How to make New Mexican chile sauce from scratch. Photograph by Douglas Merriam.

SECRET SPICE BLENDS and special techniques may mark some cooks’ pots of divine goodness, but these two recipes will get novices started. 

Both appear in The Best from New Mexico Kitchens, a book originally published by New Mexico Magazine in 1978 and reissued to great success in 2017 by the University of New Mexico Press.

Green Chile Sauce
¼ cup vegetable or olive oil 
1 clove garlic
½ cup minced onion 
1 tablespoon flour 
1 cup water 
1 cup diced green chile, roasted, peeled, and seeded  
Salt to taste

Sauté garlic and onion in oil in heavy saucepan. Blend in flour with wooden spoon. Add water and green chile. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes.

Pro tip: Wear rubber gloves when peeling roasted chiles. Remove the stems and seeds—but don’t rinse them in water. Doing so washes away too much of the heat.

Red Chile Sauce
3 tablespoons olive oil or lard  
1 clove garlic, minced 
2 tablespoons flour  
½ cup chile powder  
2 cups water  
Salt to taste 

Sauté garlic in oil. Blend in flour with a wooden spoon. Add chile powder and blend in. (Don’t let pan get too hot—chile will burn easily.) Blend in water and cook to desired consistency. Add salt to taste.  

Pro tip: Not sure which chile powder to use? Add a teaspoon of it to a cup of hot water. Take a sip. Try a variety of powders to find the flavor you like.

Read more: For another take on red chile sauce, check out this version from Armijo Farms, in Sabinal.