chile colorado – the best beef chili of all time

Chile colorado is this incredible, beefy Mexican dish that puts all other beef chilis to shame. If you don’t know about it, it’s time to find out.

The best beef chili of all time is a bold statement. You may disagree. But once you taste I think you’ll change your mind. It’s that good. 

It has nothing to do with the state of Colorado. I’m sure they make great chili there. But this is Mexican. Colorado means red colour. It’s not really red though. More of a deep brick. The colour of chilies.

Spoonful of chili colorado above bowl of chili from the front.


Chile colorado is about beef and chilies

Don’t let the amount of chilies in this recipe put you off. It’s not that spicy. Ancho and New Mexican chilies are pretty mild. 

More chilies means more depth of flavour. More intensity. Chili should be about the taste of chilies after all. For me anyway. 

What you get is this crazy delicious Mexican stew. The beef may be the backbone but the chilies are what makes it sing. Chile colorado not like anything else out there.

No secret ingredients here

If you are looking for some magic ingredient that makes this work it doesn’t exist. There’s no beer in this recipe. No chocolate. Or coffee. 

There are no beans. No wine. No cinnamon. Barely any spice beyond the chilies. This is pure chile flavour wrapped around chunks of good beef stew. Some fire-roasted tomatoes. Onions and garlic. That’s it. 

Chili colorado is the ultimate beef chili. It's for when you want the best Mexican chili.

This is about technique really. There are some steps that may seem strange to you. But that’s what it takes. How it works.

I make other chili dishes. Sometimes I add some pork with the ground beef. Tons of chili powder. Whole de Arbol chilies. Tasty but nowhere as good as chile colorado.

This is my go to. I make it when I want to blow people away. When I enter a chili cook-off. When I want to win.

Ladle full of chili colorado above pot.

Chilies make the chili colorado

There are not a whole lot of ingredients here. So your chilies matter. They are the star. Along with the beef. So make sure you use good quality dried chilies.

I use a mix of New Mexican and ancho chilies. More ancho than New Mexican. But that’s not a rule. Its a guideline. Go with your gut. Or what you can get. Anchos are the backbone though. So try to keep them in your mix.

Toast your chilies before you rehydrate them. It’s a simple thing. But it makes a difference. Just a few seconds on each side. Two or three at a time. So you don’t burn them. Maybe two minutes of your time. Worth it. Do it.

Chili colorado in a bowl garnished with jalapeño, tortilla strips and cotiija cheese.

Dry roast the onions

This may be a bit different from what you are used to. But it adds a little something magic. Dry roast the onions, garlic and jalapeños. Toss them into a dry cast iron skillet and char them a bit. Keep the garlic and jalapeños moving to cook fairly evenly.

You are going for brown here. Not black. So don’t go overboard. Medium heat. Patience. But you do want colour so don’t stop too soon. 

The garlic will be done first. It will have little dark brown spots. The jalapeños come off next. Blistered and softened.

The onions take the longest. Check them. Once they are lightly charred on one side flip them. They are done when they soften. Not mush mind you. Soft.

Chili colorado in a bowl with spoon and fork.

Fry the chile paste for the ultimate chile colorado

I picked this trick up from Mark Miller’s Coyote Cafe cookbook and it’s a good one. Fy the chile paste in the oil you cooked the beef in. Or better yet, add a bit of pork lard. 

Seems simple enough but it makes a huge difference. Taste the chile paste before and after. You’ll see why you need to do it. 

Raw, the chile paste is a bit bitter. All sorts of hard edges to the flavour. After it’s fried it’s smooth and round tasting. It’s a little bit of cooking magic.

Make chile colorado

I’ve held back publishing this recipe for a couple years now.  Didn’t really want to share. It’s my killer chili after all. This is the one I pull out when I want to show off.

Chile colorado. It may be the best chili you ever taste. My favourite for sure. Hope it becomes yours.

Watch how to make chili colorado

Chili colorado in a white bowl on a large plate from above.
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4.95 from 17 votes

chile colorado

Named for the colour red, chile colorado is beef chili like no other.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Mexican
Keyword beef chili, chile colorado, mexican beef, mexican chili
Prep Time 45 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours 20 minutes
Total Time 3 hours 5 minutes
Servings 6
Calories 433kcal
Author romain | glebekitchen


chile colorado paste

  • 10 dried ancho chilies
  • 5 dried new mexican chilies
  • 1 large white onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 2 jalapeños
  • 1 14 oz can fire roasted, diced tomatoes
  • 2 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp Mexican oregano – do not use regular oregano
  • 1 tsp salt
  • water to puree

chile Colorado

  • 3 lbs beef chuck cut into 1 inch cubes
  • the chile colorado paste
  • salt to taste


Rehydrate the chilies

  • Stem the chilies. Heat your comal or cast iron frying pan over medium heat. Toast the chilies briefly in the dry pan. Just a few seconds a side. It makes a difference. You are going to need your frying pan later anyway…
  • Place the chilies in a heat proof bowl. Pour boiling water overtop to completely submerge. Extra water is OK.
  • Let stand 30-40 minutes until fully rehydrated. Tear the chilies open and remove the seeds. Dipping them into the chile water to rinse them off works well. Set aside.

Prepare the chile colorado paste

  • Heat a cast iron frying pan or comal over medium heat.
  • Peel the onion. Cut it into 3 slices (around 3/4 inch thick). You want rings showing. Cut it that way.
  • Place whole onion slices, garlic and jalapeños in the frying pan and dry roast until brown one one side. Flip and continue roasting. You are done when they are soft. 
  • For the garlic and jalapeños keep moving them around. You want some char and blistering on the jalapeños. Not everything will be done at the same time. Garlic will be done first. Then jalapeños. And then onions.
  • Place tomatoes and their juices, a splash of water, chilies, onions, garlic and jalapeños in a blender or large food processor. Add the cumin, Mexican oregano (if you have some) and salt. You want the wet ingredients at the bottom. 
  • Puree. Really puree. You are going to have to strain this. If your blender fights you add a bit more water. You will get there.
  • Straining the chile paste is a pain. A real pain. But it’s worth it. So do it. Skipping this step means you will be spitting out bits of chile skin. Not good. Use a strainer with fairly big holes. A super fine strainer is pretty much mission impossible. You should get about 4 cups. Maybe more depending how much water you added.

Brown the beef

  • You want to brown the beef. You don’t want to boil it. So do not overcrowd your pot. You don’t want pieces touching. Trust me. If you see water forming in your pot you have overcrowded your pot. These are words to live by. Any time you make stew.
  • Pre-heat a sturdy pot over medium heat. Salt your beef.  Film the bottom of the pot generously with oil. Add the beef and cook, turning occasionally until well browned. Remove and set aside.
  • Repeat, adding oil as necessary until all the beef is browned. I used a big pot and I did this in 4 batches. 
  • There should be a wonderful fond (brown bits) and some oil in the bottom of the pan. Your stove should be a mess. That’s how you know you did it right.

Make the chile colorado

  • Pre-heat your oven to 325F
  • Frying your chile paste is the step that makes this dish what it is. Don’t skip it. 
  • Your pot should still be hot. If not heat it up again. If there isn’t a good film of oil in the bottom add a bit more. 
  • Pour the strained chile paste into the pot. It will bump. Be ready for chili paste everywhere. Stir and cover. Every minute or so uncover and give it a stir. After 7-8 minutes turn the heat off. Remove from heat. Let it sit a couple minutes to stop frying (and spraying everywhere).
  • Take the lid off the pot and add in the beef and accumulated juices. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Cover and place in a 325F oven.
  • Every 30 minutes or so give the chile colorado a stir. It’s done when the beef is tender. That takes time. Start checking after 90 minutes or so. It will dry out a bit over time so add water as needed. This can take up to 3 hours depending on how big your beef chunks are.
  • When the beef is tender it’s time to eat. Taste and adjust salt as needed. You probably won’t need a lot. 
  • Let it cool slightly and serve with pinto beans and rice. You can garnish with green onions, cheese, sour cream – what ever you want. Tortillas on the side are a nice addition. A little lime to brighten the flavours can be a nice twist to mix things up if you like.


Serving: 6servings | Calories: 433kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 44g | Fat: 26g | Saturated Fat: 11g | Cholesterol: 156mg | Sodium: 576mg | Potassium: 864mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 720IU | Vitamin C: 4.3mg | Calcium: 58mg | Iron: 5.5mg

20 thoughts on “chile colorado – the best beef chili of all time”

  1. 5 stars
    Here’s my schpeel. First off, I was married to a man from Mexico. I learned firsthand, how to make several versions of this dish, and have tried even more. I used to make this often, but haven’t for a while just because of the time involved. So, I decided to give this recipe a whirl. Dayum. I tried the sauce pre-mixing with the meat and it was delish on it’s own. Totally non-traditional, and against everything I was taught… I added one strip of bacon and a 1/4 tsp of smoked paprika. For me, this elevated the flavor even more. Without these two ingredients, this dish is phenomenal. I decided to take the non-traditional route and add those two ingredients and it ended up being something I’d never dreamed of. I can totally see how this recipe has won you numerous chili contests. Delicious. I really respect the time that you have put into this recipe. It’s definitely a keeper.

    • Delighted you enjoyed it! It’s frying the chili paste that does it. Thank Mark Miller for that one:-) I remember the first time I did it – and that hopelessly chili stained book still sits with my A list cookbooks.

  2. 5 stars
    Hi Romain, you weren’t exaggerating: this is an absolutely amazing chili!! But I got a slightly bitter tone into mine which I suspect could come from two sources. One is that when I asked for New Mexican chilis in my local Mexican food store, they gave me Guajillos. The other is that I perhaps should have fried the chili paste longer (I did about 7 minutes in 1 minute intervals between stirrings and the heat was high enough to cause significant splattering). The bitterness was not a big problem, but I would like to fix it next time; any ideas?

    • My guess is possibly over-toasting the chilies or maybe just old chilies but I’m not 100 percent sure.

      I have hit the bitter tones before myself (although not in a long time). I have a high sensitivity to bitter in places I don’t want it. I never figured out exactly what I did wrong but I do remember using the soaking water amplified this so I stopped using it as a result.

      I feel for you. I was quite bitter about it when it happened to me (terrible, terrible pun intended).

    • Guajillo peppers are a thinner walled chili but super tasty. You will need more and the straining step will be painful but I think it will work. Full disclosure – I’ve never tried this recipe with guajillo peppers…

    • I don’t think you’d get the deep fond that defines this dish from ground beef but I bet it would be the best ground beef chili recipe ever…

  3. Going to make this at the weekend.

    Can’t get fire roasted tomatoes in Scotland, so will just use regular tomatoes.

    Would beef shin work in place of beef chuck?

    • Tomatoes should work fine. Just make sure you don’t get any with basil or other ingredients in the mix.

      I don’t have much experience with beef shin as it’s not something widely available in Canada (at least where I am) but I imagine it would work. Might even be better – I just don’t know.

  4. Another one from the UK – can you be more specific about the type of New Mexico chilies used? We can get quite a good selection of dried chillies over here, but none of them seem to be called simply “New Mexico Chilies”.

    Cheers. Great recipes, BTW.

    • They are called New Mexican here but I believe they are also called California chilies in some places. They are the dried form of the Anaheim chili. You could try substituting pasilla chilies if you can get those. Not quite the same but certainly will be very tasty. Straining will be even harder with pastilles so really puree the sauce well.

  5. 5 stars
    Good afternoon from UK
    I’m really excited about cooking your Colorado Chili but am unable to get a tin of fire roasted tomatoes. Am I ok to use ordinary tinned tomatoes or should I roast some fresh tomatoes myself?
    I would hate to ruin one of your amazing recipes.

    • There is a whole lot of flavour going on in this recipe. The fire roasted tomatoes add another layer of flavour but I think you will be fine with regular tinned tomatoes.

  6. 5 stars
    INCREDIBLE. Absolutely, unequivocally WORTH IT — the time, effort, and mess it creates. The complexity and depth of flavors BLEW ME AWAY, and I can clearly see why this recipe wins you chili contests. This is my new absolute favorite dish and recipe OF ALL TIME. And I cook a lot. Not a chef or anything, but I love cooking elaborate foods from all over the world, and I am forever grateful that you were willing to share this recipe. You really won my heart with this one. I’ve never been too impressed with Mexican food overall, but this Chile Colorado changed that. This dish is now 100% my favorite. As a cook, you get so immersed in the cooking and can’t really smell your food unless you exit the kitchen and come back in a while later, but with this chili I could smell the deep, incredible aromas even while being completely immersed in it. It brings a whole new level to the depth and breadth of flavors and aromas, and I was floored. This chili is the best thing out there. Thanks again.

    • I am absolutely delighted you enjoyed this recipe as much as I do. It’s a little complicated. And it doesn’t get a lot of attention on the blog. But I know this is one of the absolute killer recipes on glebekitchen and I’m glad to hear you like it too! I think that makes two of us anyway:-).

  7. 5 stars
    Great chili recipe! And I say that as someone who’s made a lot of chili over the years, usually with quality dried peppers. What’s special here is the way the rich pepper flavour shines through. That should come as no surprise with so many peppers used, but the technique works — no bitterness. Yes, it’s a little on the elaborate side, but the payoff is worth it. Will be making this one again.

    • Glad you liked it. It is work to make but I don’t know any way to cut corners on this one and have it come out right..

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