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Our Chile Colorado recipe has tender chunks of beef smothered in a deliciously rich chile sauce.

Chile Colorado

For a very long time, I was quite intimidated by those packages of dried chiles that are sold at the supermarket – sometimes near the produce section, and sometimes on the shelves of the Mexican foods section.

From watching some cooking shows, I knew that those dried chiles could be rehydrated and pureed, then added to delicious Mexican-inspired recipes – but I never really knew which peppers to buy, or how best to cook with them.

Today’s Chile Colorado recipe is a great introduction for anyone who might like to experiment with those ‘mysterious’ dried chiles – and in the end, you’ll have a flavorful, authentic Mexican dish to serve your family and friends.


Chile Colorado

What is Chile Colorado?

Chile Colorado is a traditional Mexican dish of beef or pork that is stewed in a red chile sauce until fall-apart tender. The term “colorado” in Spanish means “colored red” – so don’t mistake this as a chili recipe from the state of Colorado!

In our Chile Colorado recipe today, we used chunks of flavorful chuck beef as our meat, and we selected three types of those dried chiles: a hot and spicier New Mexico variety, and the milder California and Pasilla peppers.

Chile Colorado


Other commonly found varieties you might see at your supermarket include Ancho chiles – another milder chile from the Poblano pepper plant, or guajillo chiles – which are a hotter, spicier pepper with sweet undertones.  In fact, depending on the selection of chiles you choose for your Chile Colorado, your sauce may be darker brown-red in color like ours, or a more vibrant red. *See our Notes in the recipe below for more tips about selecting the right chiles for your dish.

Chile Colorado

Once cooked, Chile Colorado is served rather simply as-is with some rice and beans on the side, or with tortillas plus cilantro and scallions for a fresh garnish. In our case – we served both! And if you have any leftovers, make our Chile Colorado Burritos.

Chile Colorado

One last comment…the packages of dried chiles that you’ll buy for this recipe will last for a while (and once you have them, they can be used in many other incredible recipes – like this one). Just be sure to store them in an air tight container for up to four months in your cabinet, longer if refrigerated.

You may enjoy these other Mexican-inspired recipes:

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Chile Colorado

Chile Colorado

  • Author: A Family Feast
  • Prep Time: 20 minutes
  • Cook Time: 3 hours
  • Total Time: 3 hours 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4-6 servings
  • Category: entree
  • Method: braised
  • Cuisine: Mexican


4 dried mild chili peppers such as California, stems removed

4 dried mild chili peppers such as pasilla or anchos, stems removed

*2 dried hot chili peppers such as New Mexico or guajillos, stems removed (*see notes below)

2 ½ cups chicken stock, at a boil (boxed or canned is fine)

3 pounds chuck cut into 2” or larger cubes

4 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided

½ teaspoon kosher salt for beef

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper for beef

2 quarts beef stock (boxed or canned is fine)

2 bay leaves

2 cups yellow onion, diced

3 tablespoon fresh garlic crushed

2 tablespoons dried oregano

2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 tablespoons tomato paste

4 tablespoons molasses

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

Scallions chopped for serving

Cilantro for serving

6” flour tortillas for serving

Rice and beans, for serving as sides


Place all three chili peppers in a medium pan big enough to hold them laying flat and cover with the boiling hot chicken stock. Cover and let sit covered for 30 minutes.

While the peppers are rehydrating, place a medium to large Dutch oven over a burner set to high heat along with two tablespoons of the oil.

Salt and pepper the beef cubes and once the oil is hot, add half the beef not touching each other and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side until nicely browned and seared. Remove to a bowl then add the remaining oil and once hot, sear the remaining beef.

Pour the first batch of beef back into the pan and add the beef stock and bay leaves and bring to a boil. Lower to a medium simmer and cook uncovered for one hour. A medium simmer should be closer to a low boil and less like a simmer. If you don’t have the heat high enough, not enough of the liquid will evaporate and the finished sauce will be thin.

As soon as the beef is cooking, the peppers should be ready for the next step.

Add onions, garlic, oregano, salt, cumin and tomato paste to the pan with the peppers and cook for 15 minutes on medium heat, uncovered. Stir in the molasses and vinegar after the 15 minutes. Place the whole pan full of peppers and onions in a blender and puree until smooth with no lumps. (I tried an immersion blender and found the regular blender to be easier and quicker). Set this aside until the beef reaches one hour of cooking.

After the beef has cooked for one hour, stir in the pepper puree and cook uncovered for another hour at a medium simmer using a heat diffuser under the pan and stirring occasionally to make sure the beef doesn’t stick to the bottom. A medium simmer should be closer to a low boil and less like a simmer. If you don’t have the heat high enough, not enough of the liquid will evaporate and the finished sauce will be thin. Stir often so the mixture does not stick, particularly towards the end when it gets thick.

After the two hours, test the beef for tenderness and only if needed, cook a little bit longer. The sauce will be dark brown, thick and creamy once done.

Place a cover over the pot and let it sit off of the heat for 30 minutes while you prepare the beans and rice if serving along with scallions, cilantro and flour tortillas. This step is important so even if you are not serving with beans and rice, let the meat sit covered for 30 minutes off heat.


*The hot peppers can make or break a dish like this. If you like it hot, use both hot peppers with the seeds. If you like it less hot, remove the seeds and discard. If you like it very mild, remove seeds and only use one of the hot peppers. For our dish, we used two hot Mexican peppers without the seeds and I thought it was hot enough but not too hot that you couldn’t enjoy the flavor. The Mexican peppers are large in size and the guajillos are smaller and not quite as hot but still hot. I found that the Mexican pepper had better flavor, however the guajillos are more traditional, based on what I have read. The California, in my opinion, have the most flavor without heat and the Pasilla are middle of the road and mild.

One last note on dried peppers. If the pepper is dried and somewhat pliable like a raisin or prune, that is what you want to use. If it is old and dry like paper, you probably want to keep looking. That said the California pepper is a bit dry and papery under normal conditions and the other two should be somewhat soft.

Keywords: Chile Colorado




Chile Colorado

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  • Mike Andrews wrote:

    I tried hitting reply to your comments and it didn’t work, so I’m submitting a new one. Sorry for the inconvenience. I stated in my original comment that I was in the middle of cooking the recipe so the sauce was still soupy. I think your instructions were fine and I understand a medium simmer. The sauce did thicken (it was delicious and creamy), but the sauce to meat ratio was leaning very heavy towards the sauce side, which you said would be the case…if I just read the other comments. When all the meat was eaten, there was still a large tub of sauce left (not a bad thing). We substituted the colorado sauce for some of the enchilada sauce that we made on cinqo de mayo and the smoky flavor added another element. In the future, I may just add more meat and freeze the leftovers…or wait for your Burrito recipe. Thanks for sharing.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks for the followup Mike. As you know, Jack made the recipe again to confirm our instructions – and you’re right – there is a fair amount of sauce leftover. We worried that less cooking liquid wouldn’t fully cover the meat as it cooks. We were using a wide dutch oven so a less-wide, deeper pan might be a solution. Anyway – thanks for your questions – we enjoyed having an excuse to make the recipe again 🙂 and to your point, we’ll make a note that (as written) you can expect to have some sauce leftover. (I’ll get that burrito recipe posted soon – it was delicious!)

  • Mike Andrews wrote:

    I am in the process of making this recipe. 2 quarts of beef stock seems like way too much. Is there an error there. My dish is coming out like a soup. Is it supposed to be runny or like in your pictures. I’m going to keep trying to simmer it down.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Mike – Thanks for your question. In our experience, after two hours of simmering, the sauce was thick (and you will have extra sauce leftover). But, we recently had another reader comment that their sauce never thickened – so Jack will be retesting the recipe again to confirm. In the meantime, if your beef is cooked through and tender, you can take the beef out and just simmer the sauce to further thicken. Hope that helps!

      • Jack wrote:


        I made this again yesterday and I think I understand the issue. First, I followed the recipe as written and the sauce was thick and creamy at the end. I believe the problem that you and some others had was your interpretation of the term “medium simmer”. I can totally see that if you had your heat lower than mine, in the end, not enough of the liquid would have evaporated and it would be too liquidy. So during this second cooking of the recipe, I took short videos of each phase, demonstrating what my interpretation of a “medium simmer” looks like. As soon as Martha can, she will embed these new videos into the post. Also, I will go in and make the definition of a “medium simmer” clearer in the recipe.
        By the way, we decided to use this second batch of Chile Colorado in a new recipe. Expect to see Chile Colorado Burritos coming up soon.

        Hopefully, this clears up all questions on consistency.

  • Nick wrote:

    Hi Martha. Just wanted to ask if all of the liquid cooks down or if you removed the beef chunks after cooking. I didn’t notice much of the sauce in your finished photo.

    Also, l would think you could do this in an Instant Pot. Have you converted your recipe.

    And finally… this looks and sounds off the charts delicious.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thanks Nick! There was definitely sauce leftover and we removed the beef chunks after cooking/didn’t show all of it in the photos. (We used the leftover sauce to make a variation of our Chicken Taquitos recipe.)

      We’ve never tried this in the Instant Pot, but I bet you could do it with some modifications. The one thing to note is that as written, the recipe is cooked uncovered and the liquid does reduce so that the sauce is thick. In an Instant Pot, you won’t get that same evaporation. But please let us know how it comes out if you try it!

  • Steve wrote:

    Love this!! The sauce didn’t thicken much. Any suggestions? Also what should I do with all the sauce that is left? Thanks.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Steve – Next time, you could try adding a little more tomato paste to help thicken the sauce. We’ve used some of the leftover sauce by making a variation of this recipe: – using the leftover colorado sauce instead of the red chile sauce. Hope that helps!

  • ROY OSHITA wrote:

    Absolutely the tastiest and authentic beef Chile Colorado recipe I have ever tested! The recipe is very easy to
    follow and prepare. The ingredients are just enough to end up with a savory heaven. There are multiple recipes out there but this one is the most simple and straight forward. Of course you can modify the ingredients but this is the basic deal folks! Stick with this and your guests will be rewarded with the rich chile inspired satisfaction that they have longed for!
    Hats off to Martha and her husband for a winner Chile Colorado! Roy Oshita Monterey Park, California

    • Martha wrote:

      Wow Roy! Thank you so much!! So glad you enjoyed the recipe.

  • Stacia Jahnke wrote:

    YUM! This sounds & looks so delicious! Could I use a SF maple syrup (not a pancake syrup but thicker) in place of the molasses since it’s not Keto? THanks!

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Stacia – The maple syrup will definitely add a different flavor to the finished dish, but you can certainly try it. Please let us know how it comes out!

  • Elkin wrote:

    Re specific chiles: I’ve been cooking with dried chiles since I was a wee lad. Ancho, pasilla, & guajillo chiles are mostly far more picante than are New Mexico or Anaheim varietals; anchos also have lots more meat on them than their less spicier cousins, and are far less bitter. For hotness that is still edible, chile de arból is one of the best dried chiles out there. For those who love to burn, a small can of chipotles en adobo (La Morena in the orange can is best) will make anyone’s scalp sweat. To get a heat-level in the middle, use one or two of the chipotles & as much of their sauce as desired. To get a more SotB taste, add pepitas (ground pumpkin seeds) and some good chocolate to taste. And finally, for even more complexity, finish with a to-taste amount of artisanal butter — something more toward the nutty (i.e., Italian) end of the taste spectrum.

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much Elkin! I’m going to keep a copy of this in my wallet for reference! Appreciate the info and advice!

  • Daniela Vega wrote:

    You guys may want to add a couple of boiled, puréed tomatoes to the mix. It’ll refine the taste of the dish.
    Glad you guys have discovered chiles secos. You can make delicious salsas out of them. You can roast or cook ‘em, then mix with them with either green or red tomato, onion, garlic, pepper, cloves, and Chile Serrano (those common little green chiles), then blend them, or better, crush em using mortar and pestle
    Oh, we use it to make wonderful soups. You can google pozole, sopa tarasca, sopa azteca. OMG, salivating just thinking about it!
    Hope you guys enjoy your finding, and please, honor it. Love!

    • Martha wrote:

      Thank you so much for the suggestions and tips Daniela! We will certainly enjoy and honor it!

  • Sherry wrote:

    Can you please explain what you mean by a ‘diffuser’. I’ve never heard of this in cooking. And can’t this be put in the oven to cook.

    • Martha wrote:

      Hi Sherry – Thanks for your question – a heat diffuser is a product like this: – it’s placed on top of a stove burner and under the pot to diffuse some of the direct heat so that a recipe like this can simmer for a long time on the stovetop and it helps prevent scorching and burning. And yes – you can cook this in the oven if you prefer. The cooking time may differ. Hope that helps!

  • Deborah wrote:

    I am excited to try this recipe and you have answered my questions about dried peppers for which I thank you. Standing in the isle of a Mexican market in New Mexico, a very nice lady saw the confusion on my face and asked if she could help me. When I asked her about the dried peppers she admitted that she wasn’t sure either. We both had a good laugh.

    • Martha wrote:

      LOL – I’m so glad it was helpful Deborah! I really do wish the peppers came with additional labeling about flavor and heat – I’m sure they would sell more! Hope you enjoy the recipe!

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