Pueblo: The Chile Variety That Grows Exclusively In Colorado

Over the last few years, you may have noticed Carolina reaper-flavored chips and pepper X hot sauce of Hot Ones fame growing in numbers in your local grocery stores. As the popularity of all things spicy skyrockets, the hottest peppers in the world have grown to be household names. However, before trending pepper X and ghost pepper flavors took over the spicy food world, all we knew were trusty jalapeños and habaneros to give us the picante missing in our lives. However, for the people of Colorado, their go-to chile has always been lesser known.

Colorado may be known for their unique foods (Rocky Mountain oysters, anyone?), but their own homegrown chile may just be the rarest. The Pueblo chile is named after the city that it exclusively grows in, located in the south-central region of Colorado. There, in Pueblo, the chiles are cherished, and they even get their own annual festival.

These chiles are similar in appearance to New Mexico's famed Hatch chile, but there are slight differences between the two. Pueblos tend to be a bit thicker and shorter than the average Hatch chile, and Pueblos also tend to be on the spicier side compared to Hatch. These chiles are known for their friendly rivalry, as their respective states often claim their own to be the best. While both chiles are popular in this region of the U.S., the Pueblo chiles' history is likely lesser known.

History of Pueblo chiles

It makes sense that Pueblo was destined to have its own namesake chile, as their region's climate is ideal for cultivating these fruits (yes, chiles are fruits.) The lengthy hot summer season, coupled with little rain, creates perfect conditions for growing many varieties of chiles. According to History Colorado, it's likely the first chiles were grown in the region when Mexican traders and settlers began bringing the fruits into the area in the early- to mid-19th century. The site notes that after decades of growing these plants, a unique variety now known as Pueblo chiles began to develop.

Ready Foods adds that the proper name of the Pueblo chile is Mirasol Mosco. Mirasol chiles can be found in other regions, but this chile can only be called a Pueblo if it is grown in the Coloradan city.

While the Pueblo namesake is obvious, there is another reason the chile is actually called Mirasol. When broken down into two parts, the name translates to "look sun." This is fitting as the Pueblo chile grows pointing upwards toward the sun, unlike other chiles, as per Ready Foods.

Today, the Pueblo Chile Fest draws thousands of people from across the globe in September to enjoy all types of Pueblo chile-infused foods. This must-see foodie event is sure to wow anyone that enjoys chowing down on spicy food and savoring craft beers.

What Pueblo chiles taste like

Pueblo chiles are known to be delicious. Their flavor is a bit sweet, and they have a satisfyingly thick flesh that balances the heat well. But, what you really may be wondering about is the spiciness and if you can stomach having this chile on your dinner plate. Don't worry, though, this chile isn't too hot. The heat level is often compared to that of jalapeño, a chile most people can easily enjoy without chugging water. The spice levels do vary, however, for Pueblo chiles, as they're typically anywhere from 5,000 to 20,000 Scoville Heat Units. For comparison, jalapeños are anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 units, and the infamous Carolina reaper averages at a near-unbearable 1,800,000 units.

This spicy, yet not overwhelming, heat level paired with a great taste has shot this chile into Coloradan stardom. It's served across the state and can easily be found in many local restaurants. While there are plenty of ways to enjoy this chile, the traditional methods may be the best.

How to cook with Pueblo chiles

Likely the best place to experience Pueblo chile dishes is at the annual festival. Dozens of food trucks and booths sell all different types of cooked Pueblo chiles, from fresh roasted ones with rice to Pueblo salsa to even chile-infused desserts.

Restaurants have almost as many ways of serving this famous food from Colorado. For instance, it's often served in a tasty chile relleno dish featuring roasted-then-batter-fried Pueblo chiles stuffed with meat or cheese. However, you may have to opt to make your own chile dishes at home if you don't see yourself traveling to Colorado anytime soon.

The Pueblo Chile Growers Association has almost two dozen recipes available on their site, so you can feel confident chopping up your own chiles for meals at home. From tasty Pueblo chile cornbread to stuffed cheese poppers to candied chiles, there are plenty of hard-to-pass-up meals with a nice kick that anyone can enjoy. So, for some, it might be worth planning a road trip to Colorado in the near future to secure some of these one-of-a-kind chiles.