What is a Hatch chile and is it spicy?

Looking for a chile pepper that delivers the perfect balance of heat and sweetness? Look no further: The Hatch chile is your huckleberry.

If you've been lucky enough to visit the American Southwest in late summer/fall, you've no doubt encountered the infamous Hatch chile pepper, which hails from Hatch, New Mexico. And nowhere else (for the record). Hatch peppers are long, green chiles, pretty similar to California and Anaheim peppers, but they deliver a lot more heat (via The Spruce Eats).

Chili Pepper Madness explains that New Mexican Hatch chile peppers are an important part of the culture for anyone who lives in New Mexico, and where they're grown and harvested — in the middle of the Rio Grande agricultural territory — is frequently referred to as the Chili Capital of the World. The pepper is so revered that the annual Hatch Chile Festival that occurs each Labor Day weekend draws up to 30,000 people from around the world, all crammed into a tiny town of fewer than 2,000 people.

According to Pepperscale, the unique taste of Hatch chiles is something of a legend. Compared to other chile peppers, Hatch chiles are earthier, perhaps from the rich soil in the area they're from. They can be eaten raw, but the skin is pretty thick, so they're often roasted, which brings out unrivaled smoky/buttery notes.

What recipes can be hatched from this New Mexican green chile?

Hatch chiles are incredibly versatile and can be incorporated into a variety of dishes, including stews, sautés, sauces, dips like queso, hummus, and salsa (via Food and Wine). They're excellent on burgers and pizza, and in New Mexico, you can even find them in apple pie because the sweetness of the fruit partners beautifully with the smokiness of the chiles.

You can find both red and green varieties of Hatch chiles, but they're really same pepper picked at different times. When picked early and then roasted, they have a smoky, up-front flavor. As the chiles mature and turn red, they become sweeter and more earthy (via Food and Wine).

In terms of heat, there are several varieties of Hatch chiles, so their location on the Scoville scale fluctuates. Milder Hatch chiles start at about 1,000 SCU (Scoville heat units), which is similar to a poblano pepper, while the hotter varieties can reach up to 8,000 SCU, more akin to a serrano chile pepper (via My Recipes). Mexican Please adds that the size of a chile pepper is an indication of its heat level: Smaller chiles tend to be hotter, and larger chiles tend to be milder.

Nutritionally, one medium Hatch chile pepper has as much vitamin C as six oranges and is brimming with calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, potassium, niacin, folate, and other important vitamins (via Spoon University).