What are Hatch peppers?
A lot of big flavor comes out of one tiny village in New Mexico. The town of Hatch (population ~1,600) and the Hatch Valley region are home to some of the most coveted chili peppers on the market. Known as Hatch peppers, these chilies are known for their unique buttery, earthy flavor and their very eatable medium heat (1,000 to 8,000 Scoville heat units.) And there are more than a single type. “Hatch” covers many varieties of New Mexico peppers that are grown specifically in the Hatch Valley region. These are chilies that have been cultivated and cross-bred for well over a century by New Mexico State University and local residents.
Table of Contents
- What are Hatch peppers?
- Hatch pepper fast facts
- How hot are Hatch peppers?
- What do Hatch chilies look like?
- What do they taste like?
- Cooking with Hatch peppers
- Where can you buy Hatch peppers?
- Must-read related posts
Hatch pepper fast facts
|Scoville heat units (SHU)||1,000 – 8,000|
|Median heat (SHU)||4,500|
|Jalapeño reference point||3 times milder to equal heat|
|Size||Approximately 4 to 6 inches long (some longer), tapered, curved|
How hot are Hatch peppers?
Hatch chilies are often known as New Mexico peppers, and they are closely related to California peppers (often called Anaheim chilies.) In fact, Anaheim peppers were first grown in California from a Hatch pepper strain. Anaheim’s have a mild to low-medium heat range (500 to 2,500 Scoville heat units or SHU) But Hatch peppers can go well beyond that.
Because there are many common variants of Hatch peppers, its heat range is quite wide. It ranges from 1,000 to 8,000 Scoville heat units, from upper-mild to low-medium heat. At their mildest, they are comparable to poblano peppers (1,000 to 1,500 SHU) and at their hottest they rival the hottest possible jalapeño pepper (2,500 to 8,000 SHU). Compared to our jalapeño reference point, tat puts Hatch peppers anywhere from three times milder to equal heat of a jalapeño.
Compared to another common culinary pepper, the cayenne, Hatch chilies are much milder. Cayenne peppers range from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, making even the hottest possible Hatch three times milder, and up to 50 times milder if you’re comparing the mildest Hatch to the hottest possible cayenne.
What do Hatch chilies look like?
This generic “Hatch” name, because of the many varieties, covers a lot of pepper sizes. These are long, tapered peppers, but you can see lengths from four to six inches to over a foot in length. The young peppers start green in color and mature into a red hue. The shape and colors of Hatch chilies are very similar to its cousin, the Anaheim pepper.
What do they taste like?
The taste is something of legend. People swear by the unique flavor of Hatch chilies – they have a significant following among spicy food fans. The Hatch pepper has an earthier flavor than similar chilies, like the Anaheim. This comes from the mountainous area and rich soil from which they are grown. When roasted, Hatch chilies take on a buttery-like flavor that is well-loved. In fact, the buttery smoky smell and taste of roasting Hatch chilies is something that people come far and wide to experience.
Cooking with Hatch peppers
Roasting your Hatch peppers, is, of course, the most popular use for these chilies. When roasted, they release that delicious buttery, earthy flavor they are known for world-wide. Roasted Hatch chilies are delicious with everything from eggs to burgers and more. Due to their size, Hatch chilies are also excellent stuffed. They are a great option for chili rellenos.
Hatch chilies can be eaten raw, but due to their thick skin, meaty walls, and short growing season (we’ll get into that), they are often roasted.
Additional cooking tips:
- We highly recommend tasting your crop of Hatch chilies prior to using them to season a dish. Why? There’s that wide spread of spiciness. Some are very mild, others will kick like a jalapeño. You can easily over-spice with chilies that bridge this particular range of the Scoville scale.
- Wear gloves when handling Hatch peppers. Just like jalapeños and any other chilies, the capsaicin in the pepper, can cause chili burn on your hands (and anywhere you touch, like your eyes.) A simple set of kitchen gloves can save you from a world of pain. Don’t be fooled that Hatch chilies can be mild. Even mild chilies can give you an uncomfortable burn.
- Know how to combat chili burn just in case. You don’t want to be looking up how to get rid of that pain while it’s happening, so learn how to handle it if it does. Our post on treating chili burn gives you the tips you need to know.
Where can you buy Hatch peppers?
Now, this is another major piece of the mystique surrounding this chili. Hatch peppers have a very short cultivation season – about six weeks covering late August and September every year. That’s one of the reasons why roasting is so often done with these peppers. People roast Hatch chilies to then freeze them for use throughout the year.
The town of Hatch has one of the top chili festivals each year celebrating Hatch chili season. The Hatch Valley Chile Festival is held in Hatch season and includes cook-offs and a whole lot of Hatch roasting.
It used to be the case that fresh Hatch chilies were near impossible to find outside of the New Mexico region, but high-end grocers like Whole Foods have changed that. You can find Hatch chilies throughout the U.S., though expect them to be in short supply with a very quick window of availability. You can also find canned and powdered Hatch peppers, throughout the year in stores and via online retailers.
Zia packages authentic roasted Hatch chilies, so you can enjoy the delicious flavor of these chilies from anywhere! Best of all, there are three levels of spiciness here (fitting given the wide spread of heat possible from Hatch chilies). They offer mild, medium (seen here), and hot options.
You will find some chili peppers sold throughout the year that are labeled “Hatch peppers”, but unless they were grown in the Hatch Valley, these are not technically the same thing. They won’t quite have the same smokiness or butteriness that the rich soil and mountainous temperatures provide. Hatch peppers are like champagne in this way – everything else is sparkling wine.
Must-read related posts
- The Hot Pepper List: We cover over 150 chilies here at PepperScale. Search them by heat, flavor, origin, and much more.
- Our Hot Sauce Rankings: Looking for your next favorite hot sauce? We review and rank over 100 different hot sauces on heat-balance, flavor, usability, and collectibility.
- Does Cooking Peppers Make The Hotter? Since Hatch chilies are often roasted, what does that mean to its heat?