Green chiles—Hatch, Anaheim, poblanos—are staples of southwestern cooking, and almost every recipe that uses them requires that they be roasted first. Why roast green chiles? Because the flavor of roasted green chiles is amazing; they’re just so much better roasted than raw.
To roast a green chile you need to char the outside peel, without burning the inside, and then remove the char. Charring the outside infuses the chile inside with flavor. We remove the char because, well, who wants to eat all those burned bits?
In New Mexico green chiles are roasted by the dozens in big mesh tumblers that turn over an open flame below.
For those of us without the industrial-sized roasting contraptions, there are more practical options!
How to roast chiles at home
There are 3 main ways to roast chiles in a home environment.
- Stovetop: Char the chiles directly on the stovetop, either over an open flame of a gas stove or very close to the surface of an electric stove.
- Oven broiler: Place the chiles on a foil-lined roasting pan and put them a few inches under a pre-heated broiler in the oven for about 10 to 15 minutes, checking them and turning them every few minutes until all sides are blackened.
- Grill: Place the chiles on a grill over high direct heat. Get the chiles as close to the coals or flame as you can. Turn them every few minutes until they are blackened all over.
With all methods the secret to roasting a chile pepper is to char or blister the skin all over, so the skin is easy to peel off. Note with each method we are charring whole chiles.
We usually prefer roasting the chiles on a gas stove top (method described in more detail below) rather than using the broiler or grill because cooking directly over the flame chars the peel faster and doesn’t overcook the chiles.
Once charred, steam the chiles
Once the chiles are blackened all over you need to put them in a covered space while they are still hot, so that the steam from the chiles will loosen the charred peel, making it easier for the peel to be removed.
Growing up we used to put the newly charred chiles in a brown paper bag, but these days I just put them in a bowl and put a plate over the bowl. Keep them covered for about 5 to 10 minutes.
Then just use your hands or a paper towel to wipe off the blackened bits. It helps if your hands or the paper towel are wet, but don’t run the chiles directly under the faucet if you can help it (rinses away too much flavor).
How to freeze roasted green chiles
The best way to freeze roasted green chiles is when they are blackened all over, before you’ve removed the charred bits. Just let them cool down a bit, put them in a freezer bag, and freeze. This way the chiles will absorb more of that roasted flavor while they freeze. Once you defrost them, the charred bits will slide right off.
Otherwise you can freeze them after you’ve removed the charred bits, still whole, or you can de-stem and de-seed them and freeze them as strips.
Safety tips when handling chiles
- Ventilation: Roasting green chiles on the stovetop can produce chile fumes that can be aggravating to the lungs. Make sure your cooking area is well ventilated either with the stove hood fan or an open window.
- Protect your hands: Once you’ve broken through the chile’s outer peel, either through charring or cutting, the capsaicin that gives the chile its heat can burn your skin. If you rub some olive oil on your hands before handling chiles, that will protect your skin from chile burns. Gloves work too.
- Protect your eyes: Once you’ve been handling roasted or cut green chiles, DO NOT TOUCH YOUR EYES, or any other sensitive spots of your body.
How to Roast Green Chiles on a Gas Stove
- Raw chile peppers – anaheim, Hatch, poblano, or jalapeño
1 Blister chile under flame: Turn on your gas burner on to the highest setting. Balance the chile pepper directly on the metal grates over the gas burner. Let the chile pepper sit on the burner as its skin begins to bubble and turn black (about a minute).
2 Continue until charred on all sides: Once one side of the chile gets well blistered, use tongs (or if you can, grab the stem with your fingers) to turn the chile to another side.
Repeat until the chile gets blistered or charred on all sides. Obviously you need to pay close attention to the chile. It should just blister and char a bit, not catch fire.
Using this method you can roast several chiles at the same time. At least 2 per burner, and you can have a couple burners going at once.
At this point you can freeze the blackened roasted chiles by letting them cool to room temp, placing them in a freezer bag, squeezing out the air and freezing them. When you defrost them, the blackened skins will peel right off! If you need to use the chiles right away, continue with the instructions.
3 Place chile in covered dish to steam: Place the chile in a bowl and cover with a plate (or put the chile in a brown paper bag and close the bag).
Let the chiles sit for 5 or 10 minutes. The steam from the hot chile will help the peel come off more easily.
4 Remove charred peel: Remove the chile from the bowl. Use your fingers or a damp towel or damp paper towel to rub off the charred peel. You may find it easier to do this over a sink, because it can get rather messy. Try to avoid running water over the chile itself, as doing so may wash away some of the chile’s flavor.
5 Prep and store the chile: Make a slice into the side of the chile and cut away and discard the stem, seeds, and veins.
Place in a covered container and refrigerate.
The chile will keep for several days in the fridge. Or you can place in a freezer bag, press out the air, and freeze. Frozen chiles will last for several months.