Chili Colorado

Big pot of chili
Big Pot of Chili

Just a few words of introduction to the recipe. First off, the name has nothing whatever to do with the state of Colorado. "Colorado" means "reddish color" in Spanish. The name "Colorado" was given to the river because of the red hue of the sediment carried to the Gulf of California. The state of Colorado is named for that river. Chili colorado may have originated centuries ago in the area now known as Chihuahua in Mexico, or it may have been coined by Spanish settlers in what is now the American Southwest. Another story has it being created by Mexican immigrants to the US in the early 20th century. you choose, I only know that I love the dish :-)

For me, this recipe has evolved over many years. The ingredients and steps below make about 16 quarts of chile. Cut everything in half if you're using a standard-sized 7 or 8-quart Dutch oven or stew pot.

The recipe steps are intense and fold out over several hours. I'm sitting down after getting a pot in the oven and it's 1:30 in the afternoon. I started at around 8:00 this morning, and now there are 3 to 8 more hours left. (I prefer the 8-hour cook myself.) Oh, and I de-seeded and de-veined the chilis yesterday. That took about an hour so about 14 hours altogether. Making 7 or 8 quarts would still take a while but likely more like a couple of hours for the prep. Then if you wanted to cook it for 8 hours it would probably be closer to 10 hours spent. De-seeding and de-veining a quarter pound of chiles wouldn't take anywhere near an hour, and preparing and cooking 3 or 4 pounds of beef would not take the almost three hours the 8 pounds took me today.

So cooking the batch is intense, especially if you make a large-sized batch. But the result is fantastic! I LOVE chili colorado and this recipe is my favorite.

Step 1. Chile Sauce


  • At least 1 LB dried chiles - go for a 50/50 split of ancho and guajillo peppers, you'll be happy.
  • 1 cup oil, lard, Crisco, whatever you'd like to use
  • 1 cup flour or masa (corn flour)
  • 6 to 8 cloves of garlic
  • 4 Qts Beef stock

What to do with them...

  1. Remove the stems and all of the seeds from the dried chiles. If you're extremely careful and remove every vein and every seed, there will be very little or no spicy heat in your chili. If you leave some seeds and aren't too particular about the veins, you can get a nice, burnished, picante bass spice note with the ancho/guajillo mixture. I remove as many of the seeds as I can, but I'm not as particular with the veins. With the ancho/guajillo mixture that leaves a subtle picante after you swallow.
  2. Put the chiles in a bowl and completely cover them with boiling water for about 20 minutes. Reserving at least 4 cups for step 3, drain off the water and put the chiles in a blender or food processor. (You can remove the chilies from the water with tongs and  leave all the water in the bowl.) Puree until a thick, homogenous paste has been formed. It will probably be a good idea to add some of the water to the chiles before pureeing so the paste will pour out more easily. Set aside when done.
  3. In a large stockpot, melt the Crisco or pour the oil over medium heat. Add the flour and salt and mix well, stirring constantly until the roux darkens a little and you can smell corn cooking, then add garlic just before adding chile paste. Add the reserved chile paste. Cook this mixture for about 15 minutes. If you don't add some of the reserved soaking water, you'll get a big ball of paste, which will translate to a very thick chili. If you add a little of the water, your chili will be more soupy. I like my chili soupy so I usually add a little more, but save the entire amount you reserved in step one just in case. 
  4. Add the beef broth. Stir it around until very smooth, then run the entire batch through a strainer to remove the chile solids - this is important, otherwise, you'll be chewing on little bits of chile skin and it's not pleasant. To strain the solids out, use a large sieve and a ladle. Hold the sieve over a large bowl, then use the ladle to scoop the mix into the sieve. Scrape the bottom of the ladle around the entire inside of the sive. The round bottom of the ladle forces the liquid out much faster than anything else I've tried. Discard or compost the solids. After straining, cook until it thickens a little, about an hour. 

Step 2. Chili Colorado


  • Chile Sauce from the recipe above
  • 1/4 cup chile powder, (at least). Again, if you're lucky enough to be able to find Ancho and Guajillo chile powders, you can mix even amounts of each with salt and create a spectacular mix that will amplify those same peppers in your chili.
  • 1/4 cup cumin (at least)
  • 1/4 cup Mexican oregano, dried (at least)
  • Lately, I've been adding 28 Oz. of enchilada sauce in addition to everything else.
  • 5 to 8 Lbs cubed beef roast - any cut will do, but should be well-marbled because the fat is going to be the tasty part - it renders out during cooking so you're not going to be chewing fatty meat. I use chuck roast.
    • I found that even 8 Lbs of beef doesn't fill the pot, so this time around I added a large bag of frozen corn,  (28 Oz, about 1.75 Lb), and chopped up two onions. That filled the pot up pretty well. I also blended 3 Tbs of masa, 3 Tbs of cornstarch, and 3 Tbs of water. I stirred it in and things thickened up nicely.
  • Flour or masa to coat cubed beef - a 1/4 cup or so
  • 1 can/bottle of good beer for deglazing
  • 42 Oz canned tomatoes - if the tomatoes are whole slice them or snip them with a pair of scissors
  • Flour Tortillas for serving
  • Grated Cheddar Cheese for serving
  • Chopped Green Onions for garnish

What to do with them...

  1. Add the spices to the Chile Sauce and warm over low heat. Meanwhile, coat the meat with the flour/masa and brown in a skillet over medium heat - brown the meat in batches, and don't burn the pan drippings. As the batches of cubed beef are browned, transfer them from the skillet to the Chile Sauce. 
  2. When you're almost done with browning the meat, preheat the oven to 190º. After all the beef is browned and added to the sauce, deglaze the pan with enough beer to do the job, usually about 1/2 to 3/4 of the bottle. That's why the recipe calls for "good beer" because you get to drink the rest. Add the deglazed pan drippings to the pot.
  3. Put the batch into the 190º oven for as long as possible up to 8 hours, (minimum 3 hours), until the meat is fall-apart tender and to give the flavors a chance to mingle.
  4. You now have a big pot of Chili Colorado, ¡felicidades!
  5. Serve in bowls with sides of Mexican rice, cilantro, grated cheese, shredded lettuce, limes, Etc. and tortillas so everyone can make their own tacos and enjoy them with a hearty bowl of chili colorado.