Recipe: Salsa de Chile Colorado (Red Chile Sauce)

This is probably the most versatile version of the red chile sauces. It can be used to make enchiladas rojas (red enchiladas) with any type of filling, from vegetables to seafood to chicken or beef. It is used with cooked pork to make carne con chile coloradoand to season pozole (hominy soup with pork and chicken), menudo (tripe soup), or Northern-style tamales.

We also used it with string beans or potatoes to make simple Lenten or vegetarian dishes. (In that case, the sauce would be cooked with vegetable oil and water instead of lard and chicken stock.)

Don't have a lot of time? Keep the sauce in your fridge and throw it onto veggies or any quick-cooking meat for a fast midweek meal.


6 ounces large semi-hot dried red chiles, such as New Mexico or Anaheim
Hot water
2 teaspoons Mexican oregano 
3 garlic cloves
2 cups water, chicken stock or pork stock
2 tablespoons lard or vegetable oil
l l/2 tablespoons flour
l teaspoon salt or to taste

Heat a heavy skillet or griddle over medium-high heat. Meanwhile, remove stems and seeds from chiles while rinsing under cold running water. Place them on griddle and toast, three or four at a time, just until the aroma is released, about 30 to 60 seconds. Be careful not to burn them. Place the chiles in a bowl and cover with hot water. Let soak until softened, about l0 minutes. Drain chiles and discard liquid.

Place chiles, oregano, 2 garlic cloves, and 2 cups of water or stock in blender and puree until smooth. (Add more stock if mixture turns is too thick for the blender.) With a wooden spoon or pusher, work the puree through a sieve into a bowl, pushing and scraping to get all the solids. You may want to pour in a little more liquid to help rinse the sauce through the sieve.
In heavy medium saucepan, heat lard over medium-high heat until rippling. Add remaining garlic clove and brown in the hot fat, pressing down with the back of a cooking spoon to release the flavor. Remove and discard garlic.

Add flour to hot fat and cook, stirring constantly, until golden. Add the strained chile puree to the pan and reduce the heat to low. It will splatter as you pour it in — be careful. Cook over low heat, stirring often, until raw taste is gone and flavor of chile is mellowed, about l0 minutes.
Yields about 2 cups. Can be stored tightly covered in refrigerator for up to a week or indefinitely in freezer.

VARIATION: My mother has a shortcut version of Salsa de Chile Colorado that I sometimes use, replacing the whole dried chiles with powdered red chile. Not, I beg you, U.S. "chili powder!" Be sure to get pure powdered red chile, available at spice and gourmet stores. Because it is sometimes a little harsh-flavored, she adds vinegar and sugar, which can be omitted or varied to taste. Pour about l cup boiling water over l/2 cup powdered chile; stir in l/4 cup cider vinegar if desired, l teaspoon oregano, salt to taste, l teaspoon sugar if desired, and 2 - 3 crushed garlic cloves. Let sit a few minutes to blend flavors. My mother sprinkled l tablespoon chile seeds on top.