Homemade Chili Colorado

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Servings : Prep Time : Cook Time : Ready In : This versatile Homemade Chili Colorado is all about the chilies and isn't hard to make. Use it for delicious enchiladas or tostadas or just eat it on its own.

Homemade Chili Colorado in a white bowl

“What makes a great Chili Colorado? In my mind, it’s the perfect combination of tender, juicy chunks of beef that has been slowly simmered in a rich chili sauce. Not too hot, not too mild. But just right…This Chili Colorado has a great chili flavor but is not overly hot. If you like it hotter, feel free to add some cayenne pepper to ‘heat it up’ a bit.

 Homemade Chili Colorado


  • 4 - 5 dried California chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 - 3 dried New Mexico chilies, stemmed and seeded
  • 2 Ancho chilies, stemmed and seeded (or pasilla)
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano, or to taste
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin, or to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder, or to taste
  • Chile powder, as needed to adjust final product
  • 4 - 5 pounds beef chuck, cut into medium sized cubes (not quite an inch, not quite a half inch, just a nice bite size
  • 1 - 2 tablespoons oil (I use only grape seed oil or olive oil, for this grape seed)

    2 tablespoons flour, for a thicker sauce, if desired
  • Optional Tostada Fixins

    Refried or black beans (lightly mash whole black beans)
  • Shredded iceberg lettuce (I don't usually recommend iceberg lettuce, but for this, the crunch is necessary)
  • Diced tomatoes or Pico de Gallo
  • Diced onions
  • Shredded Mexican cheese
  • Sliced black olives, optional
  • Guacamole, optional
  • Sour cream, optional
  • Taco sauces of your choice
  • Crisp corn tortillas


Step 1

Place the chilies in a saucepan, cover with the water and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes; cover, turn off heat and allow to sit for 30 minutes. After at least 30 minutes, drain the chilies, reserving the liquid. Place in a blender along with the garlic, salt, oregano, cumin and cloves along with a small amount of the cooking liquid; blend until smooth. (if you don't have a very powerful blender that makes a smooth paste, pass through a food mill using a medium grade disk, or a sieve to remove skins.) You should now have a very smooth and rich chili sauce. Set – aside.

Preheat the oven to 325°F

Step 2

In a large Dutch oven over medium heat, heat the oil. Season the meat well with salt and pepper, and then add to the pot all at once, you don’t want to brown the meat, you just want to take the red off it and allow it to release its juices. Just stir the meat, (it will look gray, not brown); once the meat has been cooked and is simmering in its own juices, add the optional flour, if using. Cook stirring for a minute or two or until the flour starts to thicken the juices, then add the chili sauce and the reserved liquid from steeping the chilies. Stir in the cocoa powder. If the meat is not covered, add a little water or beef broth to cover completely. Bring to a simmer, then cover tightly and place in the oven. Allow to cook 2 1/2 to 3 hours, or until the meat is extremely tender. Using care (and mitts) remove from the oven, taste and adjust seasonings with salt, chili powder and additional chocolate, oregano or cumin, and cayenne pepper as desired.

You can eat a bowl of this, topped with some chopped onion and cheese (cheddar or cotija); serve some corn or flour tortillas alongside. Or continue on and make tostadas.

Step 3

To make the Tostada

Brush the tortillas on both sides with oil and bake on a cookie sheet in a 350°F oven for about 10 – 15 minutes or until crispy, turn a couple of times.

Place the crisp tortilla on a plate; top with refried or black beans; a nice helping of Chili Colorado, then top with the toppings of your choice. I like to add another bit of the chili on the top of the veggies, then add the Guac and sour cream.


LindySez: You can also make this Homemade Chili Colorado in your slow-cooker; once you have “greyed” the meat and added the sauce, put into the slow cooker and cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4. If you want to use a pressure cooker, you can do that as well. Use slightly less liquid when making in the pressure cooker, as it retains the moisture much better than other cooking methods. If you like you Chili Colorado a little more on the thick side; add 2 tablespoons of flour to the meat once its juice has rendered. Stir well, then proceed with the recipe. 

Wine Recommendation: If you are not having a beer, or a Margarita, you would be doing as I would be doing and having a nice Merlot or Sangiovese. 


The Making of Chili Colorado

A good Chili Colorado is all about the chiles. Since moving from Southern California to Northern California via Tulsa Oklahoma, I’ve been hard-pressed to find a really good chili Colorado.  So I do what I do, I make my own.  And my Homemade Chili Colorado is not only delicious it’s not all that hard to make. Once the sauce is made and the meat is cut and in the pot, it’s all downtime.  Until you put that tasty morsel to your mouth and then, yum!

 Types of Chiles

When making your own, Homemade Chili Colorado, you can use any variety of chilies you like, although I have made suggestions in my recipe for the ones I like best.  Here is a quick roundup of some of the many varieties that will work well when making a chili sauce:

A good chili Colorado is all about the chiles

Ancho: The name means “wide chile” in Spanish, a nearly black pepper, made from ripe poblano peppers. They have a high yield of flesh to skin, which makes them great in sauces. Anchos are mild with a rich, dark cherry/raisin sweetness. Beware: Ancho chiles are sometimes labeled “pasilla chiles,” but they are much wider at the stem than true pasillas.

California: Shiny red with fairly smooth skins, these are dried, ripe Anaheim chiles with an uncomplicated, sunny flavor that is very mild. They are usually blended with more interesting chiles when making sauces. I like to call these, “filler” chilies.  They add flavor but not much heat.

New Mexican: A variation of dried Anaheim chiles, these long, tapered chiles are often labeled “Colorado chiles.” Hotter than California chiles, but with the same bright flavor.

Guajillo: These are dried mirasol chiles. They have long, shiny, tapered pods with tough cranberry-red skins. They boast a moderately spicy, tangy flavor with a hint of citrus. The skins are tough, so these peppers are best strained after your sauce has been blended.


Homemade Chili Colorado in a blue bowl


Pasilla: These long, tapered chiles sport black, wrinkled skins and lend a subtle, prune-like flavor with hints of licorice. Complex and quite spicy.

Chipotle: Made by smoking and drying jalapenos, chipotles are often sold canned in tomato sauce as “chipotles in adobo,” but they also come in two dried varieties: Meco (mellower) and mora/moritas (very spicy). They have a dusty, tan appearance and a woodsy, smoky flavor with quite a bit of heat.  Because of their smokey flavor, they are best in moderation in sauces.


Buying Chilis

Where to buy your chilies?  Well, the best place is at a Mexican market.  Why?  Because they use them so they will not only be the freshest, but also the cheapest.  Supermarkets may carry them, but because of the slow turn-around, they will be older and more expensive.  Don’t have a Mexican market?  Then I would suggest you order them online.  There are many great resources such as Dried Chili Peppers Direct,  MexGrocer.com, and of course, our good friends at Amazon.


Rehydrating Dried Chilis

A lot of recipes tell you to toast the chilies before softening them but I found there is a real fine line between toasting them and ruining them; I’ve also found in the end product, it didn’t make that much difference, so I go for the easy. Just be sure to seed and stem them, then put them into a pot with enough water to just cover, bring to a boil then reduce the heat to simmer, for about 5 minutes.  Turn off the heat and leave them covered for a half an hour.  Save the liquid, and blend the chilies.  This is the base of your Homemade Chili Colorado.


Homemade Chili Colorado in a white bowl overhead shot


You can serve this delicious homemade Chili Colorado just by itself, with a side of cornbread or corn tortilla, use it as a filling for enchiladas, or serve it as a Chili Colorado Tostada.  And it freezes beautifully.  So make a big batch!


Homemade Chili Colorado as a tostada

Chili Colorado as a Tostada

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