There are several different varieties of peppers that chili pepper lovers can sample across the United States. They provide flavor and heat to some of our most beloved dishes. States like New Mexico, Colorado, and California often compete for bragging rights of the best peppers. New Mexico is home to the Hatch chili pepper, exclusively cultivated in Hatch Valley, New Mexico, and often called New Mexico peppers.
Hatch chili peppers are 6 to 12-inch (15 to 30 cm) chili peppers grown in Hatch Valley, New Mexico. They come in green and red and can be eaten raw or added to sauces and dishes. Hatch chilis are mild to moderately spicy, rated at between 1,000 and 8,000 Scoville Heat Units.
This article will detail what Hatch chili peppers are, the different types of Hatch chili peppers, where they’re grown, heat level, and common ways to eat and prepare them. We’ll also discuss the similarities between Anaheim and Hatch peppers, where to purchase them, and a brief explanation on how to grow them in containers.
What Type of Pepper is a Hatch Chili Pepper?
A Hatch chili pepper is considered a “premium” green chili pepper grown from Fabian Garcia’s New Mexico No. 9 cultivars. Hatch is the term used to describe the different varieties of peppers grown explicitly in Hatch Valley, New Mexico. It comes from strains cross-bred at New Mexico State University. But you may know them better as ‘chile Verde del Norte.’
There are over 31 different varieties of Hatch chili peppers:
- NuMex Sandia chili pepper: 1,500-2,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Joe E. Parker chili pepper: 1,500-3,000 Scoville Heat Units
- New Mexico 6-4 chili pepper: 300-500 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Heritage 6-4 chili pepper: 1,500 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Heritage Big Jim chili pepper: 9,000 Scoville Heat Units
- Barker Extra Hot chili pepper: 15,000-30,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex R Naky chili pepper: 260-760 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Big Jim chili pepper: 500-2,000 Scoville Heat Units
- New Mexico No. 9: 1,000-1,500 Scoville Heat Units
- New Mexico No. 6: 700-900 Scoville Heat Units
- Rio Grande 21: 500-700 Scoville Heat Units
- Española Improved: 1,500-2,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Sunrise, NuMex Sunset, NuMex Eclipse: 300-500 Scoville heat units
- NuMex Centennial: Used for ornamental purposes
- NuMex Conquistador: 0 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Sweet: 800-900 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Joe E. Parker
- NuMex Sunglo, NuMex Sunflare, NuMex Sunburst: Used for ornamental purposes
- NuMex Bailey Piquin: 90,000-100,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Mirasol: Used for ornamental purposes
- NuMex Twilight: Used for ornamental purposes
- NuMex Vaquero: 25,000-30,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Piñata: 45,000-50,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Primavera: 8,500-9,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Nematador: 15,500-16,000 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Garnet: 150-160 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Suave Red: 774 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Suave Orange: 335 Scoville Heat Units
- NuMex Holiday Ornamentals: Used for ornamental purposes
- Heritage New Mexico 6-4: 350 Scoville Heat Units
- Heritage NuMex Big Jim: 500-1,000 Scoville Heat Units
Many of the unavailable peppers helped cross-breed other species to cultivate fresh peppers strains. Many of the Hatch chili peppers available for sale are in seed form; however, during harvesting season, peppers are available, too.
Some peppers are generally reserved for ornamental or decorative purposes. In those circumstances, the chili peppers aren’t eaten but hung on walls for display.
Where do Hatch Chili Peppers Come from?
Authentic Hatch chili peppers were initially cultivated at New Mexico University by a horticulturist by the name of Fabian Garcia. In 1888, Garcia began to experiment with creating more standard chili pepper variations. In the 1900s, Garcia released the New Mexico No. 9, the first New Mexico variation with a sturdy pod size. They were grown in large quantities in Hatch Valley, New Mexico.
Peppers that extend outside of Hatch Valley or New Mexico are not considered Hatch chili peppers. All peppers of the New Mexico style originate from the New Mexico No. 9 crops.
What are Hatch Chili Peppers Used for?
These green peppers are very versatile in how consumers can use them. In New Mexico, Hatch chilis are included in salads, soups, biscuits, queso, or guacamole. They can also be processed and included in scrambled eggs, enchiladas, or even mac & cheese.
What are the Characteristics of Hatch Chili Peppers?
Hatch chili peppers are long and curve to a dulled point at the end. Underneath the smooth, glossy skin of the pepper is a cavity that encases a membrane containing tiny seeds that are round in shape and white. These chili peppers can be mild and earthy in flavor or smokey and spicy.
The many different types of Hatch chili peppers grown in New Mexico range from about 6 to 12 inches (15 to 30 cms) long. This means that you can get a Hatch chili pepper is as small as a dollar or as big as a foot.
Hatch chili peppers come in two colors: green or red. The color is dependent on the time peppers are harvested from the plants. Peppers harvested early are green, while peppers that are left to ripen are red. The color does have an impact on the flavor of these peppers. Green peppers tend to be more smokey in taste, while red peppers are a bit sweeter with a mellow, savory flavor.
The typical shape of a Hatch chili pepper is similar to that of standard green chili peppers: long with slightly curved pods, with blunt tapered ends. The body of Hatch chili peppers remains the same as the different types of Hatch chili peppers.
The texture of these peppers is identical to most chili peppers with a smooth glossy exterior. Hatch chili peppers differ from other peppers with their dense flesh that’s crisp when snapped. The underside of the meat near the center of the pepper is fibrous and moist in comparison to the outside texture.
One Hatch chili pepper can weigh up to 4 ounces (113 gms), roughly compared to a deck of cards. A single Bell pepper can weigh up to 6 ounces (170 gms), which makes the Hatch chili pepper lighter than the Bell pepper. In comparison, a single Jalapeño weighs around 1 ounce (28 gms); four Jalapeños will weigh about the same amount as a single Hatch chili pepper.
Hatch chili pepper’s heat level is mild to moderately spicy, measuring around 1,000-8,000 Scoville Heat Units, with most peppers at an average Scoville Heat Unit of 4,500. They have about the same heat level as Jalapeños, but they are not as hot as a Serrano pepper. There are some strains of Hatch chili peppers that are closer to the more burning end, with Scoville Heat Units ranging from 15,000-90,000.
The Scoville Heat Unit is a way to measure the amount of the compound capsaicin, which gives the heat sensation that occurs naturally in chili peppers.
For reference, a sweet Bell pepper would be a 0 Scoville Heat Unit. Peppers like Jalapeños range from 2,000-5,000 in Scoville Heat Units, while peppers like Cayenne range from 50,000-30,000 in Scoville Heat Units. Habanero peppers range from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Are Hatch Chili Peppers Similar to Anaheim Peppers?
Hatch chili peppers and Anaheim peppers both originate from the chili strains cultivated from Fabian Garcia’s New Mexico No. 9 and No. 6, created at New Mexico University. Anaheim peppers result from a cross-breed of New Mexico No. 9 and other chili strains, primarily those grown in Anaheim.
Can You Eat Hatch Chili Peppers Raw?
Hatch chili peppers can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on your preference. Due to the thickness of the skin, you may prefer to chop up the peppers. Chili peppers can be eaten straight from the garden or put into salads and sandwiches.
What Are Common Ways to Prepare Hatch Chili Peppers?
There are several different ways to prepare and cook Hatch chili peppers.
Hatch Valley Recipes
Natives to Hatch Valley roast Hatch peppers using an oven or outdoor grill. After being roasted, they can either sit to cool on their own, or you can put them in ice water to speed up the process. After cooling, the charring on the pepper can be peeled and added to any dish or frozen for later use.
Some familiar entrees that Hatch Valley residents cook with Hatch chili peppers are Green or Red Chile Enchiladas, Green Chile Alfredo, Chile Lover’s pizza, and Mini Green Chile Corn Dogs.
- For the Green or Red Chile Enchiladas, either green, red, or both types of chilis are roasted and then added to a blender to puree. Then, you can add flour, oil, garlic, oregano, salt, and cumin to create the enchilada sauce. The mixture is gently boiled and simmered to enhance the flavors.
- When making Green Chili Alfredo, The Hatch chili peppers are roasted, peeled, and chopped to create the Alfredo pasta. You can also buy them pre-roasted, peeled, and chopped.
- For the Chile Lover’s Pizza, fresh or prepackaged chopped green chili peppers are added as an extra spicy topping after the pizza finishes cooking.
- Fresh seeded and chopped Hatch chili peppers are added to the corn dog batter in Mini Green Chili Corn Dogs. Once the hot dogs are dipped in the batter, they’re fried until golden brown.
Soups, Salads, Side Dishes, & Desserts
The potential is endless when adding peppers to entrees, but the same can be said about adding chilis to soups, salads, and side dishes. Typical recipes include:
- Green Chili Potato Salad requires 2 to 3 tablespoons of diced mild green chili peppers combined with potatoes, eggs, celery, onion, Jalapeño peppers, mayo, relish, lime juice, and seasonings of choice.
- The roasted, peeled, and chopped Hatch green chili pepper makes another appearance in the Green Chili Cornbread dish. They’re combined with corn in the cornbread mixture before baking in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes.
- In the Risotto with Green Chile and Shrimp recipe, chopped green chili is simultaneously added with shrimp at the end of the cooking process. The chils are stirred and combined with creamy risotto and rice.
- Like Tortilla soup, diced green chilis are combined with chicken breasts, sauteed onion, Bell peppers, soup mix, milk, and tortilla chips to make Green Chile Enchilada Soup.
Hatch Chili Pepper Desserts
Chili lovers in Hatch Valley also enjoy these peppers in their desserts.
In Green Chile Pumpkin Pie, you need half a cup of roasted, peeled, seeded, and diced Hatch green chilis. Ingredients like pumpkin, eggs, sugar, cream, spices, and vanilla are blended together and poured into a pie crust. Once baked, top the pie with whipped cream and almonds.
Green Hatch chilis can be juiced using steeped or frozen chilis and added to both the crust and filling of the Sinfully Spicy Apple Pie. You’ll then add the juice to the crust after the dry ingredients are mixed together. In the filling, the chili juice combines with apple, sugar, flour, cinnamon, and butter before cooling. After adding the crust to the pan, mix the apple mixture on top, and pile the top crust on top of the filling. Pinch the crusts together and bake.
Native Hatch Valley residents even like chili in their ice cream. Milk, cream, sugar, vanilla bean, and chili peppers can all be combined in a saucepan then added to whipped egg yolks and sugar. The mixture is cooked again over low heat until thick, then strained. The mixture is refrigerated and completely cooled.
From there, the mixture can be put into an ice cream maker and frozen. When the mix is almost frozen, more finely diced, green chilis can be added.
When making Hatch Green Chile Mexican Chocolate Mousse, roasted, seeded, and peeled Hatch green chilis can be toasted in butter and then chopped once cooled for the chocolate mixture.
Where Can I Buy Hatch Chili Peppers?
You can purchase Hatch Chili peppers directly from New Mexico University for seeds and peppers during harvest season or online. Other options include the Hatch Valley Festival during Labor Day Weekend, where anyone can obtain peppers during peak harvesting season. Harvesting season typically occurs in late summer and fall.
Authentic Hatch chili peppers are grown in Hatch Valley, New Mexico. You can purchase Hatch Chili peppers during the offseason; however, they’ll typically only be available in seed form.
Be sure to check the product’s description for information about the authenticity of the pepper and its production in Hatch Valley.
Can Hatch Chili Peppers Grow in Containers?
Hatch peppers can be grown in containers or directly in the ground. It’s best to use 5-gallon (19-liter) containers. A standard pot that’s 16-18 inches (41 to 46 cms) in diameter is perfect for this plant.
By using a 5-gallon (18.93-liter) container and a well-draining loamy soil to grow the peppers, the peppers have a better chance of surviving because there will be ample room for water to drain through the soil.
When growing Hatch chili peppers, be prepared to use a stake to ensure that the upright growth of the plant is stabilized and to keep branches of the plant from breaking off. A lighter premium quality soil is required to grow these plants to allow for proper drainage. Having the most stabilized environmental conditions will ensure a healthy, well-producing pepper plant.
Hatch chili peppers are great for all chili pepper lovers. Whether you crave the hot and spicy or mild and earthy flavors, there is a Hatch chili pepper for you with the many different varieties that are grown. Originally grown in Hatch Valley, New Mexico, these peppers can be produced at home or purchased online or in-store. The pepper has become so popular among residents of New Mexico to the point it has now been blended into the inner workings of their state’s identity.