A Colorado vs. Texas cook-off with two tailgater chile recipes

As the CU Buffs take on TCU in their debut with Coach Deion Sanders, we ask: Tex-Mex chili or Colorado green chile?
Aug. 17, 2023
The Colorado chile verde recipe often includes pork and chicken-infused broth, as well as the chile pepper itself. Photo: Getty Images.
The Colorado chile verde recipe often includes tender pork and chicken stock, as well as the chile pepper itself. Photo: Getty Images.

With football, as with food, we have rivalries but also mere contests.

When chile season rolls around each summer, Colorado’s Pueblo (or Mosco or Mirabel) chile pepper rivals against New Mexico’s Hatch chile pepper. A carryover competition comes whenever either state’s chile transforms into “chile verde,” the soup-like constitution that gets its “verde” (or “green”) from the chile peppers used in it.

New Mexicans — who consider chile verde their state dish — much cluck their tongues at the way Coloradans allow for thickeners such as masa or potatoes in chile verde — a New Mexican “would never!” — or over the profligacy of tomatoes in Denver’s chile verde (versus little or none of the red fruit in Santa Fe’s).

Likewise, on the gridiron, there are the ardent and longstanding rivalries of Army-Navy or USC-Notre Dame.

And there are just — well, “just” until game day — mere contests such as the University of Colorado Buffaloes versus the Texas Christian University Frogs, 2023’s football season opener on Saturday, September 2nd.

Two tailgater recipes here for two different chiles, not rival chiles, just different versions: a Colorado chile verde and a Texas chile con carne — only a rivalry if you set them so.

Colorado chile verde is a melting pot of cooking influences from Spain (pork, if used, and chicken broth; certain herbs or citrus) and Mesoamerica’s indigenous foodstuffs such as the chile pepper itself, corn (for the thickener masa or any accompanying tortillas) and, yes, the tomato.

The chile con carne of Texas, however, is the premier dish of what’s called “Tex-Mex,” which takes in some of those same Mesoamerican and Mexican ingredients such as the chile pepper (all too often, nonetheless and sadly, in powdered form) or the tomato (usually in paste or purée form) but also — emphatically and unequivocally — beef. Texas is cattle country and there is no Tex-Mex without beef.

Or, to acknowledge Spanish or European (eventually merely “American”) influences in a Texan chile con carne, we have sunglow melted yellow cheese atop or wheat flour tortillas to the side, neither included in the recipe here but allowed if desired by the eater.

Either recipe — or both — are amenable to a tailgater or other gathering before or during the CU-TCU game because both may (in truth, ought to be) made ahead of time and kept at the ready and warmed on the stove or in a slow cooker.

Let the game begin, at the table or on the field.

Pork Green Chile (Colorado Pork Chile Verde recipe)

This is but one take on Colorado-style chile verde. Variations abound; a couple come in for a mention at the recipe’s end. Use Mexican oregano (Lippia graveolens), a member of the verbena family, instead of so-called “Mediterranean” or “Greek” oregano. Its earthy, citrusy flavors and aromas are better suited here. Serves 8-10.


3 pounds pork shoulder (bone-in OK), trimmed of excess fat and cut into large 2-inch chunks.

green chile used in a Colorado chile verde recipe.
Green chile is packed full of flavor and nutrients. Photo: Getty Images.

1 pound bone-in country-style pork ribs, trimmed of excess fat and cut into large 2-inch chunks.

3 tablespoons neutral olive or other vegetable oil.

1 large white onion, peeled and sliced.

4 cloves garlic, peeled, crushed and roughly chopped.

4 quarts light meat broth, preferably homemade (pork, chicken, or combination), or plain water, or combination broth and water.

2 tablespoons Mexican oregano, crushed.

1 tablespoon ground cumin.

1 large bay leaf.

1/2 pound fresh poblano chiles, toasted, peeled, seeded, chopped (see note).

1 pound roasted Pueblo, Mosco or Mirabel chiles, peeled, seeded, chopped, hot or mild or combination (see note).

Kosher salt, to taste.

Corn (and, if desired, flour) tortillas, heated.

Garnishes of minced serrano chiles; chopped cilantro; more Mexican oregano; and wedges of lime. (Some chile verde eaters also enjoy garnishes of grated or crumbled cotija cheese and avocado chunks or slices.)


In a large pot, over medium-high heat, brown well the pork pieces on all sides in the oil; remove, then add the onion, scraping up any brown bits while the onion sweats 4-5 minutes, then add the garlic and heat it through 1-2 minutes, being sure not to burn the garlic.

Also try this Instant Pot Chile Verde recipe.

Add back the pork pieces and the broth or water and cook the pork at a simmer for at least 2 hours, skimming off any grey foam or fat. Remove the meat from the broth; skim the broth, reserving it; shred the meat off any bones, reserving it and tossing the bones. (Right after the initial simmer, you might refrigerate the pot after it cools down a bit. Doing this a day or two ahead makes it easy to remove any fat that rises and congeals. It also develops more flavor.)

To finish the chile verde: To a large pot, add the shredded meat and the broth; add the seasonings and the prepared chiles. The liquid should be more stew-like than soup-like; adjust the liquid just so. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring, for 30-40 minutes at a gentle simmer. Taste for salt. Serve with the tortillas and the garnishes.

Note: Instead of toasting or roasting, peeling, etc., fresh chiles, you may substitute 1 24-ounce package (or its equivalent weight in packages) of frozen or prepared green chiles, but not canned chiles.

Chile Verde recipe thickened with masa or cornmeal: When finishing the chile verde, stir in 2 tablespoons masa or cornmeal for the final half hour (or more) of simmering. Similarly, cut-up, partially cooked potato chunks, peeled or unpeeled, will thicken the chile verde in the same manner and at the same step.

Chile Verde recipe with tomatoes: Add 2 15-ounce cans of diced tomatoes (or their equivalent in fresh, peeled, chopped tomatoes) when adding the shredded meat and broth in the half hour finishing step.

The chile con carne recipe of Texas doesn't include beans and emphasizes beef. Photo: Getty Images.
The chile con carne recipe of Texas emphasizes beef. It is often served with rice, and beans are omitted. Photo: Getty Images.

Chili Con Carne (Texas Beef Red Chile)

From Gabrielle Langholtz, editor, “America: The Cookbook” (Phaidon 2017). Editor’s note: “Classic Texas chili contains no beans. A meat-loving state, Texas has more cattle than any other state. In true Texas spirit, this recipe calls for three pounds of boneless chuck, but you could also use buffalo [bison] or venison.”


6 dried ancho or pasilla chilies.

4 dried hot chilies such as guajillo, arbol or chipotle.

1/2 pound streaky bacon, thinly sliced.

2 medium white onions, chopped.

4 large garlic cloves, minced.

3 bay leaves, finely crumbled.

4 teaspoons dried oregano.

1 tablespoon paprika.

1 teaspoon ground cumin.

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper.

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme.

1 teaspoon salt.

3 pounds boneless beef chuck, cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

3 tablespoons cornmeal.

1 3/4 cups beef stock.

1 28-ounce can tomato purée (passata).

Corn tortillas, for serving.

Grated cheddar cheese (optional).


In a bowl of hot water, soak the dried chilies to soften, about 20 minutes. Drain. Discard the stems and seeds and coarsely chop.

Heat a Dutch oven (casserole) over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Drain the bacon on paper towels. Add the chopped chilies, onions, garlic, bay leaves, oregano, paprika, cumin, black pepper, thyme, and salt to the pan and cook until the onions soften, about 10 minutes. Add the meat and cook until well browned on all sides, about 6 minutes. Stir in the cornmeal. Add the stock, tomato purée (passata), cooked bacon and 1 cup water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until the meat is tender, about 2 hours.

With a slotted spoon, remove the meat and set aside. Let the sauce cool, then purée it in a blender or food processor. Return the sauce and the beef to the pan and mix well. Simmer for a few minutes and serve with corn tortillas.

Note: To add beans (in open violation of one rule for Texan chili con carne), use this step adapted from Mark Bittman, “How to Cook Everything” (John Wiley & Sons, 2008) and his recipe for “Chili con Carne”: Cook 1 pound dried pinto or red kidney beans with 1 whole peeled onion in water to cover for 30 minutes to an hour (depending on whether you had previously soaked them or not). Season with salt and pepper and cook further until the beans are quite tender but still intact. Drain and add the drained beans to the mixture of the blended or processed sauce and beef toward the end.

Reach Bill St. John at [email protected]

About the author

For more than 40 years, Bill St. John’s specialties have been as varied as they are cultured. He writes and teaches about restaurants, wine, food & wine, the history of the cuisines of several countries (France, Italy, Spain, Belgium, and the USA), about religion and its nexus with food, culture, history, or philosophy, and on books, travel, food writing, op-ed, and language.

Bill has lent (and lends) his subject matter expertise to such outlets as The Rocky Mountain News, The Denver Post, The Chicago Tribune, 5280 Magazine, and for various entities such as food markets, wine shops, schools & hospitals, and, for its brief life, Microsoft’s sidewalk.com. In 2001 he was nominated for a James Beard Award in Journalism for his 12 years of writing for Wine & Spirits Magazine.

Bill's experience also includes teaching at Regis University and the University of Chicago and in classrooms of his own devising; working as on-air talent with Denver's KCNC-TV, where he scripted and presented a travel & lifestyle program called "Wine at 45"; a one-week stint as a Trappist monk; and offering his shoulder as a headrest for Julia Child for 20 minutes.

Bill has also visited 54 countries, 42 of the United States, and all 10 Canadian provinces.