5 Things You Need to Know About Hatch Chiles

New Mexico's Hatch chile adds a balanced, smoky heat to both savory and sweet dishes.

If you've spent any time in the American Southwest, especially during the fall, you've undoubtedly come across Hatch green chiles. The famous pepper, which is similar to the more common Anaheim chile, is specific to the Hatch Valley in southern New Mexico and possesses a rampant fan base throughout the state, as well as in Texas and Southern California.

However, if you aren't from that neck of the woods, you might not be familiar with this regional treasure that continues to grow in popularity each year. Nate Cotanch and chef Aneesha Hargrave from Zia Green Chile Company.

Hatch Chiles
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Hatch chiles only come from Hatch, New Mexico ...

While Hatch chiles don't adhere to quite the same rigorous location requirements as, say, Champagne or Parmesan cheese, Cotanch believes that the Hatch Valley is really the only place you should source the chiles. "All of our chiles come from the Hatch Valley, which we believe has the best terroir in the entire world for these particular chiles," he says. "I like to think that the Hatch Valley is to chile peppers what the Napa Valley is to grapes."

... But you don't have to live in the Southwest to get them.

While nothing beats visiting New Mexico for the annual Hatch Chile Festival, you can still get Hatch chiles sent directly to your door, regardless of where you live. During harvest season, you can buy fresh chiles from the Zia Green Chile Company, and in the meantime, they offer a number of jarred versions of both red and green varieties as well. If you're looking for dried or whole frozen chiles, those are available through other purveyors.

Hatch chiles are a super versatile ingredient.

"The big thing about Hatch chiles is their overall versatility since you can use them in basically any dish," says Cotanch. "They're great for stews, sautés, sauces, and dips like queso, hummus, or salsa. They're also perfect for topping a burger or pizza. Growing up, we even put them in our apple pie at Thanksgiving. The way that the sweetness of the apples mixes with the flavorful smokiness of the spiced chiles works really well."

Hatch chiles come in several varieties.

While green and red Hatch chiles are really just the same pepper picked at different times, they do each offer distinct flavors. "When picked early and then roasted, Hatch green chiles have a very smoky, upfront flavor," explains Cotanch. "Then as the chiles mature and turn red, they develop a slightly sweeter flavor profile and a more earthy underlying taste."

Hatch chiles offer an ideal balance of heat and sweetness.

According to Cotanch, Hatch chiles' popularity stems from their flavor more than their spiciness. However, regardless of how much heat you're hungry for, there's a variety of Hatch that's perfect for you. Hatch chiles range in heat level from mild – for those seeking just the smoky flavor – to extra hot, which rivals the New Mexico sun on the Scoville scale (we assume).

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