By Christie Vanover | Published August 24, 2022 | Last Updated August 29, 2022
What is a hatch pepper
For more than 100 years, the people of Hatch, New Mexico, have grown batches upon batches of long, green chile peppers that are harvested in the late summer.
These chiles have earned the town of Hatch the title of “The Chile Capital of the World.”
The Hatch Valley of New Mexico extends from the Caballo Dam along the Rio Grande about 40 miles south to just north of the Leesburg Dam in Doña Ana County, which is just north of Las Cruces and the Mexican border.
The growing conditions in the Hatch Valley are unlike any other on Earth, because of the nutrient-rich soil and climate. During the day, the crops are exposed to intense sunlight. Then they are relieved by cool nights.
The peppers are similar to the more commonly found Anaheim pepper, but they have a slightly higher heat level. Hatch peppers heat level ranges from 500 up to 10,000 Scoville units.
By comparison, Anaheim peppers, which grow in Southern California, have a heat range from 500 to 2,500 units. So in theory, you may find a hatch chile that has the same spice as an Anaheim, but you can also find some that are much spicier.
Most of the hatch chiles in the market are on the lower to medium heat of the Scoville scale, maxing around 3,500 units.
How to pick a mild hatch chile vs a spicy one
June Rutherford, a Hatch native and pepper farmer who is featured in the above video, shares a couple pointers for how to identify which hatch chiles may be more spicy.
“A hot chile usually has that point,” she said referring to the curved tip of the pepper. “People think it’s the seed. Uh uh. It’s that vein that’s hot…When it’s got an orange vein, it’s hotter than the devil.”
The heat range also varies depending on how much rain the valley saw. If it was a dry year, the crop is usually hotter.
Personally, I like an occasional hot chile, so when selecting my chiles, I choose one spicy one for every few mild ones.
Ingredients for roasted hatch chiles
With this recipe, the ingredients are quite simple. You just need the peppers. No oil. No salt. Just pure chile.
Substitutions: Hatch peppers are most commonly available in the fall and more common on the west coast. If you can’t find them near you, you can use Anaheim peppers.
Grilling and fire roasting hatch peppers
While you can eat chiles in their raw state, grilling and fire roasting them brings out their natural sweetness.
You can use any heat source from a gas grill, charcoal grill, pellet grill or campfire. You can even roast them indoors over a gas burner on your stove or under the broiler in your oven.
Heat your fire source to high heat and place the fresh chile peppers over the fire. In 2-3 minutes, you will start to smell the essence of chile in the air.
Take a peek, if they are nice and charred. Give them a flip and cook them for 2-3 minutes on the other side.
You’ll scrape off the char, so don’t worry about it getting too black.
Because of their curvy shape, some portions will char before others, but as the peppers soften, more area will become exposed to the heat and they’ll grill more evenly. You may want to flip them a couple of times.
You’ll know they’re ready when they feel soft when you squeeze them with your tongs.
What to do after they’re grilled
As soon as the peppers are ready, remove them from the grill and either place them on a pan covered with plastic wrap or in a plastic bag.
During this stage, you’ll be steaming the chiles. This makes removing the thick skin super easy.
After about 5 minutes, take the edge of your knife at about a 45-degree angle and scrape the skins, being careful not to cut into the flesh.
Next, you’ll want to slice off the stem and then run a slit down the pepper to open it up.
Placing your knife at another 45-degree angle, scrape out the seeds. You may also want to remove the membrane, if you prefer milder heat.
Now your peppers are ready. You can keep them whole to make chile rellenos, slice them into strips or dice them. They can also go into the blender for green chile salsa (chile verde).
You can store the roasted peppers in an air-tight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
Because hatch chile season has such a short window and they’re only available for a limited time, I like to roast a bunch and freeze them in small 1/4-cup to 1/2-cup batches. If you vacuum seal them, they’ll last for a year.
Once you’re ready to cook with them, let them thaw and mix them into your favorite recipe. They can be used in place of any type of pepper.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Fresh hatch chiles are pretty common in local grocery stores in the American Southwest in the late summer months and early fall. It’s a fairly short season. The New Mexico chiles are a little more challenging to find in other U.S. regions. Fortunately, there are places like the Hatch Chile Store where you can buy them online.
The Scoville heat units on a hatch chile ranges from 500-10,000, but most are below 3,500, which is similar to an Anaheim pepper.
When the chiles are allowed to ripen longer on the vine, they turn red. The red chiles are more mild and are often sun-dried and used to make sauces and powder.
It takes 6 average size hatch peppers to yield one cup of roasted diced peppers.
Every year around Labor Day the farmers of Southern New Mexico celebrate the harvest with the Hatch Chile Festival. There is a parade, carnival, vendors, entertainment and of course chile eating. It’s been known to draw 30,000 people.
Roasted Hatch Peppers
- 6 fresh hatch chile peppers
- Prep: Wash your fresh peppers and pat them dry.
- Roast: Heat your grill to high or 450F degrees.
- Char: Roast the peppers for 2-3 minutes per side until charred and the pepper is soft when squeezed with a pair of tongs.
- Steam: Place the peppers on a plan or plate and cover with plastic wrap. Or place them in a plastic bag. Let them steam for 5 minutes.
- Clean: Place your knife at a 45-degree angle and glide it along the pepper to scrape off the skin. Remove the stem. Then, slice the pepper down the center and remove the seeds (see photos above.)
- Use: Now your peppers can be used whole or diced for your favorite recipes.