A chile, not to be confused with chili (which is commonly found in Texas and is made of meat, beans and red chile powder) is a New Mexican staple. As you’ve probably already discovered, chile is hard to escape when you come to New Mexico—even the fast food chains like McDonalds and Pizza Hut carry green chile for their hamburgers and pizzas.
So, what is chile? Chiles are peppers and they come in a wide variety of shapes and sizes; the most common chile here in New Mexico is the Anaheim Chile. What’s the difference? Well, all chiles start out green—red chile is simply a ripened green chile that has been dried and ground into a powder which is then made into a sauce. Green chile can be served whole, chopped or in a sauce.
The question inevitably arises: Which is hotter? And the answer is: Neither. Depending on the variety, growth and harvest conditions, the level of spiciness between red and green chile can vary significantly. Just ask your server which is hotter that day and you should be safe.
So, the next time your server asks you the question, “red or green?” you’ll know how to answer. Say "Christmas" if you want both red and green chile, and don't be afraid to ask for the chile on the side if you're not sure. But whatever you do, don’t skip it! It’s a taste that’s unique to the area and if you give it a chance, you’re sure to love it by the time you leave.