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Exploring the Distinctive Flavors of New Mexico

Close up View of Package and Product
Close up View of Package and Product

Just What Is New Mexican Cuisine?


New Mexican cuisine is the Southwestern cuisine of the state of New Mexico. The region is primarily known for its fusion of Pueblo Native American cuisine with Hispano, Spanish, and Mexican cuisine.

New Mexican cuisine developed in fairly isolated circumstances, which has allowed it to maintain its Indigenous, Spanish, Mexican and Latin identity and is therefore not like any other Latin food originating in the US. It can be easily distinguished from Mexican, Tex-Mex, and American cuisines, due to its emphasis on New Mexican spices, herbs, flavors, and vegetables; especially Red and Green New Mexico chiles, cinnamon, anise (used in biscochitos, the Official NM State Cookie!), and roasted piñon nuts.

It is also identifiable by the inclusion of foods and dishes that originate in New Mexico, such as Native American frybread-style sopapillas, breakfast burritos, stacked enchiladas (enchilada montada), green chile stew, green chile burgers, posole (a nixtamalized corn dish similar to hominy), calabacitas (a sautéed zucchini or summer squash dish that includes green chile), and carne adovada (pork marinated in red chile). See Min's easy recipe for authentic, delicious Carne Adovada, below!

Quite possibly the first author to publish a cookbook describing traditional New Mexican cuisine was Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert, who published Historic Cookery in 1931, just 19 years after NM statehood. Her educational and important work helped popularize cooking with chiles and other ingredients in the United States.

OF NOTE: When New Mexicans refer to "Chile" they are talking about the aromatic red and green pods, or thick sauce made from those pods, not the preparation of spices, meat or beans known as Texas-style (or Anglo) Chili. While the chile pod is sometimes spelled chili outside of New Mexico, US Senator Pete Domenici of New Mexico made the state's spelling official as "Chile," by entering it into the Congressional Record. Additionally, the NM State Question is "Red or Green?" (with the unofficial answer being "Christmas!" meaning both) and the State Aroma is "Green Chiles roasting in the Fall," Chile is its official vegetable, and New Mexico is considered the "Chile Capitol of the World."

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

Historic Cookery, 1931, Fabiola Cabeza de Baca Gilbert
The Legacy of La Mancha, 1971, Yolanda Ortiz y Pino
Wikipedia, “New Mexico Cuisine”