
The classic version of this chile does not include tomatoes or beans. It involves tender beef chunks simmered in a sauce made from a blend of reconstituted dried chile peppers , onions, garlic, cumin and oregano. Chile Colorado gets it name from the deep, reddish-brown color imparted by the flavorful dried chiles that are it’s most important ingredients. The most common blend of chile peppers includes Anchos (for the chocolatey flavor), Guajillos, and sometimes mild Pasilla peppers.
There are recipes for Chile Colorado made in a crock pot, or made with canned enchilada sauce, but it really is worth the effort to use the raw ingredients of dried chiles and whole cumin seed to get the special Mexican flavor and aroma of chocolate, spice and smoke. I’ve based the recipe below on several that I researched online, taking most of my inspiration from MexGrocer out of San Diego
Chile vs. Chili?
I’m always confused about the correct use and spelling of this word. There seem to be many accepted versions, but as a general rule of thumb it seems chile with an “e” at the end is the correct Spanish spelling and refers to a capsicum pepper, specifically a spicy pepper grown throughout New Mexico. Common chile peppers used in Mexican cooking would include Ancho, Jalapeno, Pasilla, Serrano, Chile de Arbol and Guajillo peppers. Carne Con Chile Colorado literally means “meat with red-colored chile sauce.”
Chili spelled with an “i” at the end is the Americanized version, and usually refers to the dish or the stew rather than the fresh or dried peppers. You’ll often see the powdered spice mix in the store labeled “Chili Powder”, probably because most Americans make their stew with this powdered form of peppers.
Dishes that feature New Mexico chiles, normally use the “chile” spelling, as in green chile sauce, green chile stew, red chile sauce, green chile enchiladas, and chile colorado.
Recipe for Chile Colorado
This sauce isn’t nearly as daunting as it may sound. You simply buy some dried chiles, re-constitute them in hot water, and blend up a paste using the chiles, water and some spices. Add the chile paste, some sauteed onions and browned stew meat together and simmer for a couple of hours, and you have some seriously mouth-watering Chile Colorado.
Chile Colorado is usually served with fresh tortillas, but tortillas are not slow-carb compliant so they are left out of this recipe. If you are eating carbs and want a more authentic Chile Colorado experience, serve with warm, fresh tortillas (and a beer).
- 2 Tbsp oil (vegetable oil or grapeseed oil)
- 1 1/2 lbs. beef stew meat, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 1 3/4 cups water
- 5 dried Ancho chiles
- 2 oz bag of dried New Mexico chiles
- 2 dried Pasilla chiles
- 4 garlic cloves, peeled
- 1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oil (vegetable or grapeseed)
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 1 tsp flour (omit if on SCD)
- 1 tsp dried oregano, crushed
- 1/4 tsp freshly ground cumin seeds
- Heat oil over med-high heat in dutch oven or large iron skillet. Cook stew meat in oil until browned and then add water. Cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour.
- While meat is simmering, make the chile paste. Place the chile peppers in a medium saucepan and add enough water to completely cover them. Bring to a boil and then remove the pan from the heat. Let the chile peppers stand uncovered until softened, about an hour.
- Drain the chiles, saving the chile water for later. Discard the stems and seeds. Place chiles, 1 cup of the chile water, garlic, red wine vinegar and salt in a blender or food processor and blend on high until it is a smooth puree. You can add more chile water or some broth from the stew meat if the chile paste seems to need more liquid.
- Add pureed chiles to the stew meat and broth. Some people will strain this over a sieve to collect all the skin and any remaining seeds. Straining is optional. I just pulled out any of the skins that were not pureed to a paste.
- In a medium skillet, saute the onion in the oil until tender and translucent, but not brown. (* add flour at this point if you are using it) Add oregano and ground cumin to onion mixture and cook for about 1 minute. Add onion and spice mixture to the beef-chile pot, cover and simmer 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Taste and add more salt if needed.
For a really nice pictorial step-by-step on making the Chile Colorado sauce click here: