Chile Colorado is a soul-warming, flavorful, and hearty Mexican stew made with chunks of beef simmered in a warming red chili sauce made from onions, garlic, and dried red chilies. So cozy!

Chile Colorado with rice on plate with flour tortillas

Hearty, warm, and perfect for when you’re looking for a cozy meal. Chili Colorado isn’t what it seems at first glance. As in, it’s not a chili recipe from Colorado!

The word ‘Colorado’ refers to scarlet or the red color of sandstones. This is a traditional Mexican dish from the Northern part of Mexico. Chile Colorado gets its signature color by using dried chilies that are common in authentic Mexican cuisine (such as chili de Arbol, ancho, and guajillo peppers.)  It’s the most flavorful stew that’s ideal to serve with fresh homemade tortillas and fluffy rice. You could even use the meat to make tacos!

stew with meat chunks on plate

Ingredients for Chile Colorado:

  • Dried Chile peppers: You’ll need a good variety of dried chiles for this recipe. I use chili de Arbol, ancho chiles, and guajillo chiles for this recipe. Ancho chiles are also sometimes referred to as pasilla chiles though they aren’t exactly the same thing, they can be used interchangeably in this recipe. The trick to developing the best flavor for the red chile sauce that the meat will simmer in is to dry roast the chiles before blending.
  • Roma tomatoes: When I was developing this recipe, I did a lot of research on whether tomatoes are authentic to Chile Colorado. I’ll tell you this much – there are a lot of opinions on this! Personally, I preferred my chile recipe with the tomatoes, however, you can simply omit them if you’d like.
  • Chicken stock: We’ll use the chicken stock to blend the peppers and tomatoes before adding it to the stew.
  • Oil: We’ll use the oil to saute the stew meat and then the aromatics. 
  • Flour: We’ll coat the beef in flour before searing it in a hot cast iron dutch oven pot.
  • Beef: You can use a few different things for this recipe. The first is a chuck roast that you can cut down into 1 ½ inch pieces. The other is stew meat from the grocery store. I prefer to buy leaner stew meat from the grocery store so that you don’t have to skim the stew after it’s done cooking.
  • White onions: I like to use white onions for this recipe, but yellow onions will also work if you happen to have those on hand.
  • Garlic: You’ll need a handful of garlic cloves for this recipe. I use a good 12 cloves. It might seem like a lot, but you won’t be able to single out the garlic flavor in this recipe. However, the flavors work beautifully with all the other ingredients we’re using to make this stew.
  • Seasonings: You’ll need a variety of dried herbs for this recipe. I use bay leaf, Mexican oregano, ground cumin, ground coriander, and Mexican cinnamon. I haven’t bee able to find ground Mexican cinnamon in my area, so I usually use a small piece and crush it to make a powder in my cast iron spice grinder. It does the job beautifully!
cast iron pan with steps on how to make Chile Colorado

How to make Chile Colorado:

  1. Toast the chiles. I highly suggest wearing food handling gloves for this part. Start by cutting the stems of the chilies off. Then cut a slit down the pepper and remove all the ribs and seeds. These carry a lot of heat and you don’t need them for this recipe. Toast the chilies in a dry (preferably cast iron) skillet over medium heat until smoky and fragrant. This will take about 3-5 minutes. While the chilies are cooking, heat 2 cups of broth in a small bowl in the microwave or in a saucepan on the stove. Add the chiles to the stock and cover the bowl (or saucepan.) Then char the tomatoes in the same dry skillet until the skin is blistered evenly on all sides. Transfer the tomatoes to the same bowl or sauce pan and allow the tomatoes to soften. While they’re hanging out, you can move to the next step and brown the meat. Then, toss the peppers, tomatoes, and broth into a blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Season and sear. Sprinkle the chunks of meat with kosher salt, pepper, and flour. Add a glug of oil to a hot dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Sear the meat in batches so that it browns on all sides. Then remove the meat to a plate and continue searing any remaining meat the same way.
  3. Saute the aromatics. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the pan and cook the onions and garlic until the onions are tender and translucent. Then season with the bay leaves, oregano, ground cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. Adding the spices to the oil allows the flavors to bloom. Add the meat back to the pan along with any juices that may have collected on the plate. Add the remaining cup of broth and stir to combine.
  4. Simmer the stew. Add the blended Chile mixture to the dutch oven. You can pour it through a fine mesh strainer if you want the chili to be smooth. I typically skip this step because my high powder blender usually does the job! Stir the stew to combine. Kick the heat up to medium-high and allow the chili to gain a simmer. Then lower the heat and let it simmer slightly covered until the meat is tender and cooked through. Once the Chile is done, you can simmer it uncovered for a few minutes to thicken it to your liking. You can also allow the stew to braise in the oven. Taste and adjust with salt as desired. I like to serve this chili with fluffy rice, freshly made flour tortillas, and fresh cilantro and lime wedges on the side.
Mexican stew in bowl with spoon

FAQs about Chile Colorado:

  1. Can I make this recipe in the slow cooker instead of stove top? Yes, the recipe will work just fine in the slow cooker. I do however suggest searing the meat and sautéing the onions, garlic, and spices before transferring the stew to a slow cooker. You’ll need to cook it on low for 6-8 hours or 3-4 hours on high. Be sure to test the meat. You’ll know the stew is done when a paring knife should go through the meat without any resistance.
  2. How do you suggest serving this stew? You can serve it with white rice or cooked Mexican rice. You can also serve the chili in bowls with flour tortillas on the side. I slightly prefer the stew with tortillas over rice.
  3. How long do leftovers last? You can keep leftover Chile Colorado in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Like most chili recipes, this one tastes even better the next day. So if you’re serving this for a big group, I highly encourage you to make it the day before! Leftovers can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.
  4. Does the stew thicken as it sits? Yes, the stew with continue to thicken as it sits. If you’re serving this the next day, you may need a splash of broth or stock to help thin the chili back to it’s original consistency.

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stew in plate with rice and tortillas
Yield: 6-8 servings

Chile Colorado

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 3 hours 15 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 25 minutes

Chile Colorado is a soul-warming, flavorful, and hearty Mexican stew made with chunks of beef simmered in a warming red chili sauce made from onions, garlic, and dried red chilies. So cozy!

Chile Colorado

Ingredients

  • 1-5 dried chili de Arbol (these have heat)
  • 2 dried ancho chiles (or pasilla)
  • 6 dried guajillo chiles
  • 2 small Roma tomatoes
  • 3 cups low sodium chicken stock (or beef stock)
  • 3 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 2 pound chuck roast cut into 1 ½ inch pieces (or stew meat)
  • 1 ¼ cups white onion, chopped
  • 12 cloves garlic
  • 2 teaspoons Mexican oregano
  • 1 teaspoon EACH: ground cumin AND coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon Mexican cinnamon
  • 4 bay leaves
  • Cooked Rice + Flour Tortillas, for serving

Instructions

    1. TOAST: Cut the tops of the chilies remove all the seeds and ribs and discard. Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium heat and dry toast the chilies until smoky and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes. While the chilies are cooking, warm 2 cups of stock in a bowl or on the stove in a saucepan until hot, add the chilies to the stock, and cover the bowl/saucepan. Allow the chilies to hang out for 15-20 minutes and soften while you sear tomatoes and the meat. While the chilies are hanging out in broth, roast the tomato in the dry skillet over medium-high heat until slightly charred on all sides. Transfer tomatoes to the same bowl or saucepan and cover. Then, toss the peppers and tomatoes into a blender and blend until smooth.
    2. SEASON AND SEAR: Sprinkle the flour over the meat and season generously with salt and pepper. Add a tablespoon of oil to a 6 quart dutch oven and sear the meat in two batches so that it browns on all sides. Remove the meat to a plate and continue cooking the rest the same way with another tablespoon of oil if needed.
    3. SAUTE: When the meat is browned, add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil to the pan and saute the onions and garlic until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add the bay leaves, oregano, ground cumin, coriander, and cinnamon. Continue to stir and allow the spices to bloom for another 1-2 minutes. Then, add the meat back to the pan along with any juices that may have accumulated in the bowl. Add the remaining cup of stock.
    4. SIMMER: Add the blended chili mixture from earlier to the dutch oven. You may want to pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer if you don’t have a high power blender. Then and stir combine. Kick the heat up to medium-high and allow the chili to gain a simmer. Then, lower the heat to just above low and allow it to simmer slightly covered on the stove for 2 ¼ hours, stirring every 30 minutes and more frequently towards the end. You can also braise this in the oven at 375ºF For 2 ½ hours (stirring every 30-45 minutes.) If the stew is thinner than you'd like, simmer it uncovered until it reaches your desired consistency. Serve with warm rice and flour tortillas. Leftovers taste even better!

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