Beef chile colorado is a flavorful Mexican stew featuring tender pieces of beef simmered in a spicy red chile sauce served with rice and tortillas. Beef chile colorado is one of my favorite comfort foods! It’s even better as leftovers since the flavors really come through. It’s the perfect meal to cook on a weeknight that feeds a crowd. Don’t forget the Mexican rice and warm tortillas on the side!
What is Beef Chile Colorado?
Beef chile colorado, or sometimes ‘chili’ colorado, isn’t actually a chili at all! Chile colorado literally means “colored red” and it gets its flavor and color from dried red chilies. Authentic Chile Colorado is made with Mexican dried chile peppers, namely ancho peppers, guajillo peppers, and chiles de arbol. The dried chile peppers are the star and namesake of this dish.
How to Make Authentic Chile Colorado
Chile Colorado is a simple one-pot recipe that can be made any night of the week. The chile sauce is so flavorful and you can freeze any extra to use in soups, enchiladas, and more!
Beef. Use beef shoulder or beef chuck. You want something with a bit of fat.
Dried Chilies. The authentic combo of chilies is a mix of ancho, guajillo, and arbol chilies. Most well-stocked grocery stores carry a variety of Mexican chilies.
Flour. Coating the cubed beef in flour helps thicken the stew.
Spices. In addition to the chilies, spices like cumin, coriander, bay leaf, and oregano give this Mexican stew a ton of flavor.
Aromatics. White onion and garlic add flavor to the chile sauce.
Beef broth. You can also use chicken stock or water, but beef broth or stock has the most flavor.
Toppings. I love topping beef chile colorado with chopped white onion, cilantro, radishes, and lime wedges.
Types of chilies used in Beef Chile Colorado
The richness of the sauce in Chile Colorado comes from the types of dried chilies used. I use three different types for maximum flavor.
Guajillo chilies. Guajillo chilies are the dried version of the mirasol pepper and they’re widely used throughout Mexican cooking. They’re long and have a reddish hue. The flavor is balanced with a hint of spice, but mostly sweet and tangy.
Ancho chilies. Ancho chilies are dried poblano peppers and are very different from guajillo chilies. They look dark and wrinkly and have a rich and smokey flavor that balances the sweetness from the guajillos.
Chile de Arbol. Chile de Arbol means “tree chili” in Spanish. They’re small red chilies that pack a bit of heat. Chile de arbol give the chile colorado some heat to balance out the sweet and smokey.
Dried chilies are readily available in most well-stocked grocery stores. You can also always find them at your local Hispanic market.
Make the sauce. Start by toasting your chilies gently in a dry skillet. Transfer to a saucepan with the chopped onion and garlic cloves and cover with water. Simmer gently for 20 minutes until the chilies are soft.
Blend. Transfer the soaked chilies, onions, garlic, 1 cup of the soaking liquid, beef broth, cumin, coriander, and oregano to a blender and blend on high until smooth. Season the sauce to taste with salt and set aside.
Sear the beef. Toss the cubed beef with salt and pepper and then dust with flour. Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a dutch oven or soup pot and sear the beef until browned on all sides. You may need to do this in 2-3 batches. Remove any excess oil from the pot.
Braise. Return all the beef to the pot and pour in enough sauce to cover the beef. Add the bay leaves, cover, and simmer for 2 hours or until tender.
Serve. Serve with Mexican rice, warm tortillas, and your favorite toppings!
Can you use beef stew meat?
I don’t recommend using stew meat, though it can be used in a pinch. Beef stew meat is a mix of different cuts and those cuts don’t always cook at the same rate. Beef chuck is economical, easy to find, and full of flavor!
How to make chile colorado in the slow cooker
I love set-and-forget stews for dinner! You can do a little bit of prep in the morning, throw everything in the slow cooker, and have dinner ready to go.
Make the sauce. Follow the instructions to make the red chile sauce. You can make the sauce several days in advance and refrigerate or freeze.
Sear the beef. Season the cubed beef with salt and pepper and coat in flour. Sear in a heavy-bottomed skillet until browned on all sides.
Set and forget! Combine the beef and sauce in the bowl of a slow cooker and add the bay leaves. Stir to make sure everything is combined and set on high for 4 hours, or low for 8 hours until the beef is very tender.
How to freeze beef chile colorado
Cool. Before freezing anything, always make sure that the food is at room temperature.
Package. You can freeze the chile colorado in any freezer-safe airtight container or freezer-safe ziplock bag. I like to freeze things in smaller portions so that they defrost quicker.
Label. Labeling things in your freezer keeps them from becoming a mystery! It makes it easier to adopt ‘FIFO’ or ‘First In, First Out’ principles. You can keep your chile colorado in the freezer for up to 6 months.
Defrost. To serve, defrost your chile colorado in the fridge overnight and then reheat in a pot or skillet.
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Beef Chile Colorado
Beef chile colorado is a flavorful Mexican stew featuring tender pieces of beef simmered in a spicy red chile sauce served with rice and tortillas.
In a dry skillet, toast the dried chilies for 2-3 minutes, stirring often. Once the chilies are fragrant, transfer them to a saucepan with the chopped onion and garlic cloves and cover with water. Bring to a simmer for 20 minutes until the chilies are soft.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer the softened chilies, onion, and garlic to a blender with 1 cup of the soaking liquid. Add the cumin, coriander, oregano, and beef stock and blend on high until very smooth. Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.
Season the cubed beef with salt and pepper and then toss with the flour. Heat a dutch oven over medium-high heat and add the oil. Once the oil is hot, place beef in a single layer in the pot and brown on all sides. You may need to do this in several batches. Pour out any excess oil.
Return all the beef to the pot and pour in just enough sauce to cover the beef. Any extra sauce can be frozen. Add the bay leaves to the pot and cover with a lid. Simmer on low for 2 hours, until the beef is very tender.
Skim any oil from the top and serve with warm tortillas and any other desired toppings.