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Chile Colorado is a rich beef or pork stew with a delicious red chile sauce. Make this hearty stew recipe for a flavorful Tex Mex meal.
It doesn’t matter whether there’s warm or cold weather where you live, chili colorado with potatoes will hit the spot! This is comfort food at its finest, and it’s a stew recipe that doesn’t take all day to make either.
Chili vs. Chile Colorado
Nearly everyone has enjoyed a bowl (or several) of classic Texas or Tex Mex chili before. Traditionally, it’s ground beef or pieces of sirloin with onions, tomatoes and chili seasoning, cooked in a thin tomato-based broth, with or without beans. Although delicious, even the most authentic chili recipe doesn’t compare to the flavor of chile colorado.
While the name may have you thinking the dish comes from the state of Colorado, it’s actually a Mexican stew recipe that worked its way up into Texas and southwestern states. The Spanish word colorado means “red” or “colored red”. The dish is named for the base of the stew, a deep red chile sauce.
- Meat- While the dish can be made with pieces of beef sirloin or pork shoulder, the pork version is my personal favorite.
- No beans or tomatoes– An authentic chili colorado recipe won’t call for any tomatoes or beans, which is nice for those who have trouble digesting them.
So if there are no tomatoes in chili colorado, where does the deep, rich red color come from? The answer is, pureed red chiles. It’s all about the red chile sauce!
- Mexican oregano– Besides the wonderful flavor from the chiles, the kicker for me is the use of Mexican oregano. It’s a different flavor from the typical Mediterranean oregano you get in the spice aisle in your local market. It has a stronger aroma and the flavor is very different, with notes of citrus and mild licorice.
- Optional Ingredient – Potatoes– Because I like potatoes in stew, my chile colorado recipe calls for small white potatoes, but feel free to omit them if you want a traditional version.
Red Chile Sauce
There are three types of dried chiles needed for the sauce; ancho, pasilla and guajillo.
- Ancho chiles are the dried version of fresh poblano peppers.
- Pasilla chiles are the dried form of fresh chilaca chiles. Sometimes, pasillas are labeled as chile negro.
- Guajillo chiles are the dried version of fresh mirasol chiles. This one really bumps up the red color of the chili.
Shopping for Dried Peppers
When choosing dried peppers from the bin, select the ones that are pliable and soft like a raisin. If the chiles are brittle and chip or break when you bend them, discard and keep looking. They have very little flavor and can ruin a dish.
After soaking the peppers, you’ll puree them with the soaking liquid, chicken stock, garlic, onion, jalapeño and oregano. This is the base sauce for chile colorado.
NOTE: You will probably have extra red chile sauce. If so, store it in a covered container in the refrigerator. You can use it to make carnitas enchiladas, or freeze it for another batch of chili.
Another chile I now use in this is the chimayo chile. I ordered it online and it comes in a powder. A reader named Don clued me in on, big thanks for that! It has a fantastic earthy, sweet flavor and is a staple in this now. I’ve updated the recipe to include this.
Chili Colorado Recipe Video
To see how easy this stew is to make, just watch the video in the recipe card at the bottom of this post!
What to serve with chile colorado
Serve your chili with warm, fresh tortillas that you char over an open flame for that extra bit of flavor. I either use the grill when it’s hot outside, or simply grill them over the open flame on a gas stove top burner.
This post, originally published on Kevin Is Cooking in January 2016, was updated and last republished in August 2021.
- 2.5 lbs pork shoulder cubed
- 6 dried guajillo chiles
- 2 dried ancho chiles
- 2 dried pasilla (negro) chiles
- 6 cups chicken stock divided
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 onion peeled and quartered
- 1 jalapeño stem removed
- 1 tbsp chimayo chili powder (See Note 1)
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 tsp Mexican oregano or regular oregano, See Note 2
- 1 tsp cayenne optional, for more heat
- 2 tsp kosher salt
- 1 tsp black pepper
- 2 tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 cups quartered small white potatoes optional
- Cut the pork shoulder into 1-inch cubes, season with the kosher salt and pepper. Set aside.
- Remove the stems (and seeds if you want it milder in heat), from the anchos, pasillas, and guajillos. Cover chiles with 1 cup boiling water and let them steam for about 30 minutes until they are tender.
- Put the chiles, soaking liquid and 2 cups of the chicken stock, garlic, onion, jalapeño, chimayo chili powder, cumin and Mexican oregano (cayenne is optional for more heat) into a blender and purée until smooth. Set aside.
- Brown the pork in a large, stock pot over medium heat with oil.
- Add 4 cups of chicken stock and simmer on low covered for one hour. Stir in the potatoes (optional) and chile purée. Simmer uncovered for another 45 minutes or until the meat is tender and the sauce is a thick, deep red color. Season with additional salt if needed. Serve with warm tortillas.
- This is a bright red, sweet and earthy flavored New Mexico chile, and worth trying to find or order online. Otherwise, substitute your favorite chili powder or make my recipe for homemade chili powder.
- Mexican oregano has notes of mild licorice and citrus. Mediterranean oregano is a member of the mint family and most often is used in Greek and Italian recipes. Mediterranean oregano is the one most found in spice racks and supermarkets.
The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.