Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Home Cooking >
Apr 26, 2009 02:55 PM

Denver/Boulder Green Chile Sauce Recipe

There has been NUMEROUS posts relating to this topic but have yet to find any recipes that do this topic justice. I grew up in the Boulder area but do not live there anymore so I need to learn how to learn to make my own Colorado-style (Boulder/Denver/Longmont) Pork Green Chile. It is a very specific type of Green Chile and is not the same as New Mexican style Green Chile. The green chile i'm looking for does not have tomatillos, potatoes, etc. so PLEASE PLEASE no posts about how green chile recipes from NM or SW Colorado will add this or that or how "I think green chile is better with blah, blah". I am just looking for a simple, basic recipe for the type of pork green chile I am talking about. Again, if you don't know EXACTLY what I'm talking about then please don't clutter up this post to discuss it.

Literally, every Mexican restaurant in this area has a similar type of green chile. Yes, they are all a bit different and everybody has their favorite but they are all very similar.
My Favorites are:
Deli Cioso (Longmont/Estes Park) BEST
Tia Marias (Westminster Area)
3 Margaritas (Chain)
Efrain's (Boulder)
Blue Bonnet (Denver)
Santiagos (Can buy their chile in grocery stores)

The best is if there are any employees or former employees of any of these restaurants that have a basic recipe. Otherwise, almost everyone in this area knows someone that has their "Secret" Recipe. I have tried to make a couple recipes i have found in various posts like petradish recipe in but the pork had the wrong texture/taste and it tasted way too chicken soupy.

And, yes, I did see Megan's post in She is looking for the same type of recipe but people digressed with discussions about different types of green chile sauces. Beyond just an ingredient list i want an actual recipe because I think the cooking times, etc. are critical with this. Thank you!

Please Help!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Hit the Cherry Cricket in N. Cherry Creek, have a bowl of green, and see if it's not the best. If it is, grovel for the recipe. It is now owned by John Hickenlooper, Denver's visionary mayor, and it would be politically correct to fully disclose its secrets. The recipe and the restaurant go back to the 70's.

    4 Replies
    1. re: Veggo

      Yes, I'm sure it is great! However, I would like to keep this topic focused on recipes and not about listing or debating the restaurants the have the best green chile sauce. As I am not located in CO anymore, I can't go to restaurants and grovel for recipes. I will be sure to try it next time I am there though!

      1. re: sparkyr

        Gotcha. I'll ask John if I can share the recipe.

        1. re: Veggo

          I know it's been over three years since you posted this, but I'm a 56 year-old Seattleite raised in Boulder (worked at Tico's!), and I'd love to have the Cricket's recipe! PM me if you can get it--I'll buy you a beer...

          1. re: pbrmhl

            I wish I had that one. Here's the one I have:

            SERVES 15
            • 2-3 lbs pork roast (pre-diced pork works well for a faster preparation. Just brown with onions)
            • 2 tablespoons cooking oil or lard or bacon grease
            • 1 large chopped onion (not traditional) (optional)
            • 1 head minced garlic (taste great, but also helps prevent heart burn)
            • 6 tablespoons flour
            • 1 (15 ounce) can tomatoes, drained
            • 2 cups diced green chilies (I use Big Jims, roasted, peeled and frozen by the bushel every fall)
            • 3 large tomatillos, husks removed and coarsely chopped (optional)
            • 1 teaspoon jalapenos (optional)
            • 5 cups water or chicken broth (broth is not traditional, but I like the flavor better)
            • 1 tablespoons ground cumin (or to taste)
            • 2 tablespoons ground chili powder (or to taste) (optional)
            • 1 teaspoon salt
            1. Simmer roast in a large pan until meat is tender and removes from the bone easily. (You can also use diced pork, or pork cube steaks (cut to bite size pieces), browned in the pot with the onion and garlic before adding the rest of the ingredients).
            2. Cool meat enough to handle.
            3. Cube cooked pork into bite size pieces.
            4. Process 1/2 of the green chilies until smooth.
            5. In the same large pan, melt the lard or bacon grease (or heat oil).
            6. Add onions and garlic; sauté until tender but not brown.
            7. Stir flour into the onion, garlic and fat until flour absorbs the oil or fat.
            8. Add broth or water.
            9. Cook and stir until mixture comes to boil and is slightly thickened.
            10. Add cubed meat, drained tomatoes, chopped tomatillos, all of the green chilies and jalapeños if desired (taste first).
            11. Add the spices a little at a time until you get the taste you like, bringing to a simmer before each addition.
            12. Simmer for at least 1 hour (longer if you can afford the time), stirring occasionally to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
            13. If you want more of a stew type chili, add cubed potatoes 20 minutes before serving; serve with warm tortillas.
            14. Serve over burritos and garnish with cheese, lettuce, tomatoes and sour cream.
            15. Leave pork out for a vegetarian green chili sauce.

    2. If this sauce is basically cubed pork, such as country style ribs, cooked in a gravy (with a roux base) with lots of green chiles, I don't think cooking times are critical. I don't know what texture the meat has, but I suspect cooking is long enough to make it pretty tender. And with sufficient cooking, the pork should be contributing enough of its own flavor, even if it starts with a chicken broth base. Consistency can be adjusted with more roux, or more broth, or by letting the sauce cook down.

      If it is served through out the day as a sauce on various dishes, the restaurant probably keeps each batch warm for sometime. I wouldn't be surprised if they made one batch each day, but I don't have restaurant experience to say for sure. That kind of use, argues against critical timing.

      The choice of meat, and how it is cut (chunks, cubes, dice) will have a lot to do with texture.

      3 Replies
      1. re: paulj

        good point about the cooking time. it is definitely sauce like and just kept warm throughout the day. i guess the only reason why i said that is when i tried to make a batch i added cumin at the beginning of simmering and by the end it seemed to give it an almost "burnt" taste. not sure that it can be attributed to when i added the cumin though.

        as far as the pork goes, i tried browning cubed pork butt in bacon grease but it just didn't seem right. i'm not sure if i should flour the cubes first before browning or choose a different grease or what. the pork just seemed to taste too "porky" and didn't absorb the flavors of the sauce. i simmered the sauce for several hours which i thought would fix that. As far as the consistency, in a good colorado green chile sauce the pork will have firm chunks that are extremely tender. when i did it, however, it became very tender but just kinda fell apart.

        additionally, i didn't like the recipe i used because it didn't have enough flavor so that is why i'm looking for a real recipe instead of just one i made up. thanks for the imput!

        1. re: paulj

          I grew up in CO Springs, CO. Lived next door to a wonderful lady, she was Spanish and Italian, she grew up in Trinidad CO. She made the best Pork Green Chile recipe I've ever had! I literally did work in her home or in her yard and she would pay me with a pack of Green Chile to pour over my breakfast eggs and potatoes,eaten also with some home made tortillas. For many years she would not share the recipe. Unfortunately she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer and died but, before she died I was invited to her home to learn how to make the World's best Pork Green Chili!! Here it is:
          5 TBS. beef granuels
          aprox. 3 TBS vegetable oil
          3 or 4 lbs. of pork/cubed in bite size
          1 large onion-chopped
          aprox. 2 Cups Flour
          1 Cups Cold water
          3 Cups warm water
          3 garlic cloves-minced or crushed
          2 TBS garlic powder
          1 TBS pepper
          1TSP Salt
          1-Large can Hatch Green Chile
          2or 3 cans of roasted hot green Chile( depending on your taste)
          This recipe does not call for any canned or fresh tomatoes as it is suppose to "be GREEN Chile."

          add ,oil, pork, onions, minced garlic ,dry garlic to large pot, Heat on medium heat for about 45 to an hour stirring occasionally until pork is tender, Pour flour into pot with pork, simmer,constantly for about 10 minutes to brown the flour. Next, you pour in the bouillon stir and wait another 5 minuted. Now you can pour in your flour, cold water mixture.Stir for 5 minutes then add the 3 cups of warm water and continue stirring so the Chile does not become scorched, it will ruin the whole batch! This is where we add the mild and hot Chile's What ever is to your liking ,I like mine with a little kick, as someone else said when you have a slight runny nose it's got the right amount of kick I taste and add constantly! I can make a pretty good batch but it will never be as good as my next door neighbor ;> The end result is pretty good tho. Hope you all enjoy if you try my recipe.

          1. re: Stef1964

            Your use of flour looks suspicious. There is 1cup in the ingredients, but the instructions add flour twice. A quarter cup of flour is more typical for a roux to thicken 4 cups of liquid.

        2. Hi sparkyr -

          I'm a green chilephile. Lived in both ABQ, and Denver (a few years each.)

          1. It simply sounds like you have some experimenting to do.

          2. Pork shouldn't matter too much. You want a stewing/braising cut. I'd brown, then stew it. A different animal will yield different results in texture and taste EVERY time.

          3. If the recipe you tried tasted "way too chicken soupy," you should realize this: A pepper grown in a different part of the country will taste WORLDS different. A big Jim, or an Anaheim grown in New Jersey will taste nothing like one grown in NM, or Az. Two peppers of the same exact species from the same field started at the same time, and harvested at the same time can taste worlds different. Also, the chicken stock you used might be completely diferent than the stock used by someone else

          4. It seems like you know what you are looking for, just experiment a little bit.

          You have a bunch of variables that are possibly working against you, but you sound like you know what you are looking for, do your own experimentation. You've tasted the ones you like, grab a recipe, and run with it. Way too chicken soupy? Add less stock, and a little more water. Pork was wrong texture/taste? What was the wrong texture/taste? Correct it. It's stew meat. You want a slow stew cut. Brown it, then stew it.

          Again, once you tweak it to what YOU like, you'll be happy. Recipes are not written in stone unless you are baking. You can get the EXACT recipe from Deli Cioso, but when you make it, it might taste a LOT different unless you are getting the exact peppers, stock, that they are using. The methods of chile are all kinda similar, the products that go in are all very different. With the chile being the star of the sauce, then if you don't have the same chile, your sauce is not gonna be the same.

          All that being said, when you can get some really decent chiles, here's a recipe that quenches my chile thirst BIG TIME.

          Equal volume amounts of chopped white onion and roasted green chiles. Sounds like a lot of onion, but scale back to what YOU like. I have to use midwestern grown chiles (anaheims and big jims, mostly) which have a top end bite, and not too much of a body. The sweated onions kind of mellow out the top end bite of the chiles here. Like I said, I've been at this for a while, I'm stating here what nuances work for me to get a chile like those I recall from Denver, ABQ. YMMV - a LOT depends on where your chiles are from.

          Let's assume that we are using 3 cups of chile/onion:

          brown your pork cubes/chunks whatever YOU like, it might even be a large piece that is shredded at the end after being stewed. You've had the ones you liked, so YOU know what it was.Brown it, and set it aside.

          Lower the heat and sweat those onions till they are limp (do not brown them)
          Add in some olive oil - we're gonna make a nice little paste here to bring out the flavors of the spices. Add in:
          two tbs of flour
          1 tsp cumin
          1 tsp ground ancho
          1/2 tsp granulated garlic
          1/2 tsp toasted onion powder

          Once you start smelling the spices, then add in a chicken boullion cube, and mash it up into the oil and onions and spices and everything. This should be loose, add olive oil if needed. ok, so now you've got kind of a loose paste with onions in it. Add in as much fresh chopped/snmashed garlic as you'd like, I'd start with 4 cloves. Once your garlic has the kitchen smelling like a restaurant you want to eat at, then add in those chiles. Just warm the chiles up in the pan, and add in two cups of water. Once you are heated through to the point of a mild simmer, throw it all in the blender, and puree it. (I add cilantro to the blender, but that's me)

          toss the blended liquid into a pot, add your meat, and let it stew stovetop, slow heat until your pork is your desired texture. This will depend in how big the pieces or piece of pork may be depending on what you chose from the places that you have liked chile from.
          When it's done, salt it to where you need it to be, and add some lime juice to give it a slight tang.

          You might think that recipe was very generic, but it gets me, and the peppers I can regularly get a very close rendition of the green chile I grew accustomed to in Denver & ABQ. No potatoes, no tomatillos. I think, even though it's probably not as EXACT as you'd like, we're somewhat talking about the same stuff. BUT, if you can't get SW peppers, everything gets thrown off, so you can have a place's EXACT recipe, but it really might not taste anywhere close to that same when you make it, so having the EXACT recipe would be just a guideline for you anyway - you prolly still have to tweak it out.

          Reminds me, I have a 5 lb bag of roasted green chiles in my fridge from last season still.
          It's HIGH time to make a batch. Been quite a while.

          23 Replies
          1. re: gordeaux

            Is it possible that they don't brown the meat first in restaurants? Browning large quantities of meat without it stewing it is own juices requires care - either time consuming process of doing it in small batches, or using a large surface, or maybe in pans in the oven.

            1. re: paulj

              There's not a LOT of meat in these chile sauces at all. I'd assume a two lb shoulder would be sufficient for a 8qt pot. Green chile in NM / Denver is a sauce that goes on top of things, it's not like a bowl of Texas chili. It's a sauce that happens to have some meat in it, and not a bunch of meat in sauce.

              1. re: gordeaux

                gordeaux, thanks so much for your post. Part of my problem with the recipe i made was that it lacked flavor from the spices/green chiles and so the chicken stock i added just overpowered everything. I think your method of sweating the onions and adding spices to create a paste will go a long way in bringing out more flavor.

                and yes, i need to track down some good roasted green chiles. the only other question i have is about adding tomato. A lot of recipes call for it, a lot don't. Since I'm not in CO now, it hard for me to remember if this is typical or not. i know it isn't a main component of the sauce. if so, would you throw some peeled canned tomatoes in the blender with the mixture?

                1. re: sparkyr

                  I would not use tomato, but yes, I've had chile in the restaurants that had tomato in it. I don't prefer it that way, but if you do, then go for it, and scale back a little on your water. darn - this just reminded me i didn't pull that bag out of the freezer. I'm really jonesing now. I don't know what it is about green chile - many say it has some addicting component in it. You definitely get the cravings. I love the fact that it's almost "buttery" when you get it just right imo.

                  Good luck, hope it turns out a little better, but, you really gotta get some good chiles to get it close to what you are looking for, I think.

                  1. re: sparkyr

                    try a combination of chicken and beef stock.

                  2. re: gordeaux

                    A bowl of green at the Cricket has a lot of pork, and is not a sauce, it's a meal.

                    1. re: Veggo

                      That's fine, and it sounds great, but I think it's not the sauce-y GC the op is seeking that is the typical "style" in them thar parts. The typical chile, is a sauce added to almost anything you order in any "SW Mexican" restaurant. You order eggs, they ask you "green or red"
                      You order a burger, they ask you "green or red"
                      You order enchiladas, they ask you "stacked or rolled" then they ask you "green or red"

                      It's not a "bowl of chili" chile, it's a topping / finishing sauce made out of roasted green chiles that the op is in search of

                    2. re: gordeaux

                      I'd say the amount of meat(that and tomatoes) is the main difference between Denver and Albuquerque green chile. Albuquerque green chile that goes on chile rellenos, enchiladas, etc. has no meat at all(and no tomatoes). Denver green chile has quite a bit of meat and commonly tomatoes, too.

                      1. re: Chimayo Joe

                        I would not generalize it that much, each joint has it's own ways within each town. I had plenty of green with pork in it in Abq, and plenty in Den that did not have a lot of meat in it, and no tomatoes.

                    3. re: paulj

                      The first thing I noticed in the OP was browning the meat. Maybe it is done, but I never brown pork when doing a stew like this. I think it absorbs more of the flavors of the sauce without. On the other hand, I haven't had New Mexican stew and shouldn't even be posting here! Breaking all your rules, sorry!

                      1. re: MazDee

                        I bowed out of this one a while ago because pork green chili is not a suace, but a meal in itself, or a smother for mashed, and I was condescendingly castrated for being so stupid as to not understand the "sauce" part. What the OP is asking for does not exist. I stepped back in today to help another poster with chili peppers, with which I am comfortable. The flow of this thread has not been good from the start, MazDee. Don't take it personally.

                        1. re: Veggo

                          Is this the only way Cricket serves it:
                          "Green chili cup with 1 tortilla / bowl with 2 tortillas"?

                          1. re: Veggo

                            The op is not searching for pork green chili.
                            It's green chile that is the quest.
                            CHEE-lay. Pork is never mentioned in the name. In the cultures that serve this specific sauce, it's simply called green chile (CHEE-lay.) It's not something you go and order a bowl of in the areas that serve what the op is looking for, it's a sauce that goes on top of food. The op (and others that have spent time in these areas know exactly what this sauce is) which is why the op asked for people who are unfamiliar to kinda leave the postings about things that are not green chile out. I'd say that outside of these SW areas, if you say green chile, 99% of Americans will think you are referring to a pot of spicy stew with a bunch of meat, kind of like American red chili (note the I at the end.)

                            In parts of the SW red chile and green chile refers to a finishing sauce. Red is usually meatless and very earthy, and green is usually flavored with pork.

                            I'm not sure if veggo will consider this "castrating," it's certainly not meant to be. Nor have been any other of my posts in this thread. And I certainly did not say you were stupid, or imply that you were. I'd assume whoever posted that had the post removed.

                            1. re: gordeaux

                              You can order a bowl of it with tortillas in most(possibly all) of the restaurants Sparkyr referenced in the original post.

                              1. re: Chimayo Joe

                                If this is the case, and is the norm, then I'm way off. My Denver / Albuquerque living experiences were different, OR, the Denver GC I was accustomed to was more prevalent in Denver than in Boulder. The red/green stuff I was accustomed to was a sauce, and normally went on top of foods, and was not usually served by itself.

                                1. re: gordeaux

                                  Gordeaux, you definitely know exactly what I am talking about. It is definitely a sauce. While you can get a bowl of it and dip tortillas in it at many of the restaurants I mentioned, people in this area generally know it as simply a green chile sauce that is used to smother almost all mexican food.

                                  1. re: sparkyr

                                    It's substantial enough that some of those restaurants serve it as an entree. You can get it on a plate along with beans, rice, and tortillas. I don't recall ever seeing that with the green chile on the Albuquerque restaurants menus and wouldn't expect to.

                      2. re: gordeaux

                        I am trying to replicate a sauce for smothered burritos Tortilla Flats in Littleton, Co. served some 40 years ago and I would like some advice.
                        I sorta followed gordeauxs outline. I roasted 8 Poblano and 8 Anaheim which gave me about 1 1/2 cups. I also had 1 1/2 cups of white onions, identified as Mexican white onions, used Mexican lard instead of olive oil and pork stock for the liquid. The result was a good taste and minor heat, but unexpectedly there was a sweetness that I did not expect or care for. Do roasted peppers have a sweet taste or might that be the white onions. I have used the pork stock before and never noticed that characteristic.

                        1. re: RondoChar

                          The only ingredient you mentioned that can have a "kick" is the poblanos, and they vary a lot. I do a cream of poblano with sweet corn and sweet shrimp soup. Sometimes it is very smooth, other times you might drop your spoon. Roasted anaheims are sweet, likewise the onion. I would recommend having a dish of minced, lightly sauteed jalapenos to fold in to attenuate the sweet and dial up the flavor you seek, as you cook and taste. It takes a while for their flavor to meld in. You are 5 months away from Hatches, (and only half of them have heat) but there is usually a way to get there from here with year-around jalapenos which are very versatile. I find habaneros to be too difficult for cooking, likewise serranos. If you have access to cubanelles, I think they have more flavor than anaheims. You may want to consider anchos or other dried peppers or pastes, or chipotle in adobado.

                          1. re: Veggo

                            That recipe for the cream of poblano soup sounds excellent. Would you be so kind as to post it?

                            1. re: mschow

                              Sure, thanks for asking. It's my own concoction, so beware

                              4-6 poblanos, blistered and roasted enough to be easily sweated, peeled, cleaned, and pureed
                              1 lb large Florida pink shrimp, shell on, boiled 1 minute
                              4-6 ears sweet corn (Colorado Olathe corn is wonderful) cut from the cob and sauteed in grapeseed or vegetable oil until it begins to carmelize.
                              16 oz chicken stock
                              16 oz half and half
                              when shrimp cool, peel and cut in half lengthwise. Save shells and boil them in the chicken stock 3 minutes. Strain out shells and return shrimp-fortified chicken stock to pan. Fold in corn, sliced shrimp, half and half, and 2/3 of the pureed poblano, on low heat. Taste for heat; poblanos vary a lot (and so do people). Use remaining poblano puree, to taste. Garnish soup with cilantro leaves.

                          2. re: RondoChar

                            I'm trying to find the green chili gravy from the old Delta Inn on Denver/Arvada line that was used to smother their beef burritos. There was no pork evident, just a thickened gravy with green chilis in it. Sounds easy, but I am not experienced with mexican cooking. Been craving this on my burritos for 30 yrs here on the east coast!
                            This gravy can be used as a sauce on anything. MMM!

                          3. re: gordeaux

                            Ha - thread's been bumped. Made my batch. My favorite use is saucing a plate of tortillas, hash browns and eggs:

                          4. Here's a basic recipe if you're talking about the stew type green chile that's common in Denver. Some places also use corn starch as a thickener. You might play with that if flour isn't giving you the texture you want. Another thing that could be more relevent to you is that pork stock from stewed pork might be used instead of chicken stock at the places whose green chile you're trying to emulate.


                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Chimayo Joe

                              That is a great starting point. Couple notes to supplement it though:

                              -The green chilies you choose really are key. Try to get hatch or pueblo. Otherwise, use a variety of chilies to try to get some complexity. A mix of poblano, pasilla, and jalapeno is a good starting point. Actually, a 100% jalapeno green chili is really tasty as well.

                              -Roast all of the green chilies until they are black, peel most of the skin, seed and de-vein unless you like it really hot. Also roast the other veggies (onions, tomatoes, garlic)

                              -A good flavorful lard, and lots of it I think that is the secret of Santiago's super tasty green chili.

                              -herbs and spices are optional, I can not taste any in most green chili. Options are Mexican oregano and cumin. But, keep it low.

                              In the end, it is a pretty simple recipe. Just start with the basics in Chimayo's link and these notes, and just play with it. Once you get your recipe down, make extra and freeze.

                              1. re: nateco

                                Good call on the lard. The recipe I posted didn't say what to brown the pork in.

                              2. re: Chimayo Joe

                                i have found pork stock to be way sweet. maybe add some vinegar?

                              3. I can clutter up a post if I want to

                                Do you want my recipe for Chili Verde?

                                2 Replies
                                1. re: janetms383

                                  Clutter away if it is a recipe that is similar to what I'm looking for!!

                                  1. re: sparkyr

                                    I just had my parents bring me a 1/2 bushel of roasted hot and mild green chilis from Loveland CO and am looking for EXACTLY the same thing. the places you listed were/are my favorite places for Cheel-ay I lived in Longmont, Erie and Frederick/Firestone area (unincorporated Longmont) from 95-04.
                                    Were you able to find what you are looking for? I even called Casa Alverez to see if they would share their recipe. They wouldn't but were more than willing to sell me a pint
                                    I'm stuck in OH for now