There’s Southwestern cuisine and then there’s New Mexican cuisine, and the two terms aren’t interchangeable. Here, you’ll find Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo influences in the food. We’re not suggesting that all of these dishes originated in the Land of Enchantment but you should certainly try these iconic foods while in our state. Prepare to drool!
This one ingredient is a core element in so many of our dishes that it definitely deserves to be in caps! "Red or green?" is our state question for a reason. After all, what else would we need to know?
2. Green chile cheeseburger
Sometimes green chile is coarsely chopped or layered on top of a burger, while other times it’s more of a puree. Regardless of how it arrives, it’s yummy. Even burger chains in our state have caved to demand and offer GCCBs - not that we’d recommend that option when there are so many delicious green chile burgers at mom and pop joints.
3. Green chile stew
We defy you to attend a potluck in New Mexico that doesn’t include green chile stew. It’s most commonly made with pork, but there are variations featuring beef as well. There’s not really a definitive recipe for this dish other than meat and chile.
4. Carne adovada
This dish is essentially a love letter to red chile. Pork marinates in red chile for at least a day before being baked. Try it in a burrito.
5. Breakfast burritos
Speaking of burritos, we eat them at any time of day. Sometimes the appeal of a breakfast burrito is its portability – it fits right in your hand, giving it a serious edge over oatmeal. However, if you are able to enjoy a more leisurely meal, order a smothered breakfast burrito, topped with an egg.
6. Sopaipilla, sopapilla, sopaipa
This word may be spelled differently from restaurant to restaurant but what doesn’t change is the addictive nature of this deep-fried dough. You can eat them "stuffed" for a savory main course, or plain and topped with honey for dessert.
7. Fry bread
Although it can be served sweet or savory, this is not to be confused with a sopipilla. Fry bread is much larger – a boat of fried dough if you will. The sweet version is drizzled with honey or dusted with confectioner’s sugar. You’ll also see this taking the place of a tortilla in Navajo or Indian tacos.
8. Blue corn
Blue corn is probably most prevalent in the Santa Fe area, where it appears in pancakes, tortillas, and baked goods… It has a heartier, slightly nuttier taste than yellow corn.
If you surveyed every restaurant in the state, I’d bet good money that enchiladas were featured on more menus than any other dish save – possibly – burgers. Sometimes enchiladas are served rolled but other times the tortillas are flat, creating more of an enchilada casserole.
10. Posole, pozole
Hominy is usually a side dish. It consists of corn kernals that have been boiled in water and lime until the hull comes off and the kernel inflates.
11. Tortilla chips
Most New Mexico restaurants send out chips and salsa rather than bread before a meal. There’s nothing like the appearance of a basket of freshly made tortilla chips to prove that you have no self control, and after tasting a really good batch, why would you want any?
12. Frito pie
Let’s get this straight: Frito pie is made with chili. With an "i." Basically, it’s Fritos topped with chili con carne and cheese.
13. Chile rellenos
Given the quality of the chile in New Mexico, it’s no surprise that this dish is so tasty here.
14. Piñon nuts
If you could use a nut in a recipe, you’ll probably find a piñon nut in the New Mexican version. Piñon nuts have a subtle flavor that is used to enhance everything from baked goods to coffee and ice cream.
15. Biscochito, bizcochito
Although our state cookie is associated with the Christmas season, its crumbly texture and anise and cinnamon flavors and make it too good to confine to a specific time period. Thankfully, it’s possible to find them year round.
What foods – or dishes – do you think best represent the flavors of New Mexico? We know that chile is likely to be at the heart of your selections, so check out our past article: “
14 Things All New Mexicans Know To Be True About Chile.”