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What is Chili Verde?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 16, 2024
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Chili verde is a dish native to Northern Mexico. It is a form of stew, traditionally prepared with pork shoulder, although other cuts of pork and sometimes even chicken may be used. There are a number of variations on the basic recipe, and purists will usually argue that their version is “authentic.” In fact, like many ethnic dishes, chili verde is prepared in a variety of ways in its native country, so it is safe to say that whichever version a person likes the best is probably authentic enough.

The base of this stew is slow-cooked meat, which is simmered in broth and a mixture of other ingredients until the meat is essentially falling apart. Some people eat it on its own, sometimes with tortilla chips or tortillas to absorb the liquid. This dish can also be wrapped in burritos or tacos, although this practice is more common in Mexican restaurants in the United States. As the “verde,” which means “green,” would suggest, the broth used to make the dish is green.

At a minimum, the chili verde broth includes crushed green chilies, often a mixture of varieties for added flavor, along with garlic, pepper, salt, and onions. Some cooks also add oregano and cilantro, often ground into a paste so that the flavor is distributed evenly in the sauce. The heat can be adjusted by playing with the varieties of chilies used and the number included in the dish, and cooks can also reduce the heat by de-seeding the chilies first.

In Northern Mexico and the American Southwest, many people also add tomatillos to their chili verde, sometimes roasting the fruit first to create a deeper, more complex flavor. Other cooks add tomatoes, and some cooks in Central and Southern Mexico like to throw potato chunks in as well. In any case, lime juice is frequently squeezed over the stew just before serving to create a tangy flavor.

Some markets, especially those which carry Mexican ingredients, carry chili verde mixtures in a can, allowing cooks to blend the mixture with a little broth and use it as-is. The dish is not terribly difficult to make from scratch, however, and using fresh basic ingredients can allow cooks to play with flavors and spice levels. If tomatillos, an ingredient that some people think are critical, are not available, cooks may be able to find them canned; they can also use tomatoes instead, with a hint of sugar to cut the acid.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a DelightedCooking researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By stoneMason — On Aug 23, 2013

My husband made an amazing chili verde yesterday with smoked pork shoulder. He smoked it, cooked it in a pan on the grill for a while and then let it simmer on the stove for a bit longer.

By bear78 — On Aug 22, 2013

@fBoyle-- The usual cooking time for chicken chili verde is two to three hours. How was your chicken after two hours? Was it falling apart? You could have cooked it longer if the meat wasn't soft yet.

As for the peppers, it's a good idea to put them through a food processor first. And use lots of peppers. That's what gives the stew its texture and color, along with the broth. I like to put the garlic, onion, and peppers through the processor together and then add it to the pan.

By fBoyle — On Aug 22, 2013

I made chicken chili verde for the first time yesterday, but it didn't turn out as I expected. The stew wasn't as thick as I thought it would be and it wasn't very green. The chopped peppers were still very much intact. Did I not cook it long enough?

It cooked for about two hours and I can't imagine cooking it more than that. Does anyone have any suggestions?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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