It’s hatch chile season, which means the mildly spicy and smoky New Mexico green pepper is going to be infiltrating your favorite snacks with the Terminator-like relentlessness of pumpkin spice. But, is this spicy snack infusion worth it? And does what you’re eating actually contain real hatch chile pepper?
The truth is, most green chiles advertised as hatch chiles probably aren’t the real deal. Only those grown in the Hatch Valley region of New Mexico can actually be claimed as hatch chiles, and the region is far too small to actually produce the quantity that’s being sold and produced in the U.S. It’s like when companies claim their tomatoes are “San Marzanos” when in fact, only a small percentage of tomatoes come from the San Marzano region. This is a marketing trick companies use to convince us we’re purchasing an authentic product.
When I lived in Austin, I saw the most hatch chiles being sold in August and September. The H-E-Bs carried stacks upon stacks of them. I remember them tasting mild, with a touch of fruitiness. When roasted, they took on a smoky, earthy, almost buttery flavor that made for great salsa. When raw, the hatch chile pepper isn’t anything too special (certainly not an aji amarillo), but roasting it unlocks a new dimension of smoky, sweetness that complements the mild spice beautifully. Because of that, hatch chiles find their way into many of our snacks.
Still, I’m not quite sure that we’re getting a legit, pure hatch chile flavor with most “hatch chile” products. Most of the products listed below also list jalapeños in the ingredients, and jalapeños can undercut the pure hatch chile pepper flavor (Walter White would never!). We are currently in the height of hatch chile season (late summer and early fall), so you’re probably seeing more hatch chiles and hatch chile-infused products in grocery stores. But with the amount of jalapeño in these products, and the high likelihood of pepper fraud, you may not be tasting much, if any, pure hatch chile pepper. So, are these products even worth buying? Is there really anything that special about hatch chile products? I tried these four hatch chile products to see if I could find out.
- Beemster Hatch Pepper Gouda
Well, right off the bat, this was delightful. This cheese hits you with a great pepper flavor. Is it actually made with hatch chiles? I’m inclined to think that it might be. The flavor is mild and it lingers beautifully in your mouth. It’s just such a nice, sustained heat that doesn’t overpower. Now, this cheese does list jalapeño in its ingredients, so the hatch chile is cut a bit with that. The cheese itself is super milky and funky and creamy like a good gouda should be. This is a great cheese. Staff-writer Jordan Myrick and I both loved it. I would eat big hunks of this at 2 a.m. Might even pair it with some crackers!
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Beemster Cheese
- Sprouts Hatch Chile Ranch Dressing and Marinade made with Avocado Oil
The problem with using avocado oil in any dressing is that the dressing now overwhelmingly tastes like avocado oil. I’m not a fan of that and neither is Jordan. That said, this ranch dressing also has a lot of good flavor from the dill, rosemary extract, and other herbage. It’s thick and creamy like a good ranch should be, but it doesn’t bring the hatch chile flavor with any authority. Hatch Chile Ranch Dressing sounds great in theory, but the execution just doesn’t work.
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart
- Sprouts Hatch Chile Chunky Salsa
This green salsa is wonderfully simple; it’s made with tomatillos, garlic, hatch chiles, and cilantro. However, the ingredients do also list jalapeño peppers. The flavor is steady and mild, like I remember fresh hatch chiles tasting, and it’s wonderfully tart, peppery, and aromatic. Per the back of the container, “Our hatch chiles are grown exclusively in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico.” I’ll take that at face value. I like this salsa a lot. It’s different from most other green salsas I’ve tried.
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Instacart
- Kar’s Hatch Chile Almonds
These are deliciously smoky but only slightly peppery almonds. I think these are a great snacking almond, almost like Blue Diamond’s Smokehouse Almonds. The ingredients list hatch chile seasoning, garlic, and salt, but I do think the hatch chile flavor is lacking. There’s no added jalapeño, so these are not very spicy at all. The flavor is pretty mild, but there’s still just enough oomf from the hatch chile seasoning to keep me buying them.
Credit: Sarah Demonteverde / Kroger
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