Chile Colorado is a flavorful and hearty stew recipe made with stew meat simmered in a Mexican style red chile sauce until fall-apart tender. This Chile Colorado recipe can be made in the oven, stove top, Instant Pot or slow cooker.
My oldest son and I used to go to a Mexican restaurant in Moorpark, California that in our opinion makes the absolute best Chile Colorado recipe! The beef stew meat was melt in your mouth tender and incredibly tasty. The red chile sauce was thick and flavorful without being too spicy!
Chile Colorado is all about hearty and bold flavors which makes this tasty Mexican beef stew the perfect filling for burritos or shredded beef tacos. I like serving it with a simple side of Mexican rice, beans and tortillas.
This easy beef stew recipe starts with a red chili sauce made with dried chiles, tomato and spices that are blended into a flavor-packed simmering sauce. Yes, this Chile Colorado is the real deal! No canned chili sauce here! But, don’t worry! I have a few shortcuts and simple instructions that will make this Mexican recipe a breeze to make!
Why Is It Called Chile Colorado?
Chile Colorado, sometimes spelled Chili Colorado is a Mexican stew made by simmering meat in a sauce made with dried chiles and spices. Colorado (red) is a reference to the beautiful deep Mexican red sauce used to make this tasty stew.
To make Chili Colorado, meats like beef, pork, lamb and even chicken can be used.
Chili Colorado Ingredients
- Dried Chiles: You can use a combination of dried chiles (see recipe below) or simply use one or two types of chiles. Chiles like New Mexico chiles, Guajillo Chiles or Dried Ancho Chiles are always good options.
- Broth: I use beef broth or chicken broth. Water can also be used instead of broth.
- Tomato: I provide instructions for roasting tomatoes in the recipe card below,. However, in a pinch you can use canned roasted tomatoes.
- Beef: Stew meat like beef chuck are what I always get. Cut the meat into 1-inch pieces or buy pre-cut stew meat.
- Masa Harina: This gluten free product is used as a thickening agent. It has a distinct Mexican corn flavor
- Other Ingredients: Onions, garlic, ground cumin, oregano, allspice, apple cider vinegar and chicken or beef bouillon (optional).
How To Make Chile Colorado
Authentic Mexican Chile Colorado is all about the red chili sauce. The depths of flavors of homemade chili sauce cannot compare to anything you buy in a can.
How To Make Chile Colorado Sauce
- Get Ready: If you have very sensitive skin, please wear disposable gloves.
- Prep the Chiles: Grab a dry chile and remove the stem by pulling it.
- Open up the chile (use kitchen shears, if needed) and scrape off the seeds and any ribs. If the chile is small (like chile de arbol), after pulling the stem, turn the opening down and squeeze the seeds out by gently massaging it.
- Microwave: Toast the chiles in the microwave. Yes! You heard me right! I learned this method from serious eats. Place the chiles on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for two 15-seconds intervals. The chiles should be warm and pliable.
- Microwave some water (or broth) until warm. Submerge the chiles into the liquid, cover and microwave again for about 2 minutes.
- Blend:Add the chiles and liquid into the blender and process until smooth.
- If you do not like using the microwave, you can toast the chiles on a dry cast iron skillet over medium heat, turning the chiles as needed. Also, you can boil water (or broth) and soak the chiles in the liquid for 30 minutes. At this point, you are ready for blending!
Make the Chili Colorado Recipe (Mexican Stew)
- Next, brown the beef over medium high heat. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.
- Saute the onions, garlic and add the spices.
- Return the beef and any collected juices to the pot. Add the red chili sauce, remaining broth and simmer until the beef is tender.
- Make a masa harina slurry by using some of the cooking liquid (beef juices) and mixing it with the masa harina.
- Stir the masa harina slurry and the apple cider vinegar into the stew and simmer for 5 minutes.
Did You Know?
- Ancho Chiles are whole Poblano Peppers that have been dried. They are also referred as Pasilla Chiles. They are mild in flavor and have very little heat (if any).
- Masa Harina is the main ingredient for tamales. It is also a great addition to Homemade Chili!
Chile verde is a stew made by simmering meat (mostly pork) in a green Chile sauce. Unlike chile colorado, the chile verde sauce is made mostly with green tomatillos instead of dried red chiles.
No, they are not the same. However, they are very similar in flavor and heat level so you can substitute one with the other.
Absolutely! Both the Mexican red sauce and the stew can be made in advance.
Chile Colorado sauce can be store in the refrigerator in an airtight container up to 3 days. The stew can be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for 2-3 days.
Does Chili Colorado Freeze Well?
Yes, Chile Colorado freezes well. Cool the stew completely and store it in a container or in a resealable freezer bag. You can freeze individual portions in resealable sandwich or quart freezer bags also.
Make the bag as flat as possible by pushing all the air out. Label and freeze it for 2 to 3 months. Defrost in the refrigerator overnight then, reheat in the microwave or on the stove top over low heat, stirring frequently until warm through. You can add chicken or beef broth if needed.
Chile Colorado Recipe Variations
Authentic Chile Colorado beef stew is made simply with stew meat simmered in a spiced red chili sauce. Just meat and sauce! If you want to add or substitute some ingredients, here are a few suggestions:
Add Potatoes: Add raw, peeled yellow or red potatoes cut into large chunks. Let the potatoes cook with the beef and sauce.
Add Frozen Peas and Carrots: You can add about a cup of frozen peas and carrots the last 15 minutes of cooking. If making this Mexican stew in the Instant Pot, add the veggies after the pot pressure has released. Simply turn the sauté option on and allow the veggies to simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Stir as needed so the stew doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Swap the protein: You can make chile colorado with pork shoulder or pork butt cut into chunks. Bone in chicken thighs or legs can also be used. Boneless chicken can be used but the cooking time needs to be reduce to prevent the chicken from drying out.
Swap the Chiles: Use one type of dried chiles or a combination Beside Guajillo chiles, New Mexico chiles and chile de arbol chiles, you can use dried Puya chiles (mild heat and smaller than Guajillos) or dried Pasilla chiles (medium heat and dark red in color).
Swap the Masa Harina: If you don’t have masa harina, simply cut a few corn tortillas into thin stripes and then chop them finely. Add them to the stew and allow them to simmer for about 15 minutes so they dissolve into the stew adding that authentic corn masa flavor.
Serving Suggestions for Chile Colorado
Chili Colorado is traditionally served with rice (Spanish or Mexican rice) and tortillas. Sometimes a side of beans is also included as part of the dinner meal.
The tender beef can be shredded and served in tacos and burritos as well.
If you are a big fan of mashed potatoes, this Mexican stew goes incredibly well with the creaminess of this side dish. Keep your mashed potatoes simply seasoned to enjoy the bold flavors of the stew.
Chili Colorado Recipe Tips
- You may need to brown the beef in batches to prevent over crowding the pot. You want to get a nice sear on the beef instead of steaming the meat.
- If making this beef stew recipe in the slow cooker, you should brown the beef first in a separate pan (unless your crock pot has a saute function).
- I am not a big fan of canned beef broth. I don’t think it has any beefy flavor. I use canned chicken broth instead.
- When blending hot liquids, make sure you hold the blender’s lid down with a kitchen towel to prevent a big messy blow out! Also, always start blending in the lowest setting.
- I love making stews like Chile Colorado in an Enamel Cast Iron Dutch oven. Although I love my Le Creuset, this budget friendly Dutch Oven is the one I use most often.
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Chile Colorado Recipe (Mexican Beef Stew)
For The Chile Paste
- 3 dried Guajillo chiles *see notes about chiles
- 4 dried New Mexico Chiles
- 2 dried Chile de Arbol chiles
- 4 cups chicken broth or beef stock, divided
- 1 tomato roasted *see notes
For the Chile Colorado Beef Stew
- 4 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch chunks *see notes
- Salt and ground black pepper to taste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil, vegetable oil or canola oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1/4 teaspoon ground all spice
- 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
- 2 tablespoons masa harina
- 1 teaspoon chicken bouillon (optional)
- Salt and pepper to taste
To Make the Red Chile Sauce
- Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles.
- Place the chiles on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high for 30 seconds total – in 2 intervals of 15 seconds each.
- Heat 2 cups of chicken broth until warm – you can do this in the microwave. Submerge the chiles into the broth, cover and microwave for about 2 minutes.
To Make the Chile Colorado Beef Stew
- Season the beef with salt and ground black pepper to taste.
- In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef to the pot in a single layer and sear on all sides until the beef turns golden brown. You may need to do this in batches to prevent over crowding the pot. Remove the seared beef to a plate and set aside.
- When you are done searing all the beef, add the onions to the pot (add more oil if needed), and saute for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions become soft and translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 additional minute. Add the spices and cook for 1 minute stirring constantly.
- Return the beef and any collected juices back to the pot. Add the red chile sauce and the remaining broth and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. (If cooking in the oven or in the slow cooker, you can follow the instructions below).
- Once boiling, reduce the heat to low, cover the pot and cook stirring occasionally for about 1.5 hours or until the beef is tender.
If Cooking In the Oven
- Preheat the oven to 320 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the covered pot in the oven and cook for 1.5 hours or until the beef is tender.
If Cooking In the Slow Cooker:
- Place the seared beef, saute onions, garlic and spices into the slow cooker. Add the chile paste and broth. Cook on low for 7 to 8 hours or on high for 4 to 5 hours or until the beef is tender.
If Cooking In A Pressure Cooker (Instant Pot)
- Use the saute function to brown the beef Do it in batches not to overcrowd the pot. Remove from the Instant Pot.
- When you are done searing all the beef, (see NOTE 1) add the onions to the pot (add more oil if needed), and saute for about 3 to 4 minutes or until the onions become soft and translucent. Add the garlic and the spices and cook for 30 seconds stirring constantly. Turn the Instant Pot Off.
- Pour the remaining broth into the Instant Pot and with a wooden spoon scrape any browned bits stuck at the bottom. Return the beef and any collected juices back to the pot. Add the red chile sauce and stir to combine.
- Lock the lid on and check that the valve is set to seal. Cook on HIGH pressure for 30 minutes.
- When the cook time is up, let the pressure naturally release for 10 minutes. Release the remaining pressure and carefully open the lid. Continue with the rest of the recipe below. You will use the saute function to simmer the sauce (with the cornstarch slurry) for 5-6 minutes.
After The Beef Is Tender (for all methods)
- Make a Masa Harina Slurry: In a small bowl, mix the masa harina with 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid (beef juices) until the mixture is smooth. You can also use broth or water, if preferred.
- Stir the masa harina slurry mixture and the vinegar into the beef stew and simmer on the stove top for 5 minutes. (If using a slow cooker, set the crockpot to high and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes).
- Check for seasoning and add the chicken bouillon (optional) or salt and pepper, if needed. Serve.
- Note 1: If the IP is getting too hot after browning the beef (you will notice the bottom of the pot looks burnt – simply turn the pressure cooker off for about 3-4 minutes, after turn the IP to saute again.
- You can use a combination of dried chiles or just one or two types. If using only one type of chile, I suggest using New Mexico chiles or dried ancho chiles (not in the recipe but it makes a great sauce!)
- You can use stew meat.
- You can use about a cup of canned roasted tomatoes instead. Seriously don’t stress over the exact amount, I usually use 3/4 of a 15-ounce can. If I’m feeling particularly lazy I skip the measurements and dump the whole can!
- How To Roast a Tomato: Heat a small cast iron skillet over high heat. Add the tomato and cook, turning often until lightly charred. You can also char the tomato in the oven under the broil, turning it often.