Things You Probably Don’t Know About Hatch Chiles!

Things You Probably Don’t Know About Hatch Chiles!

Hatch chiles are a popular type of green chile pepper grown in the Hatch Valley region of New Mexico. They have become famous for their delicious flavor and medium-hot heat level. Hatch chiles are used widely in New Mexico food and Southwest cooking. The Hatch Valley is an agricultural area located along the Rio Grande River in southwestern New Mexico. The valley’s days are hot and the nights are cool during the Chile growing season. This gives Hatch chiles their crisp texture and sweet flavor. The chiles grow well in the valley’s soil and get their name from the small town of Hatch, New Mexico.

When Are Hatch Chiles in Season?

Hatch chiles have a short harvest season that runs from mid-August through early September. This is when fresh green Hatch chiles are plentiful in New Mexico and neighboring states like Arizona. You know what? The peak of the Hatch chile harvest is late August.

As a warm-season crop, Hatch chiles can only be grown at certain times of the year when nighttime temperatures stay above 55° F. The seeds are planted in March and April. The chile plants grow through the hot summer months in the Hatch Valley. Then they produce mature green chile peppers during August and September. Once picked, New Mexico green chiles have a short shelf life of just a few days before they lose their crunchy texture and robust flavor. So Hatch chiles are quickly roasted, peeled, chopped, and frozen to preserve them for the whole year. Hatch Chile lovers also look forward to the late summer harvest when the fresh Hatch peppers are at their best.

How Hot Are Hatch Chiles?

Not all Hatch chiles are spicy hot. They range from sweet and mild to flaming hot. Most popular Hatch varieties have a nice medium heat that adds a tasty kick but does not completely overwhelm your mouth with fire. The heat level of Hatch chiles is measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs) which gauge the concentration of capsaicin compounds that give chiles their spicy heat sensation. Bell peppers rank at zero SHUs with no heat while habanero peppers can hit 200,000 to 300,000 SHUs of extreme, almost blistering heat. Red chiles are comfortably in the middle:

  • Mild Hatch Chiles = 1,000 to 1,500 SHUs
  • Hot Hatch Chiles = 5,000 to 10,000 SHUs

Within each heat level, individual Hatch peppers can vary quite a bit. So you may come across a surprisingly fiery one even labeled as mild. Similarly, others seem sweeter and more tame than expected based on their stated heat level. Trial and error while cooking is part of the fun with Hatch chiles!

Popular Varieties of Hatch Chiles

There are over 30 named varieties of Hatch chiles bred for different levels of green chile heat and flavors. Ask for these popular kinds by name at your local supermarket or farmers market in the late summer:

  • New Mexico No. 9: As a hybrid Hatch-Anaheim pepper cross with high yields, this is the most common Hatch variety making up over 70% of the commercial harvest in New Mexico. It has a nice balance between Hatch chile flavor and medium spiciness averaging 1,500 to 2,500 Scoville units. However, this is a great all-around Hatch pepper.
  • Sandia: This classic New Mexican Hatch chile has mild heat averaging 1,500 Scoville units. Its crisp flesh and sweet citrusy tones make it very tasty to eat fresh when roasted or stuffed with cheese. The Sandia is longer than most Hatch varieties which also calls for it to be fire-roasted on a rotisserie spit.
  • Chimayo: Named after a tiny Hispanic village outside of Santa Fe, this mildly hot Hatch pepper runs 500 to 1,500 Scoville units. Its thinner flesh roasts quickly with smoky-sweet flavors.
  • Espanola Improved: As a generalization, northern Hatch varieties like the Española tend to run hotter. It averages 5,000 to 7,500 Scoville units of spicy heat. This makes it a nicely pungent green chile.
  • Big Jim: One of the largest varieties in size, the Big Jim has very mild chile flavors around 500 to 1,000 Scoville units along with good meaty flesh. Further, it is a stuffing pepper often roasted for chili rellenos.
  • Joe E. Parker: This extra hot Hatch pepper was named after a local sheriff. It normally reaches 7,000 to 10,000 Scoville units for fans who like it hot.

How to Roast Hatch Chiles?

Fire roasting is a classic technique used to prepare fresh green Hatch chiles. The high heat blisters their skin while imparting a wonderful smoky essence too. Roasted chiles are easier to peel and chop. Their natural sugars also caramelize over the flames bringing a sweetness that balances out some heat.

There are a few ways to roast them:

  • Grill over an open gas flame, regularly turning with tongs until evenly blackened.
  • Roast under an oven broiler for 6 to 8 minutes per side.
  • Fry in hot oil in a skillet, turning frequently until darkened all over.

The skins will wrinkle and begin separating once fully roasted. Place the cooked peppers in a bowl and cover for 5 minutes so they steam and soften further. Gently rub off skins by hand and remove stems before chopping or stuffing. Be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from capsaicin oils. You can also add roasted peppers to a paper or plastic bag to let them sweat off skins.


Hatch chiles are a versatile and flavorful ingredient in Southwestern cuisine, ranging from mild to hot varieties. Roasting them brings out their smoky essence, making them a delicious addition to Southwestern dishes. MADE IN NEW MEXICO proudly offers the pinnacle of New Mexican food, featuring the finest green and red chile varieties. Experience the vibrant flavors and unmatched quality that define the heart and soul of New Mexico with us!


Can you freeze roasted Hatch chilies?

Yes, roasted Hatch chilies can be frozen for later use. After roasting and peeling, allow the chilies to cool before transferring them to freezer-safe containers or bags. They can be stored in the freezer for several months.

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