The Cook’s Method: Homemade Green Chiles and Feeling the Burn

I absolutely love green chiles. I don’t know what it is, I don’t remember when it started, but anytime I can have green chiles added to a dish, I jump at the chance. I’m particularly fond of them as a cheeseburger topping, and I’ll never understand why more establishments don’t offer them as a standard burger topping. Green chiles are a fantastic delivery for heat and spice, as well as a variety of textures depending on how they are prepared and served.

Yet, green chiles are one of those ingredients that we often use pre-prepared, when making them at home is actually unbelievably simple. Scratch cooking in general often can seem like a daunting task. The thought of creating an ingredient just to be used in a dish can often feel like you’re over-complicating things, but when the opportunity presents itself it should be embraced, not avoided.

So, what’s the difference between prepared green chiles and the ones you make yourself? The same differences you find whenever you pay for raw ingredients and take on the processing yourself. There’s some cost savings, freshness factor, and you can put your own spin on the flavors, or in this case the heat.

The trick to making green chiles isn’t really a trick at all. In fact, if you’ve ever roasted any kind of vegetable (particularly peppers), than you are already well on your way. The whole process involves applies very high heat to the peppers, scarring the skin and softening the inner flesh. Eventually, the skin of the pepper is removed. Once made, the application for green chiles are nearly endless. As always, what follows is not an actual recipe, but a series of general steps and tips for making your own green chiles.

How to Make Green Chiles

Step 1: While you can roast any number of varieties of pepper, to make actual green chiles you’ll want to get Anaheim or New Mexico peppers. These varieties look extremely similar, but New Mexico peppers are actually a bit hotter. Unfortunately, some grocery stores won’t be that specific in their labeling and I often see them in a general “chili pepper” area. You’re looking for a medium sized pepper, with the same relative color as a jalapeno (perhaps a slightly lighter shade of green). The peppers should be firm with no blemishes or wrinkling on the skin.

Step 2: Once you have your peppers, you must consider a heat source. The two easiest ways to cook the peppers are by using the broiler of your oven or using a grill. You can do this directly over a gas burner, but that can be a bit tricky and isn’t as efficient when roasting large batches of peppers. I prefer using the grill, but the results from a broiler are just as good.

If using the oven: Line a baking sheet with foil (avoid sticking) and place the peppers in a single row on it. Turn on the broiler and place the baking sheet on the oven rack a few inches from the flame. Cook the peppers, turning them often, till the outer skin of the pepper is blackened and looks very unappetizing.

If using the grill: Place the peppers in a single row over high heat. Turn the peppers frequently until they are blackened and charred on all sides and look very unappetizing.

Regardless of which method you follow, the whole process should take somewhere between 10-20 minutes.

Step 3: Remove the peppers from the heat and immediately place them in a large resealable bag. You could also put them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap. The heat from the peppers will steam them, which will help to loosen the skins from the flesh and make them easier to peel.

*Note: For the rest of the steps you will want to wear rubber gloves or coat your hands in cooking oil. If you get the oil or juices from the peppers on your hands, wash them well before touching other surfaces, and of course do not touch your eyes. 

Step 4: Peel the peppers by hand, removing the charred skin which, at this point, should already be pulling away from the flesh of the peppers. Then, split open the peppers using a knife and scrape away the membrane and seeds. Then chop or dice the peppers and use in your favorite recipe, or as a topping.

Homemade green chiles will keep for awhile in the fridge. If you don’t plan on using the chiles right away you can peel, chop and store them for several days. For longer storage, follow the directions to Step 3, and place them in the freezer, where they will keep for a few weeks. Simply thaw them by steaming them a bit and you can continue from Step 4.