What Are Hatch Chiles and How Do You Roast Them?

Updated: Aug. 17, 2023

What are hatch chiles and what's so special about them? Learn more about these beloved peppers and how to roast them from your own kitchen.

It’s no wonder that hatch chiles have a cult-like following. From egg bakes to burgers to sauces and salsas, these special green chiles will level up any dish.

Their unique smoky, spicy, and slightly sweet taste is beloved far beyond their homeland of New Mexico. As August nears, you might even catch a waft of the delicious scent of them roasting in large batches. If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon some grab a big bag, we’ll show you how to roast them all on your own!

What Are Hatch Chiles?

Raw Green Spicy Hatch Peppers in a wooden basket on a towel on the countertopbhofack2/Getty Images

Hatch chiles are a special New Mexican chile, grown specifically in the Hatch Valley region. Like Champagne, this chile must be from the Hatch region in order to claim that name. Their unique flavor is said to be imparted from the rich soil of the Rio Grande area where they are grown, though they’re delicious wherever you can find them. They’re most similar to Anaheim peppers, and their spice level can vary greatly from low heat to quite spicy.

Hatch chile is actually an umbrella term for peppers grown in the Hatch region; they can be either red or green. The green ones are picked early and used fresh, whereas the red peppers have been allowed to ripen on the vine and are then dried, ground and used as a spice.

When Is Hatch Chile Season?

These special chiles are harvested from early August to late September, a very quick period in which to harvest a massive amount of peppers. They’re quickly picked, roasted, and preserved for use throughout the rest of the year.

How to Roast Hatch Chiles

Hatch Chiles roasting over a fireLICreate/Getty Images

You’ll know the smell a mile away, and folks will come running! At roadside stands and grocery stores across New Mexico and the Southwest, you’ll find chiles tossed straight from harvest into large, cylindrical, metal containers which are spun over an open flame.

If you don’t have any roadside pepper stands near you, or if you simply enjoy the process as much as I do, try roasting them at home for a special homemade treat. Use the flame from your stovetop to roast the peppers, turning often to get an even char. Once they’re evenly charred, toss them immediately into a container with a lid. Cover them and allow to steam in the container for around 20 to 30 minutes. After, the skin should peel off easily and you can deseed them. Enjoy them immediately or freeze them for use throughout the year.

Where to Buy Hatch Chiles

Nothing compares to a fresh hatch chile, so in New Mexico and the surrounding areas, fresh chiles are available everywhere you look. However, if you look a little harder, you can find these peppers elsewhere. Specialty grocers and even upscale chains like Whole Foods often carry these chiles for a limited time.

If there are no fresh chiles nearby and you’re looking for a reliable year-round source, check out your local grocery. They often stock small jars or cans of hatch chiles.