What Is A Hatch Chili Pepper?
This pepper, also known as the New Mexico Chili, is a member of the Capsicum annuum family. While the name may suggest that there is only one variety of Hatch Chili pepper, there are actually 31 varieties found in the Hatch Valley, all with different Scoville Heat Units!
Hatch is used to describe all of these peppers grown explicitly in Hatch Valley, the strains of which were cross-bred at New Mexico State University.
Where Does It Come From?
The Hatch Chili Pepper gets its name from the valley it is grown in – the Hatch Valley. This is found in New Mexico, from Arrey to Tonuco Mountain, to Hatch.
How Many Types Of Hatch Chili Are There?
There are 31 different types of Hatch chili peppers, all grown in Hatch Valley. Some of the most popular Hatch chilis include:
- New Mexico 6-4
- NuMex Heritage Big Jim
- NuMex Sandia
- New Mexico No.9
- NuMex Big Jim
- Rio Grande 21
- NuMex Nematador
Some of the strains aren’t actually used for eating – their sole purpose is to cross-breed with other strains, creating new pepper strains to add to the collection.
Other strains, such as the NuMex Holiday Ornamentals variety, are reserved for ornamental purposes only. This means that they can only be hung on the wall as a display and not eaten.
What Does A Hatch Chili Pepper Look Like?
These peppers can grow between 6 and 12 inches in length, and you will find either red or green Hatch chilis. If they are green, this means that have been harvested early, and red peppers means they have been left to ripen fully.
This will impact the taste, so make sure you know which flavor you are after before you buy a specific color.
While they are quite long for chili peppers, they are also quite broad width-wise, and they often have a curved ‘tail’. The ends are also tapered with blunt/dulled ends rather than pointed ends.
They have a similar glossy exterior to most other chilis, but their insides are slightly different. They are quite crisp when they are snapped in half, rather than having a softer bend.
What Does It Taste Like?
As mentioned earlier, the taste of a Hatch chili can vary depending on their color. Green chills tend to have a smokey taste which is slightly spicier than the red variation.
The red chilis are milder and are often sweeter than the green chilis, but they are also described as having an ‘earthy’, mellow taste.
Where Is The Hatch Chili Pepper On The Scoville Heat Chart?
Classed as a mild to moderately spiced chili pepper, the average Scoville Heat Unit of a Hatch pepper is 4500.
However, the individual varieties do range from 0 (NuMex Conquistador) to 100,000 (NuMex Bailey Piquin). The average SHU of the Hatch Chili Pepper is similar to that of the Jalapeno, both of which are fairly mild compared to other chili peppers.
What Is It Used For?
Hatch chilis are most often used in sauces and stews, as they are brilliant when they are finely chopped/blended. It is a popular spice across the US, however its main use is in cooking in New Mexico, since it is grown nearby.
As was mentioned before, Hatch chilis are also used for ornamental purposes, and as a basis for creating new types of chilis as well.
How Do You Cook It?
To start, Hatch chilis can be eaten raw or cooked, depending on how you like to eat chilis! However, they do have quite a thick skin which can sometime be difficult to chew through, so you may want to chop them up before eating them raw.
Now, there are several ways you can cook Hatch chili peppers. One of the most common ways is roasting them until they have a charred skin.
The natives of Hatch Valley will roast the peppers in an oven or grill, before leaving them to cool. Once they are cooled, you should be able to peel off the charred skin, leaving the softer inside and the seeds. These can then be added to any dish, or eaten as is.
Recipes that you will commonly find Hatch chili peppers in are enchiladas, pasta, pizza and corn dogs. Most people will have a preference of either green or red chilis, which are blended and placed in sauces to accompany these dishes.
For example, to make green or red chili enchiladas, you pop your pre-roasted chili in a blender, then you add some flour, oil, garlic and seasoning to the chili to make an enchilada sauce. You will then boil this to accentuate the flavors.
To make the chili corn dogs, you have to add freshly chopped Hatch chilis to the corn dog batter before you dip the hot dogs in it, and then fry them. This saves you from having to add a spicy sauce to your corn dog later on, as its already combined in the mixture!
Another brilliant dish that contains Hatch chilis is a chili-cheese dip. This follows a similar method to making queso dip, but you add the roasted and blended Hatch peppers to the mixture while the cheese is melting.
There are so many ways of cooking and incorporating Hatch chilis into your cooking, and because it is quite a mild spice level, you don’t have to worry about overpowering your meal with the chili!
How Do You Store It?
If you have bought dried or can Hatch chilis, then these should be stored in room temperature conditions and kept for as long as the sell-by date says is acceptable (often around a year). If you have bought fresh Hatch chilis, they should last in the fridge for a couple of weeks.
However, since it can be quite difficult to get fresh Hatch chillis all year round, preserving them is also a brilliant and cost-effective idea.
To preserve Hatch chilis, you first need to order/buy a fresh batch of them. Next, you should roast them under a hot grill or in the oven until the skin starts to char.
Once you’ve done this, you need to remove them straight away and pop them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. Let them sit for around 30 minutes!
Now, you are going to put this cooled batch of Hatch peppers into freezer bags, preferably using a vacuum sealer. But if you don’t have access to this, then the freezer bags alone will still work.
You should freeze them in the amounts that you would ideally like to put in a meal, as you don’t want to have to defrost lots of chilis to only end up using a few of them!
As you prepare to cook them, you will want to put the bag in a bowl in your sink. You now have to run cold water over them until they are thawed (not hot water).
Once they have completely thawed (this should take around 30 minutes), you will need to peel off their charred skin, and deseed them if you wish to. Now you can use them however you like!
Can You Grow Hatch Chili Peppers For Personal Use?
Technically yes, you can. You are able to grow these chili peppers from their seeds if you have deseeded other Hatch chilis you have bought, and then replant those.
You can also purchase the seedlings online or in some garden centers. These should be able to grow in most climates, but they will be more fond of warm weather.
However, once you have grown the peppers, you won’t actually be able to call them Hatch chili peppers. Similarly to how champagne can only be called this if it is grown in the Champagne wine region of France, Hatch chilis can only be called Hatch if they are grown in this area in New Mexico!
Where Can You Find Them?
While they are slowly being integrated into grocery stores around the United States, they aren’t as common as you might think. The best option to find some Hatch chilis is to order them online – there are some online stores that solely sell these chilis, or Amazon also sells a huge variety of them.
You can choose to buy them frozen and they will last quite some time, or you can buy them roasted. You are more likely to get roasted or canned Hatch chiles from Amazon, and frozen from the Hatch-specific online stores!
Can They Be Substituted For Another Pepper?
There are a few chili peppers that are quite similar to the Hatch pepper if you aren’t able to get a hold of them. Cubanelle peppers are a brilliant choice, because they are also quite mild with a mellow, slightly peppery taste.
This could be a good match for the earthy, mild taste of the Hatch chili.
Another good option is the Anaheim pepper. They are described as quite smokey and tangy, but they only have a small amount of heat.
This mild spice level will match the Hatch chili spice very well, while maintaining the slight earthy taste. One thing to bear in mind is that the Anaheim pepper might be slightly sweeter than the Hatch, so you will need to adapt your other ingredients accordingly.