If you have ever traveled to New Mexico, you will see that the style of cooking is dominated by the use of red and green chiles. In fact, the standard question in any kitchen in New Mexico is “red or green?” Your preference will really depend on how hot you want your food and what type of dish you are preparing or eating. What are the main differences between these two staples of southwest cuisine, and how are they used to create a culinary work of art? Let’s take a look.
The red chile is one of the most popular ingredients in New Mexican or southwest cuisine. Generally, the peppers are ripened until they turn red and then are hung up to dry. Red chiles can be ground down into fine powder that is then used for extra spicy flavor in many dishes. These peppers can also be rehydrated for other culinary uses even after they are fully dried out. There are numerous varieties of the red chiles including the guajillo red chile, chipotle red chile, and the chile de arbol, all of which range from medium to very hot when fully ripened.
Unlike red chiles, green chiles are typically used fresh, not dried, and served in a variety of salsas and other delicious meals. They can be chopped and cooked in soups and stews, or eaten fresh on a salad or in a burrito. These peppers can also be roasted with very nice results. You’ll find most varieties are considered relatively mild for a pepper, but there are a few green chiles that are hotter than some red peppers. Green chiles need to be used quickly after picking. They may also be frozen after they are picked, or even pickled.
Which Chile to Choose
There are many varieties of chiles, but in all varieties you will find both green chiles and red chiles. That is simply because a red chile is nothing more than a ripened green chile. Some varieties of chiles are hotter than others, but allowing a green chile to turn red on any variety will produce the hottest result. It takes time to get used to the intensity or heat of each variety of chile pepper, so it’s best to start with a milder chile.
Besides that special ‘kick’ to a dish, both red and green chiles offer a nice supply of nutrients, too. For instance, both contain an amazing amount of vitamin C, with good amounts of vitamin A, vitamin B, and iron, too.
Both red chiles and green chiles can turn an average meal into a culinary adventure. If you’re new to the world of chile peppers, do a little research and explore the differences, but start out slow. Experiment and have fun figuring out your ‘hotness’ level and you will be creating your own southwest signature dishes in no time.