NMSU: New Mexico Favorites - Chile and Pecans
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New Mexico Favorites—Chile and Pecans

Circular 517
Priscilla Grijalva, Extension Food and Nutrition Specialist
College of Agriculture, Consumer and Environmental Sciences New Mexico State University. (Print Friendly PDF)

New Mexico is proud of its production of high quality chile and pecans. More than 27 tons of chile and 28 million pounds of pecans are harvested annually in the state.


When Don Juan de Oñate entered New Mexico in 1598, the building blocks of the state’s history were well laced with chile. The Spaniards brought the vegetable north with them from the tropics. Along with other peppers of the genus Capsicum, the plant belongs to the same New World family as tomatoes and potatoes. Because of its pungency, Columbus thought he had discovered a different form of the pepper he was searching for. Chile is now prized as a vegetable and condiment all over the United States.

Pecan trees are native to the southern United States. Indians enjoyed pecans before the Europeans came to North America. The first Spanish and French explorers mentioned the native Pacana nuts growing in Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas. George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were among the pioneers in pecan culture. They recorded attempts to grow pecans from seed, and planted the trees in their home gardens. As early as 1932, observations were made that the southern Rio Grande Valley would be ideal for pecan orcharding. Pecan orchards in the Pecos Valley started shortly after 1900.

Rich in Nutrients

Chile is rich in vitamins A and C. Vitamin A is most abundant in fresh red peppers in the form of carotene. Most of the vitamin A in chile remains after it is canned, dried or frozen, which is important because of the many processed chile products available. Vitamin C content of chile increases as the season advances and is higher in chile gathered in October than in August. Because vitamin C is affected by heat and oxidation, canned and frozen chile contain slightly less than fresh chile. Chile loses vitamin C when dried.

Pecans furnish calcium, phosphorus, iron, potassium and magnesium. They are also a good source of the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin and niacin). Ten large nuts (20 halves) yield approximately 100 calories. The fat in pecans has a high ratio of polyunsaturated to saturated fatty acids. The pecan is an excellent source of energy because it is 71% fat.

Selecting and Sorting

Chile may be either green or red, and is available fresh, dried, frozen or canned. Fresh chile should have large smooth pods with smooth shoulders. Pods should be firm and thick-fleshed with a bright shiny surface. Roasted and peeled green chile can be dried in the sun or in a home dehydrator. Traditionally, red chile is strung in ristras and dried in the sun for winter use. Dried chile is marketed as whole pods or ground to a powder. Frozen green chile is available in many forms – whole green chiles, chopped chiles, sauces and many prepared dishes. Frozen red chile sauce is available as well in enchiladas, chile con carne and burritos. A wide variety of canned products containing chile has made the popular New Mexico vegetable available to chile fans across the country.

For storage, put fresh chile in polyethylene-type bags in the refrigerator until peeled. Dried red chile or chile powder should be stored in a cool dark place to preserve flavor and color. Frozen foods should be stored at zero degrees. Canned chile should be stored in a cool dark place. After opening, refrigerate and use within 2 days.

Pecans are available shelled or in the shell. Fresh shelled pecans are a light golden brown. The color darkens with age. High quality pecans in the shell are clean and free from cracks or holes. Unshelled pecans keep at room temperature for about 6 months. Ideally they should be stored in a cool, dry place. Shelled pecans should be stored in a refrigerator or the freezer. They remain in good condition for a year.

Add Then to...

Both chile and pecans add good flavor to a wide variety of dishes. Chile in all forms should be labeled as to pungency. Sometimes variety is used as an indication of hotness, so it is helpful for novices to be familiar with varieties. A little bit of chile usually goes a long way, so it’s best to start with a small amount first. For hotter dishes, substitute jalepeño peppers for part or all of the green chile.

Chile sauce is basic to many recipes. It can then be used with many dishes as well as traditional Spanish dishes such as tacos, enchiladas or huevos rancheros. Chile is a tasty addition to scrambled eggs, beans, salads, casseroles and vegetable dishes.

Pecans add tasty nourishment to every course at mealtime. They can be added to salads, vegetable casseroles, main dishes and desserts. Better yet, just eat them plain or toasted.

Chile Recipes

Red Chile Sauce

1/2 cup dry red chili powder 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon salt 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 cups water 2 tablespoons oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano

In saucepan mix chili powder, flour, salt and garlic powder. Add water gradually while mixing to blend well. Add oil and oregano. Simmer gently for 15 minutes. Makes two cups.

Red Enchiladas

1/4 cup oil 1 dozen corn tortillas
2 cups grated cheese 1/2 cup chopped onion (optional)
1 pint red chile sauce (see recipe above)

Heat oil in a fry pan. Fry each tortilla in hot fat and drain. Dip one tortilla into chile sauce then place tortilla flat on a plate, sprinkle onion and cheese on top and repeat. Usually 3 tortillas make one serving. May be topped with fried egg. Serve with refried beans, Spanish rice and/or salad. Serves 4 to 6.

Chile Con Carne

Make red chile sauce above and add 2 cups cooked, cubed meat and 2 cups cooked pinto beans. Serve hot in bowls with corn or flour tortillas or corn bread.

New Mexico Spoon Bread

1 No. 300 can cream style corn 3/4 cup milk
1/3 cup melted shortening 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
2 eggs, slightly beaten 1/2 teaspoon soda
1 teaspoon baking powder 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar (optional) 1 1/2 cups grated cheese
1 4-oz. can green chile, chopped

Mix all ingredients except chile and cheese. Pour 1/2 batter in greased 9 × 9 pan, sprinkle on 1/2 cheese and chile; add remaining batter and top with cheese and chile. Bake in 400 °F oven 45 minutes; cool slightly and serve.

Green Chile Salsa

1 cup chopped, peeled green chile
(fresh, canned or frozen)
1/4 cup onion, chopped fine
3/4 cup chopped tomato
(fresh or canned)
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt 1 tablespoon fresh coriander
(cilantro) optional

Combine all ingredients and mix well. Chill and refrigerate for an hour or longer to allow flavors to blend. This makes 2 cups of sauce. Serve as a dip, in tacos, with beans or to season other foods.

Chile Con Queso

In a saucepan cook chile salsa (above) until just tender. Remove from heat. Add 2 cups grated cheese. Stir in until melted. Serve as a dip or to season bland foods. Thin with evaporated milk to desired consistency.

Green Chile Spread

4 to 6 green chiles 1 16-oz. pkg. cream cheese

Peel chile, remove stems and seeds, chop fine. Bring cream cheese to room temperature. Blend cheese and chile. Spread on celery or carrot sticks, or tortilla chips.

Green Chile Stew

1 lb. beef stew meat 3 medium potatoes cubed
1 small onion chopped 1/4 teaspoon cumin seed
1 1/3 cups green chile (desired pungency) 1 teaspoon salt
3 carrots sliced Pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour Water
2 cups canned or fresh chopped tomatoes

Place meat in large heavy fry pan. Brown over medium heat. Add onion, chile, tomato, carrots, potatoes, cumin seed, salt, pepper and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle flour over all ingredients. Add water to cover all ingredients. Cover. Bring to a boil and turn heat down. Simmer 1 1/2 hours or until tender. Serves 6.

Quick Chile Cheese Corn

2 tablespoons butter or oleo margarine 1 1/4 cup cooked tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green onions 1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup chopped, peeled green chile 1 1/2 cup shredded cheese
1 No.2 can whole kernel corn (2 1/2 cups)

In a large skillet heat butter over medium heat. Saute onion until translucent. Add chile, tomatoes and salt. Cook until just tender. Add corn and heat to simmering. Remove from heat. Stir in shredded cheese until melted. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

Pecan Recipes

Deviled Pecans

1 pound of shelled pecans 1/2 teaspoon Tabasco sauce
1/3 cup of melted butter or margarine 1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce 1 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 300 °F. Place nuts in shallow baking pan. Combine remaining ingredients. Pour over nuts and stir well. Bake 20 minutes, stirring twice during cooking. Let cool on thick paper towels. Store in airtight container.

Pecan Cheese Ball

2 8-ounce packages cream cheese 2 cups chopped pecans
1/3 cup chopped bell pepper 1 tablespoon seasoned salt
2 tablespoons chopped green onion Garnish (optional)
1 81/2-ounce can crushed, well drained pineapple

Soften cream cheese. Gradually stir in crushed pineapple, 1 cup pecans, bell pepper, onion, and seasoned salt. Chill well. Form into a ball and roll in 1 cup pecans. Chill until serving. Garnish with twists of pineapple slices, maraschino cherries or parsley. Serve with assorted crackers.

Broccoli Casserole

1 pound fresh broccoli 1/4 lb. grated cheddar cheese
1 cup chopped pecans 1 can cream of chicken soup
1/2 cup milk 1/2 cup bread crumbs

Cook broccoli in salted water until just tender. Drain and place in a greased 1-quart casserole. Add cheese and pecans. Mix soup and milk and pour over. Top with bread crumbs and bake at 350 °F for 30 minutes.

Western Pecan Pie

3 eggs 1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup 1/2 cup white corn syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla 2 tablespoons melted butter
1 cup broken pecans 1 9-inch unbaked pie shell

Combine sugar with eggs, slightly beaten. Add syrup, vanilla, melted butter and pecans. Place in pie shell and bake in slow oven (275 °F) for 1 1/2 hours.

For more information, the following publications may be purchased through the Bulletin Office, Department of Agricultural Information, Box 3AI, New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, NM 88003.

Chile, Circular 463
Cooking With Pecans, Circular 465

Published and distributed in furtherance of the Acts of Congress of May 8 and June 30, 1914, by the Cooperative Extension Service of New Mexico State University, Robert L. Gilliland, associate dean and director, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, cooperating.

To find more resources for your business, home, or family, visit the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences on the World Wide Web at aces.nmsu.edu.

Contents of publications may be freely reproduced for educational purposes. All other rights reserved. For permission to use publications for other purposes, contact pubs@nmsu.edu or the authors listed on the publication.

New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.

Reprinted and electronically distributed April 1992, Las Cruces, NM.