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NM Cuisine

By January 10, 2010March 22nd, 201710 Comments

I grew up in NM, and moved away a few days before turning 22. I never put a lot of thought in NM culture. That is, until I went out for “Mexican” food in Colorado and was grossly disappointed. What I failed to notice was that there is a difference between Mexican and NEW Mexican food. How is a girl to know? In Albuquerque, all the New Mexican restaurants say “Mexican” food, hence my confusion!

So you might ask, what is the difference? What is New Mexican food? For one, it’s delicious. I figured I would share a part of the culture that people may not know (unless you’ve been to NM).

The biggest difference is that New Mexican food uses chile. Red… green… or “xmas”(both) if you prefer, which I do!


Green chile is made from chopped, roasted chile peppers (usually from Hatch, NM). They smell so good when being roasted. Red Chile is made from dried chiles that have been ground. No vinegar is used in Chile Sauces. My mom adds some tomato sauce to red chile sauce to thicken it and give it some extra flavor. I could eat it with a spoon. Most traditional NM dishes come with pepitas (or chopped, fried potatoes) and pinto beans…covered in cheese and chile sauce. Also, sopaipillas or puffed, fried bread is served and usually free at the end of each meal in a New Mexican restaurant. Most people put honey on it, but some entrees come with meats in the sopapilla (or stuffed sopaipilla).


Here are a few other dishes I happen to LOVE:

Chile Rellenos
Screen shot 2010-01-08 at 12.24.11 PM
breaded/battered whole green chile, stuffed with cheese and fried. Cover with chile sauce.

Chile Con Queso

Green chile, cheese, sausage, evaporated milk, cream of mushroom soup.  It’s a dip for your chips!  YUM.

Chicken Enchiladas
This isn’t the best photo. I should have taken one of my mom’s enchies.  Corn or flour tortillas (I like flour), with chicken or beef (I like chicken), rolled.  Covered with cheese and red and/or green chile.  You can get flat ones too.  Enchiladas are one of my favorites!


puffed, fried bread… put honey on it.  DELISH


Meat rolled in cornmeal, and put into a corn husk (served with red chile)

Carne Adovada (not my favorite but must include it!)

This is a photo of a burrito, and often it’s served this way.  It is marinated cubes of pork in garlic, red chile, and oregano.

Salsa…NM salsa is different from Mexican salsa.
It is made with chile, and can be thicker at certain restaurants. It is WAY hotter than Mexican salsa in a lot of cases. We joke here that you run out of salsa before you run out of chips (meaning we put tons of salsa on a chip!)

This is what’s on the NM flag. The Zia or ancient sun symbol.  It is supposed to symbolize the sun, with rays pointing in 4 directions.  (it is from the Zia Pueblo/Native Americans) The Zia Native Americans believed that the giver of all good gave gifts in groups of four.  Notice that each ray has 4 lines as well.

  • The four directions – north, east, south and west.
  • The four seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter.
  • The day – sunrise, noon, evening and night.
  • Life itself – childhood, youth, middle years and old age.

All of these are bound by a circle of life and love, without a beginning or end.

This sign is very special to me because the sun is a very special entity.

So there you have it, a little NM culture.  I’m sure I left things out, so feel free to add whatever in the comments section!


  • Matt says:

    I did enjoy “New” Mexican food when I lived there, but prior to ABQ, I worked three years in Mexico, mainly in Chihuahua, Hermosillo, and Monterrey. The difference in cuisines between the 3 northern mexican cities were distinctive enough – but even more so than anything americanized and branded as “mexican” and even “new mexican” food.

    I like the influence of chiles in new mexican cuisine, but far too much of it, in my opinion is to americanized. What you see includes cheeses that american – I never saw a ‘yellow’ cheese in Mexico, overly fried – I never saw a fat fryer in mexico, and topped ubiquitously with iceberg lettuce and tomatoes.

    But you are in luck – drive down to Central Avenue – just west of San Mateo and in a shitty part of town, there is a Mexican Taco chain called Taco Tote. Real mexican tacos there and not one will have cheese on it.

    It’s a Chihuahua chain that I used frequent when in Juarez on work trips. Not the best of Chihuahua – but certainly close enough to experience it.

    And Villa Ahumada queso is real (norte) Mexican cheese (even if it is made my Mennonites – or Mennonitas as they are called down there)

  • Vito says:

    OMG! That all looks wonderful. I’m starving 🙂

  • bobbles says:

    Damn you, DAMN YOU!!!!

  • bobbles says:

    Oh yea don’t forget to swing by El Norteno and get some queso fundido.

  • Doug says:

    When you come and do the PC point2point again (you know you will). You need to get down to SLC and go to the Red Iguana. Most Mexican food is so so at best in SLC but the Red Iguana is the awesome.

  • Worksrider says:

    OMG I am so hungry now…. that looks so good.

    I need Chili in my life too. Would you believe I have gone through half a bottle of tobasco since Saturday evening. hmmm…..

  • yuri says:

    Oh man do I love me some Christmas style! I’m so hungry now!

  • Lance says:

    Your first problem is probably that you went to the Rio for “Mexican” food. In Boulder there is one, and only one place to eat Mexican – and that is El Ray. Bonus, it’s like 4 blocks from where you live…

  • Sonya says:

    Lance, haven’t tried that one. Hot diggity! 🙂 Can’t wait to give it a whirl. I have never eaten at the Rio. Favorites in Boulder that still don’t compare are Efrain’s II, and terrace maya.

  • bobbles says:

    I thought of one you haven’t mentioned: bizcochitos!!

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