If there is such a thing as Mexican soul food, this is it – carne con chile colorado, literally “meat with red-colored chile sauce.” For this year’s Cinco de Mayo celebration, honor the true spirit of Mexican cuisine by making this flavorful and well-loved dish.
It’s easy to see where this dish gets its name – from the deep, reddish-brown color imparted by the flavorful dried chiles that are it’s most important ingredients. Dried ancho chile peppers are commonly used in this dish, and they impart a complex, almost chocolatey flavor that is out of this world. Other dried chiles, like guajillos, New Mexicos or even chipotles, can be used to add subtle nuances of flavor. It’s entirely up to you.
As with many traditional, home-cooked dishes, there are as many version of “authentic” chile colorado as there are Mexican cooks. Indeed, words like “authentic,” “traditional” and “real” are often used (and overused) to lend an authoritative ring to dubious recipes. Our version of the classic recipe stays true to the ingredients most often used by those who know this dish best: real Mexican cooks who learned to love it – and make it – in the cocinas (kitchens) of their mothers and grandmothers. Instead of using prepared “chili powder” (the spelling alone is a dead giveaway), we have used simple, raw ingredients like dried chiles and whole cumin seed to give that special Mexican flavor and mouthwatering aroma that can’t be faked.
While some people insist that “real” chile colorado can only be made with beef, that just isn’t the case. Pork, veal and even venison are all excellent candidates for this style of preparation. There are a few necessary steps involved in preparing this dish, but it’s not particularly difficult (although it can get messy). And when prepared properly, chile colorado is incredibly rich, savory and dense with complex flavors, evoking notes of chocolate, spice and smoke – full of the essence of real Mexican home cooking.
Our recommendation: even if you’re a novice at preparing Mexican food, try making this yourself. If you’ve never had home-cooked chile colorado before, one taste will change the way you think about Mexican food forever.
Pork Chile Colorado
- 2 ½ to 3 lb of pork butt or shoulder, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 4 oz dried ancho chile peppers
- 3 oz dried New Mexico or guajillo chile peppers
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 1 ½ Tbsp freshly toasted & ground cumin
- 2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 1 Tbsp dried oregano or 2 Tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
- 2 Tbsp salt, or to taste
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 Tbsp raw cane sugar (optional)
Using gloves and a pair of kitchen scissors, cut apart the dried chiles and remove the stems, seeds and veins. Cut the cleaned chiles into 2 inch sections and put them in a heat-proof bowl or large measuring cup. Pour boiling water over them, sufficient to completely cover them. Set aside and let stand for 45 minutes or until the chiles are very soft and pliable, stirring from time to time.
Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Add the pork and turn to brown on all sides. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add the garlic and onions to the pork. Cook for 3 – 4 minutes, then add the the cumin, black pepper and about 2 teaspoons of salt. Stir well and continue to cook.
Drain the soaking peppers, discardng the liquid (it can be bitter). Transfer the chiles to a blender and add about 2 cups of stock. Puree on high until very smooth. Strain the chile sauce through a fine mesh wire strainer, pressing with the back of a ladle to extract all the softened chile puree. The resulting mixture should be fairly thick, about the consistency of tomato sauce.
Measure out 2 cups of the chile puree and add 2 more cups of stock. Reserve the extra chile puree, if any, for other uses. Add the chile/stock mixture to the pork and stir well to combine. Simmer for a few minutes, then taste for seasoning, adding salt as needed and the sugar, if desired. Reduce the heat to very low and cook for 1 ½ to 2 hours. Check every 30 minutes or so, adding more stock if necessary.
Serve with warm flour tortillas or grilled flat bread, and plenty of lime wedges to squeeze over the top.
Many of the ingredients used in this recipe, and other recipes on the Earthy Delights Blog, can be purchased online at our retail website, Earthy.com. We welcome you to visit the Earthy.com website to view our extensive selection of hard-to-find ingredients and our complete Recipe Collection of over 500 tested recipes.
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