New Mexico is a region of desert and mountains. Visitors to the state can explore ancient cultural sites, hike through deep canyons and climb tall peaks, or simply stop at one of New Mexico’s many wineries and breweries.
It is a home to some of the most amazing food in the country. With almost two thousand recipes in the repertoire, New Mexico’s cuisine is like no other – spicy and colorfully diverse!
New Mexico food is a guide to a wide variety of food found in this treasure of a state – from iconic tacos and enchiladas to staples such as green chile stew and fry bread, spicy salsa, and burritos, the state’s signature spice blends can be found in everything, from potatoes to pecans.
Visiting other destinations in New Mexico? Check out our other delicious guides:
- 15 Must-Try Albuquerque Restaurants
- 10 Must-Try Las Cruces Restaurants
- 10 Best Santa Fe Restaurants
- 12 Best Things to Do in Santa Fe, New Mexico
The Choice Is Yours
When it comes to the charismatic flavors and distinct aromas, New Mexico food offers something for everyone. For centuries, the Pueblo Indians have been cultivating chile, corn, beans, piñon, and squash here. New Mexico has a wide variety of cuisine not only from the Pueblo Native Americans but also because of a large number of immigrant influences from Europe – making New Mexico a truly international state in culinary terms.
Chile is the main ingredient that makes New Mexico food stand out and is indigenous to North America. And yes, they spell it chile. The Spanish added it to their meals that already included beef, cheese, and pork products.
Today, chiles are harvested by hand during the growing season before they start to mature. They hang to dry in small bundles called “zanahorias” (Spanish for carrots) until ready for market. They’re then ground into powder, peeled, roasted, and packed into cans, bottles, or jars.
From the big cities like Albuquerque, Las Cruces, and Santa Fe, to the regions all across the state, New Mexico food explores favorite recipes from the area’s best chefs and restaurants, as well as favorite flavor combinations and food culture passed down through generations.
The Most Popular Dishes In New Mexico
When you talk about New Mexico food, you can’t help but smile. It goes so far beyond their beloved blue corn and green chile, and in each region of the state, you’ll find unique dishes and flavors that really capture the specialness of this state.
Here are some of the most popular New Mexico foods.
Green Chile Cheeseburger
You can’t leave New Mexico without a proper green chile cheeseburger!
Made with fresh, never frozen ground beef, mixed in their special chili spice mix, topped with cheese, chopped red onions, tomato, lettuce, and fresh-made green chile sauce, a Green Chile Cheeseburger is a state of mind and a way of life!
Pozole is a traditional Mexican soup or a stew – depending on the way of preparation – made of hominy, pork, and garlic, especially served at holiday time.
Pozole can have many variations. It can be garnished with chiles, salsas, onions, avocado, radishes, lettuce, and cabbage. There are three primary types of Pozole, with slightly different tastes to enjoy; Red (Rojo), White (Blanco), and Green (Verde) – there’s a little something for everyone.
This Mexican dish has a terrifying history. But don’t let that scare you off.
It is known that it was made from the human meat of prisoners whose hearts were ripped out in ritual sacrifices. When the Spanish came in the 1500s, cannibalism was forbidden, and human meat was replaced with pork.
Enchiladas are one of the major symbols of Mexican culture. They consist of corn tortillas rolled around a variety of fillings, then covered with sauce. Enchiladas can be filled with beef, chicken, cheese, pork, vegetables, seafood, or a combination of these ingredients.
The first enchiladas were probably made by the Mayans. They wrapped food in tortillas and then dipped them into a spicy sauce. Enchiladas quickly became popular throughout Mexico and over time. Their recipe and preparation vary greatly from region to region.
Green Chile Stew
Green Chile Stew will heat your soul, fill you with warmth, and possibly set your lips on fire. A bowl of the stew is worth the drive to New Mexico on its own.
Chunks of pork tenderloin seasoned with onions and a lot of garlic, potatoes, simmered in a green chili sauce, until tender enough. Comforting and tasty!
One bite of that green chile stew and you know that you are absolutely gonna ask for more. The hearty stew is the ultimate winter warmer.
When it comes to indulging in the multifaceted flavors of New Mexico, missing out on Chile Rellenos would be nothing short of a culinary crime.
Imagine this: a whole green chile, bursting at the seams with gooey cheese or tender meat, enveloped in a fluffy egg batter and fried to a golden perfectio!
Each bite is a harmonious blend of spice, crunch, and melt-in-your-mouth goodness.
The Chile Rellenos dish showcases the art of contrast—between the spicy green chile and the calming cheese, between the crispy outer layer and the soft inner filling. Often served with a dollop of sour cream or a pool of zesty tomato sauce, it’s a dish that dances on your taste buds and keeps you coming back for more!
If you’ve never tried Chile Rellenos, you’re in for an authentic New Mexican experience that will capture your heart—and your stomach.
While the details of carne adovada vary from cook to cook, most of the recipes have a common way of preparation. The pork in this recipe is slow-cooked with chile sauce so it absorbs all of the flavors. This typically simple dish is often loaded with enough cloves and garlic to knock you out.
Its flavor it’s lightened up with a few unexpected ingredients: raisins for depth, orange juice concentrate for sweetness, and fish sauce. This dish comes alongside rice or atop warm corn tortillas.
Fry Bread Tacos
Frybread is a traditional Native American recipe that has stood the test of time.
Frybread is made with lard, salt, flour, and water. Eat it in the morning with honey for breakfast or in the evening with beans, chilies, and meat for dinner.
It has a controversial history. Its origin story comes from the forced displacement of the tribes in the middle of the 1800s. The federal government of the United States supplied them with lard, salt, and flour from which they made the fry bread. The Navajo people were forced to resettle in New Mexico and march 300 miles by foot on a journey that is known as “The long walk of the Navajo.”
Your own spicy bean and cheese burrito or your favorite salsa-topped steak burrito can be found here in New Mexico. The possibilities are endless, and the flavors are divine.
Burritos are a traditional Mexican food that you will never get bored with. It is considered that the origin of the burrito comes from the Mayan people. They used the corn tortilla to wrap various ingredients such as chili peppers, tomatoes, mushrooms, squash, and avocado.
The Pueblo people (Native Americans) also made the same corn tortillas with a filling of beans and meat, very similar to the modern burrito.
Sopaipillas are a New Mexican favorite. They have their roots in Spain but have been adapted to fit right in at the New Mexico table. This New Mexico Food recipe is a favorite among locals and is a very easy variation on the classic Sopapilla recipe.
New Mexican sopapillas are made from tortilla-like dough. The dough is fried until it is puffy and a small air pocket appears within the pastry.
Crispy on the outside, pillowy soft on the inside, Sopaipillas are the perfect companion to any entree. Whether served as a side or as a dessert, no plate is complete without a warm Sopaipilla.
Discover the delightful tastes of New Mexico in a stone mill mixing bowl, combining local flavors with Mexican heritage! Mix up the magic by starting with the famous New Mexico shortbread cookie – the traditional Biscochito. The biscochito dough is made with a generous amount of crushed anise seeds, as well as a hint of orange and cinnamon. They’re covered in cinnamon sugar and almost melt in your mouth.
These cookies are essential for weddings, graduations, anniversaries, and holidays.
Flan is one of the most popular desserts in New Mexican cuisine. Creamy, smooth, and delicious! Making the perfect Mexican flan is all about timing. This flan has minimal ingredients – eggs, cream cheese, condensed and evaporated milk. Also, it can be made with flavorings and additions, such as coffee and spices. When you have a certain craving for something, don’t miss out on the opportunity!
Frequently Asked Questions
What kind of cuisine can I expect to find in New Mexico?
New Mexico is famous for its unique Southwestern cuisine, which is a fusion of Spanish, Mexican, Pueblo Native American, and cowboy chuckwagon influences. Key ingredients include New Mexico chile, both green and red, pinto beans, and blue corn.
What is a must-try New Mexican dish?
The New Mexico Green Chile Cheeseburger is a must-try dish for anyone visiting the state. Other favorites include the New Mexico Red Chile Ribs, Stacked Blue Corn Chicken Enchiladas, and Carne Adovada.
Can I find international cuisine in New Mexico?
Certainly! While New Mexican cuisine is a highlight, the state’s restaurant scene is diverse. You can find everything from Italian and French to Thai and Ethiopian cuisine.
I’m a fan of food trucks. Does New Mexico have a food truck scene?
Absolutely! Food trucks in New Mexico offer a variety of local and international cuisines. Keep an eye out for trucks serving green chile cheeseburgers, breakfast burritos, and street tacos!
Best New Mexico Food Conclusion
There you have it, the best food that New Mexico has to offer in the few places I’ve been. Which ones do you like the most? Do you have a favorite restaurant I haven’t visited? Let me know in the comments.
Igor Jovanovski is an aspiring digital nomad, travel blogger and graphic designer who really loves food. He also has a creative side, and he works as a freelance graphic designer in his spare time. He has traveled across Europe quite a few times since he was young and recently started his mission to visit every country in the world! Igor’s favorite thing about traveling is the way he gets to know new people, food, places and cultures.
This exciting experience helps him create his own stories and make memories that will last forever