In Maine, it’s buttery lobster. In Kansas City, it’s saucy barbeque. In Big Sky Country, it’s sweet huckleberries. And when you visit the Land of Enchantment, the dishes are full of flavorful chiles. From burgers to sushi and wine to dessert, these are the best things to eat along the Green Chile Trail in Southern New Mexico.
I paid full price for all of my delicious New Mexico Green Chile Trail experiences like green chile cheeseburgers, green chile wine, and green chile custard sundaes. But you can count on me to always share my honest opinions, regardless of who picks up the tab.
Although spicy peppers have been grown in New Mexico for centuries, it wasn’t until the early 1900s that Mexican-born horticulturist and chile pepper pioneer Fabian Garcia perfected the variety that would become the green standard, the New Mexican. So before you dip another crispy tortilla chip into a bowl of salsa or bite into your next folded taco, be sure to give a shout out to the man known as the Father of the Mexican Food Industry of the United States.
Sage Advice: New Mexico is the only state with an official state question. So as you make your way along the Green Chile Trail, expect to be asked “Red or green?” as your waiter determines your chile preference.
Sparky’s - Green Chile Cheeseburger
115 Franklin St, Hatch
Although the majority of delicious dishes on this list are from restaurants in Las Cruces, I think it’s important to start your green chile culinary adventures in the little town of Hatch, New Mexico. Located about 40 miles northwest of Las Cruces, Hatch is known as the Chile Capital of the World and the Napa Valley of Green Chile. When you exit I-25 and head south on Franklin St, it’s impossible to miss Sparky’s near the intersection of Hall St, but you’ll know you’ve arrived when you see a two-story red, white, and blue bedecked Uncle Sam holding a giant green chile in his left hand.
While there are plenty of fascinating memorabilia to admire both inside and outside Sparky’s, you’ll find even more quirky eye candy across Franklin St. including Yogi Bear, a pink pig, a bucket of Kentucky Fried Chicken, and an alien. Because no city in New Mexico — even one with 2,000 residents — is complete without androgynous green people with buggy cat eyes.
Back to the other green item for which New Mexico is famous…
On your first visit to Sparky’s, I recommend the World Famous or the Almost Famous. Both are juicy green chile cheeseburgers served with a side and drink. The difference is that the Almost Famous is a four-ounce patty for up-and-coming superstars who are watching their waistlines. And the World Famous is more of an Elvis in the late 1960s option. On subsequent visits, you can venture away from the tried and true by adding a pile of smoked pulled pork to your green chile cheeseburger (AKA The Oinker) or doubling down with The Double, two Hatch green chile cheeseburgers sharing a single bun.
Sage Advice: Before you return to the Green Chile Trail, stop at one of the shops to purchase green chile products or a decorative chile ristra to hang at home for good luck.
Back in Las Cruces and the neighboring town of Mesilla, the rest of the recommended dishes on New Mexico’s Green Chile Trail are listed in general order of the day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, cocktails, and dessert.
Sage Advice: As soon as you enter New Mexico, you’ll find green chiles on the menu at just about any restaurant, including fast food joints like McDonald’s and Chick-fil-A.
La Nueva Casita Cafe - Chile Relleno Omelette
195 N Mesquite St, Las Cruces
In a landmark cantina along the famed El Camino Real in the heart of Las Cruces’s historic Mesquite District, the chile relleno omelette at La Nueva Casita Cafe pairs two flavors that were meant to be together, like mashed potatoes and gravy, macaroni and cheese, or peanut butter and jelly. The three-egg omelette is stuffed with green chiles and then served what I call enchilada-style, smothered in your choice of red or green chile sauce and topped with melted cheese.
The Shed - Huevos Rancheros
810 S Valley Dr, Las Cruces
From ground beef tacos topped with shredded cheddar cheese to flour tortilla-filled enchiladas, many classic Mexican dishes actually originated north of the Rio Grande. But huevos rancheros is a hearty authentic Mexican breakfast dish made best along the Green Chile Trail by the folks at The Shed. Enjoy two cooked-to-order eggs layered on fresh corn tortillas and topped with cheese and your answer to the New Mexico state question — red or green chile. It’s served with a side of pinto beans or home fries and an additional carb — either a folded flour tortilla or crispy toast — to help you leave your plate spotless. I always opt for the tortilla to mop up every last bit of yolk from my over-easy eggs, but the freshly baked green chile cheddar bread is a popular option with die-hard green chile fans.
Sage Advice: The Shed offers a mild green chile option, something that makes this gringa very happy!
Spotted Dog Brewery - Green Chile Philly
2920 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces
While plenty of people love green peppers, I think they taste like dirt. So the green chile Philly-style sammy at Spotted Dog Brewery is a favorite dish along the Green Chile Trail. The folks at this local brew pub layer shaved beef seared with Hatch green chile into a crisp roll, top it with cheddar jack, and pair it with a heaping serving of beer-battered fries. Try it with a glass of their hefeweizen!
Sage Advice: Green chile-loving vegetarians will enjoy the Mesilla black bean burger at Spotted Dog Brewery. The black bean patty is topped with Hatch green chile and cheddar jack cheese and served on a toasted bun.
Related Article: Why the “Chile Capital of the World” License Plate Makes Me Spicy
Double Eagle Restaurant - Chicken Mesilla
2355 Calle de Guadalupe, Mesilla
Although it’s now hard to tell where Las Cruces ends and Mesilla ends, that wasn’t always the case. Two centuries ago, when stagecoaches raced tumbleweeds across the desert and Billy the Kid roamed these parts, Mesilla was one of the most important cities in the region. And the next stop on the Green Chile Trail is the oldest building in Mesilla. Whether you dine on a crisp, white, linen tablecloth beneath crystal chandeliers in one of the dining rooms or outside in the sunny courtyard, I highly recommend the Double Eagle house specialty, chicken Mesilla. This 10-ounce, bone-in chicken breast with sweet onions, roasted “Big Jim” green chile, and Monterey Jack is served with potatoes mashed with guacamole chile con queso.
For more chile goodness, select the green chile cheese wontons or red chile escargots as an appetizer.
Sage Advice: While it’s not a restaurant, Heart of the Desert is just across the Mesilla Plaza from the Double Eagle Restaurant. Swing by to purchase green chile pistachios, green chile cornbread, and other tasty food gifts from New Mexico.
Related Article: Can’t Miss Shops in Historic Mesilla, New Mexico
Lorenzo’s Italian Restaurant - Hatch Green Chile Lasagna
1753 E University Ave, Las Cruces
Most lasagna dishes get a little kick from spicy sausage, but in New Mexico, Lorenzo’s uses Hatch green chiles to add some Southwestern flair to this traditional Neapolitan dish. Enjoy fire-roasted Hatch green chiles layered with lasagna noodles, creamy cheese, and Italian beef at this stop along the Green Chile Trail.
Luna Rossa - Messicana Pizza or Panini
1321 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces
Founded in 2001 by Paolo and Sylvia D’Andrea, Luna Rossa is an award-winning winery and pizzeria just a short distance from the historic Mesilla Plaza. Whether you choose pizza or panini, the Messicana features green chiles grown at the family’s farm in Deming paired with prosciutto cotto and tomato sauce using authentic Italian recipes based on Paolo’s childhood in Northern Italy. The mozzarella and pizza dough is made fresh in house daily, and the pizzas are baked in a traditional wood-fired brick oven using pecan tree wood.
Sage Advice: While I have not seen a green chile flavor in the case, the gelato at Luna Rosa is also made in house and is a delicious end to any meal.
Chachi’s Mexican Restaurant - Chile Rellenos
2460 S. Locust St, Las Cruces
While there are many delicious ways to enjoy New Mexico’s flavorful green chiles, a chile relleno is one of my favorites! If you’re not familiar with this authentic Mexican dish that originated in Puebla near Mexico City, it’s a cheese-stuffed, fire-roasted chile pepper that’s battered and fried. While some chile rellenos are served “dry” or with a little melted cheese on top, the chile rellenos at Chachi’s are smothered in creamy green enchilada sauce.
Enjoy two of these delicious stuffed peppers with a side of rice and beans by ordering the chile relleno plate. Or try a single chile relleno by opting for the combination plate or as a side with something else from Chachi’s menu.
Sage Advice: After enjoying the chile rellenos at Chachi’s, be sure to stop by the Chile Pepper Institute on the New Mexico State University campus.
Aqua Reef - Sushi Rolls and Hatch Green Chile Tempura
141 Roadrunner Pkwy, Las Cruces
When you see green chiles on the menu at a sushi restaurant, you know you’re in New Mexico! And that’s exactly what you’ll experience at Aqua Reef. Enjoy several local flavors by ordering the New Mexico pecan green chile roll that features a Hatch green chile stuffed with asadero cheese and breaded with pecan panko crumbs. Or enjoy Hatch green chile in the Aqua Reef roll that also includes tuna and cucumber and is topped with dynamite sauce. The Cancun roll also features a Hatch green chile, which is stuffed with smoked salmon, avocado and cream cheese then battered with tempura and fried.
Sage Advice: If tempura is more your style, you can enjoy lightly battered fried Hatch green chiles at Aqua Reef.
La Posta de Mesilla - Chile ‘Rita
2410 Calle de Sa Albino, Mesilla
Pair any delicious item on the food menu at La Posta with a chile ‘rita as you continue to explore the Green Chile Trail. This exotic, spicy version of the classic cocktail shakes blackberry habanero sauce with lime juice, tequila, and Patron Citronage and pours it over ice into a special hand-blown chile stem glass. Or take your taste buds on a field trip with a margarita mini flight. This margaritas y mas option lets you taste the chile ‘rita plus three more margs: La Patrona, Coco Loco, and Blood Orange “Silver Coin.”
Sage Advice: After enjoying a chile ‘rita and some of the best Mexican food in Las Cruces, stop by the gift shop to purchase a cookbook. For just under $13, this 34-page, softbound book illustrated by Las Cruces artist Carolyn Bunch includes recipes for rolled tacos, chile con carne, tamales, chile rellenos, and more.
DH Lescombes - Hatch Green Chile Wine
1720 Avenida de Mesilla, Las Cruces
Using grapes grown in nearby Deming, where the hot, dry days and cool nights produce fruit similar to the founder’s native Algeria, the Lescombes family uses six generations and three continents of wine-making experience to produce a variety of wines. Although Hatch green chile wine is not offered at the Las Cruces winery and bistro, you can still taste their other offerings and enjoy a delicious dinner with plenty of green chile options.
To purchase a bottle of Lescombes Hatch green chile wine, follow the Green Chile Trail to the nearest Sprout’s, Toucan Market, Walmart, or Albertson’s, or buy it online at HatchChileWines.com.
Sage Advice: Chile wine can be an acquired taste and is often used for cooking rather than sipping. Use the Hatch green chile wine to add some kick to your salad or to liven up a Bloody Mary. If your answer to the New Mexico question is Christmas (which means you’d like both), use the Hatch red chile wine to slow roast pork that’s shredded into tacos, or substitute it for water to make Mexican brownies.
Caliche’s Frozen Custard - The New Mexican Sundae
590 S Valley Dr and 131 N Roadrunner Pkwy, Las Cruces
When creamy vanilla frozen custard is paired with spicy green chiles and salty pecans, you know you’re on the Green Chile Trail. While a frozen custard sundae starring spicy chiles may not sound like your idea of dessert, I say don’t knock it until you try it! I find it to be the perfect blend of sweet and spicy, creamy and salty. After all, Elvis inspired a burger topped with bananas, peanut butter, and bacon, which makes green chiles on frozen custard sound pretty normal to me!
Pro Tip: There’s also a Caliche’s Frozen Custard at 2251 N White Sands Blvd in Alamogordo.
Frequently Asked Questions Along the Green Chile Trail
What state is known for green chile?
Since conquistador Don Juan Oñate brought chiles north of the Rio Grande in the 1600s, the flavorful peppers have been growing in New Mexico. Today there are more than 12,000 acres of chiles planted in the state, and the industry is valued at more than $57 million.
Where is the Chile Capital of the World?
Producing more than 60,000 tons of red and green chiles a year, New Mexico is inextricably linked to the flavorful peppers. And in the southern part of the state, the little town of Hatch is known as the Chile Capital of the World.
What are Hatch green chiles?
Hatch green chiles are New Mexican chiles grown in the Hatch Valley in Southern New Mexico. Although the long, green peppers are related to Anaheim peppers, New Mexican green chiles are a special variety developed by New Mexico State University horticulturist Fabian Garcia in the early 1900s.
What is so special about Hatch green chiles?
According to 505 Southwestern, a New Mexico-based food company that makes a wide range of chile products, the chiles grown in New Mexico’s Hatch Valley are unique for several reasons, including the region’s:
- Fertile volcanic soil,
- High altitude (around 4,000 feet), and
- Hot days and cool nights.
How can I tell if my New Mexican green chiles are authentic?
You can identify your chile’s authenticity in the same way that you distinguish champagne from sparkling wine — by reading the label. Bubbly wine can only be called champagne if it’s produced in Champagne, France, and thanks to a state law passed in 2012, only chiles grown in New Mexico — or more specifically the Hatch Valley — can be labeled as such. Otherwise, they must include a disclaimer that states “not grown in New Mexico.”
Chile, Chili, and Chilli -- What the heck is the difference?
Whether you spell it “chili” or “chile,” the word can refer to either a spicy pepper, powdered spice, or pot of thick soup, so you’ll have to listen to context clues to figure it out. In Spanish-speaking regions, like New Mexico, where nearly 30% of the population speaks Spanish, the preferred spelling is chile. The double “l” spelling is preferred in places where Queen’s English is commonly spoken, like Singapore where chilli crab is a popular dish.
Related Article: How to Speak Yankee – A Guide for People Who Speak Queen’s English
Are Hatch green chiles spicy?
The short answer is that it depends on the variety of green chile. Using Scoville Heat Units (SHU), New Mexican chiles can range from 1,000 SHU to more than 8,000 SHU.
To put this spice scale into context:
- Bell peppers are 0 SHU,
- Pepperoncinis are 100 to 500 SHU
- Poblano peppers are 1,000 to 1,500 SHU
- Jalapeños are 2,500 to 8,000 SHU
- Serrano peppers are 10,000 to 23,000 SHU
- Cayenne peppers are 30,000 to 50,000 SHU
- Habaneros are 100,000 to 350,000 SHU
Big Jim is one of the most popular types of Hatch green chiles. These large pods are often stuffed for chile rellenos and range from 500 to 3,500 SHUs (perfect for a mild green chile-lovin’ gringa like blonde me)!
Where are chiles grown in New Mexico?
While you’re likely to find red and green chiles growing throughout New Mexico, Southern New Mexico is best known as chile country. This area includes Hidalgo, Grant, Catron, Luna, Doña Ana, Sierra, and Socorro counties. Both Las Cruces, the largest city in Southern New Mexico, and Hatch, the Chile Capital of the World, are located in Doña Ana county.
What can I make with Hatch green chiles?
The best stops along the Green Chile Trail include everything from appetizers and drinks to entrees and desserts. And you have the same possibilities when cooking with Hatch green chiles at home!
Here are a few recipes to get you started:
- Peanut Butter and Green Chile Strawberry Jelly Sandwich
- Roasted Hatch Chile Eggs and Grits
- Queso Blanco
- Hatch Green Chile Hummus
- Hatch Green Chile Black Bean Soup
- Green Chile and Cheddar Biscuits
- Chile Relleno Casserole
- Smoked Hatch Chile Cheeseburgers
- Green Chile Chicken Enchiladas
- Green Chile Beef Tacos
- Green Chile Mac and Cheese
- Chocolate Chile Brownies
Where can I buy Hatch green chiles?
If you’re visiting green chile country, you’ll find fresh, fire-roasted, jarred, and canned green chile products just about everywhere you look. Once you’re back home, look for canned and jarred Hatch green chiles and green chile products at nationwide grocery chains like Sprouts, Safeway, and Walmart. Or have green chile products delivered to your door via Instacart!
Where can I buy 505 Southwestern green chile products?
Everyday Wanderer readers can enjoy 20% off when shopping the 505 Southwestern website. Fill your cart with tasty green chile products, and the WANDERER discount code will be waiting for you at check out!
Have You Eaten Your Way Along New Mexico’s Green Chile Trail?
What was your favorite green chile dish? Would you add anything to this list of recommendations? Any additional tips and tricks to pass along? Share your experiences in the comments section below.
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