Millie Santillanes' Chile Caribe Recipe

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Millie Santillanes' Chile Caribe

Jane Hughes


I worked with and enjoyed knowing a woman named Millie Santillanes who compiled a cookbook of New Mexico recipes. Millie has passed away, but an autographed copy of her book was given to me as a gift and it's my favorite cookbook for New Mexico food. It's called New Mexico Feasts From the Land of Enchantment, the Unique Cooking of New Mexico.

This is Millie's basic Chile Caribe (uncooked red chile puree) and Salsa de Chile Colorado (cooked red chile sauce). Both Salsa de Chile Colorado con Carne (with meat) and Carne Adobada (marinated red chile meat) use the red chile sauce as their base.

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Stove Top



dried red chile pods (i use nm or ancho)
4 clove
3 c
1 tsp
dried ground oregano (optional; i like mexican for this)
1 tsp
cilantro, dried or fresh (optional)


2 Tbsp
lard or oil
2 Tbsp
flour (all-purpose)
1 c
chile caribe (use all of what you made above)


1 lb
lean diced pork or beef (or very lean ground beef)
salsa de chile colorado (that you made above)
salt to taste
dried ground oregano (optional)


2 lb
cubed pork
3 or 4 c
salsa de chile colorado (that you made above)
salt to taste

Directions Step-By-Step

To make Chile Caribe (uncooked red chile purée):

Red chiles are air-dried and should be dusted before using. A clean damp cloth does the job. Pull out and discard the woody stems of the chile pods and remove the seeds. If you wish, you may also remove the veins. However, the veins add authority [translation: flavor and heat] to your chile. It's a matter of preference. Soak the chiles in warm water for 1 hour. Put half of the chiles, two cloves of garlic and 1-1/2 cups of water in blender. Blend until it is a thick purée. Set aside and repeat process with the rest of the ingredients. Put purée through a fine strainer or food mill to remove any stray seeds and bits of skin. You may add dried oregano and/or finely chopped cilantro (fresh or dried) if you wish.
To make Salsa de Chile Colorado (cooked red chile sauce):

In heavy saucepan or skillet, melt lard or heat oil. Add flour, stirring until smooth. With a whisk, add water until it reaches the consistency of a gravy. Add all of the Chile Caribe (uncooked red chile purée) you made in Step 1 and simmer gently for 10 minutes. If too thick, add additional water. This cooking process keeps the purée from separating.

This sauce is used almost like a gravy to top many New Mexico dishes such as enchiladas and smothered burritos. When you order New Mexico food, you'll be asked red or green? This is red and green chile sauce is green. The third option, both sauces, is called Christmas.
To make an optional Salsa de Chile Colorado con Carne (red chile with meat sauce):

Sauté meat until browned. Add Salsa de Colorado (red chile sauce) you made in Step 2 and simmer approximately 30 minutes until meat is tender. Season to taste.
My favorite option is Carne Adobada (marinated red chile meat):

Marinate cubed pork overnight in prepared thick red chile sauce (that you made in Step 2 above). Simmer slowly in heavy skillet for at least 2 hours.

Variation: Pork may be sliced instead of cubed (this is my preference). It may also be baked in a covered baking dish in a 325° oven for 1 to 1-1/2 hours until done.

About this Recipe

Main Ingredient: Vegetable
Regional Style: Southwestern