It’s not easy being green. Or that’s how it seems sometimes when you order green chile—perhaps the single dish that’s most emblematic of Colorado—and you receive a bowl of butterscotch-colored (albeit delicious) gloop.

And yet Coloradans love the stuff. Green chile originates from Mexican cuisine, namely, through chile verde, but the dish has taken on a uniquely revered identity in the Centennial State. That’s why you’ll find the concoction of green peppers cooked down with tomatillos and/or tomatoes—the latter often lending that orange hue—at almost every Mexican restaurant in Denver, plus many non-Mexican ones, too. And each restaurant seems to have a different rendition.

“[Green chile is] a very regional dish,” says Sasha Zanabria, owner of El Taco de Mexico in Lincoln Park. Indeed, green chile can vary wildly in texture and flavor, but Zanabria believes two factors best characterize the dish’s regional diversity: “One, the spices of that region and, two, the chiles of that region.”

Pueblo Chiles
Pueblo chiles. Photo by Riane Menardi Morrison

Local pepper production, especially in the Pueblo area, is a major reason why green chile is so popular in Colorado (as well as New Mexico, where Hatch chiles are grown). Case in point: The slopper, a cheeseburger smothered in green chile, is an iconic Pueblo dish, and the Pueblo Chile and Frijoles Festival, which celebrates its 30th anniversary in September, holds an annual green chile (and red chile and salsa) showdown.

To confidently nail down 5280’s list of the best green chiles in Denver, we decided to have our own little showdown via a blind taste test. We have a lot of thoughts—if you’re from Colorado, you probably do, too—but first, here’s how we did it.

The Process

We picked up pints of green chile from 14 restaurants across metro Denver. While we couldn’t grab every green chile in town (we’ll get you next time, Sam’s No. 3 and ​​Efrain’s of Boulder), we tried to hit the restaurants that are most recognized for serving the specialty (by other media publications and by our own experiences), as well as some popular local chains.

To keep things standard, we ordered our green chiles, if given the option, with pork and at a medium level of spiciness, and we tasted each one with plain corn chips. We formed the tasting panel of editors, while our senior associate digital editor, Jessica Giles, prepared the blind taste test so that we could sample the green chiles without knowing their origins.

Ultimately, there is no right answer to “where’s the best green chile in Denver.” Everyone deserves to have their own opinions—and the results below are ours. Zanabria puts it best: “Some people just want chile because they want to burn their mouth. Everyone’s entitled to their experience.”

The Winners

Best Overall Green Chile: La Loma

A cup of avocado-hued green chile.
La Loma’s green chile. Photo by Ethan Pan

Upon first glance, this green chile from La Loma stood out for the simple fact that it, unlike any others, was truly green. Even better, its avocado hue accurately reflected the strength of its pepper flavor. We love that this recipe from grandma Savina Mendoza (whose portrait hangs by La Loma’s entrance) showcases all the beautiful vegetal, grassy, slightly pungent notes that make green chiles special, while keeping those flavors and the spice level balanced with the addition of pork, alliums, and other seasonings. It’s no surprise, then, that this green chile is one of the most expensive ones that we acquired ($13 for a bowl without tax and tip), but we absolutely affirm that it’s worth it. Eat it plain with rice or house-made flour tortillas, smother a burrito with it, dip mini chile rellenos in it—do what you please. We promise it’ll be delicious. 1801 Broadway

Best Green Chile to Eat Plain: El Taco de Mexico

A cup of green chile with a lot of pork.
El Taco de Mexico’s green chile. Photo by Ethan Pan

This Lincoln Park hole-in-the-wall earned a James Beard America’s Classics Award in 2020 for its nearly four decades of stellar, casual Mexican cooking, and we have no doubt that its green chile was part of that. El Taco de Mexico actually cooks a base of New Mexico and Pueblo green chiles separately from the pork that goes in it, so you can order it with or without meat. We highly recommend doing the former, though, because the hearty, tender chunks of protein make El Taco’s green chile our pick for eating by itself. The stew ends up with such a rich depth of meaty flavor (bolstered by a secret blend of spices that reflect its Mexico City origins, according to Zanabria) that we’d happily slurp a cup down as a meal. 714 Santa Fe Drive

Best Green Chile for Smothering: Tamales by La Casita

An orange-green cup of green chile.
La Casita’s green chile. Photo by Ethan Pan

Tamales aren’t the only hot commodity at La Casita, the 50-year-old north Denver spot founded by the late Colorado state senator Paul Sandoval. The restaurant, now operated by his wife, Paula, also serves crowd-pleasing green chile. La Casita’s olive-hued version has small pieces of moist pork and lots of chopped peppers, which give it a sweat-inducing spiciness we think is ideal for pairing with tamales, a breakfast burrito, or a hamburger. You can get the chile on the dish of your choice (or on its own by the pint, quart, or gallon and/or with a side of chips or tortillas) at La Casita’s counter-service restaurant in Highland or at the outpost at Denver International Airport. Just be sure to ask for a Corona with your order to tame the heat. 3561 Tejon St.; DIA Concourse C

Best Classic Colorado Green Chile: Santiago’s

A cup of very orange green chile.
Santiago’s green chile. Photo by Ethan Pan

Denverites love Santiago’s, and for good reason. Out of all of the eateries that serve that orange-hued, thick chile Colorado is so known for, we thought Santiago’s deserves honors for accomplishing that classic recipe the best. Visit any of this local chain’s various locations (of which there are nearly 30) and order it mild, hot, extra hot, or half-and-half (a safe mix of mild and hot) before drizzling it over the breakfast burritos that made the chain popular. Locals actually love the stuff so much that you can even find it in the freezer section at King Soopers, Safeway, and Walmart. Multiple locations

The Other Contenders

14 of the best green chilis in Denver lined up in three rows.
From left to right, top to bottom: Illegal Pete’s, La Casita, Chubby’s, D’Corazon, El Taco de Mexico, Las Delicias, Santiago’s, La Loma, Brewery Bar II, Cherry Cricket, Tacos Jalisco, El Tejado, Chakas, and La Fogata. Photo by Ethan Pan

Brewery Bar II

While we respect the Brewery Bar’s long history in Denver—the restaurant was established in 1951—its green chile was the least appetizing one we sampled. The runny red liquid, which we ordered half-and-half instead of mild or hot, had big chunks of pork that made it look promising. But the unpleasant tinny flavor of canned tomatoes and a late fiery kick left our mouths reaching for a palate cleanse after just one bite. 150 Kalamath St.


One of the contenders that was dominated by a single seasoning, the green chile from Virginia Village’s Chakas (there’s a Westminster location, too) hit our palates with a strong punch of celery seed flavor that Bloody Mary devotees will quickly recognize. Otherwise, this green chile seemed pretty standard—orange hue, not too viscous. Depending on your palate’s preferences, it could be a hit or a miss. 6265 E. Evans Ave.; 4955 W. 72nd Ave., Westminster

Cherry Cricket

Cherry Cricket has earned plenty of recognition in recent years—5280 readers selected it as Top Burger in our 2023 Top of the Town competition—and its green chile totally jives with that. The thick, chili-con-carne-like stew delivered a bang of black pepper, so it may not be our go-to choice to devour by the bowl, but it definitely can stand up to being dolloped onto a char-grilled burger. Multiple locations

The Original Chubby’s

This hole-in-the-wall on West 38th Avenue is credited for sparking the Mile High City’s green chile revolution in the 1960s with the debut of its orangey-brown version. The substance, which still blankets iconic Chubby’s creations such as the Mexican hamburger burrito, had a gentle punch and thick consistency that clung to tortilla chips like glue. 1231 W. 38th Ave.


The flecks of char in this LoDo eatery’s green chile indicated to us that its peppers were obviously roasted before being chopped into fairly large chunks and incorporated into the mix, lending the dish a smoky, veggie-forward flavor. It’s thick, too, so we recommend ordering it to eat on its own (maybe with some shredded cheddar cheese or sour cream on top). 1530 Blake St.

El Tejado

We didn’t think El Tejado’s green chile stood out much, but that can be a good thing if you just want a standard, no-frills option. While some eateries might thicken their stew, we noticed the Overland restaurant left its version soupy, making it better for smothering over another dish than for eating out of a bowl. We were also surprised by a sneaky heat that’ll bite your tongue when you least expect it, so keep that water (or margarita) handy. 2651 S. Broadway

Illegal Pete’s

We bet that, with 14 Colorado locations and counting, Illegal Pete’s gave many Denver transplants their first taste of green chile. Luckily, the offering it makes is pretty solid. We liked the decent-sized chunks of pork in this green chile, as well as its notable yet not overpowering cumin flavor. If this is what you can get your hands on, you’re doing good. Multiple locations

La Fogata

At first, La Fogata’s green chile stumped us with a distinctive yet unfamiliar taste. But it all became clear when we started plucking out the culprit—bay leaves—from the soup. This piney seasoning rarely gets the spotlight, but it was very prominent in this green chile. We visited the East Evans Avenue outpost of La Fogata right when it opened, though, so perhaps the stew’s ingredients didn’t have enough time to meld. 5670 E. Evans Ave., 8090 E. Quincy Ave.

Las Delicias

The green chile from this family-owned chain, which has four locations in and around Denver, was blander than others on our roster. The velvety, amber-hued broth was studded with big chunks of diced peppers, but they didn’t seem to have any heat or flavor. In fact, the chile tasted like it was missing something—possibly just salt. Multiple locations

Tacos Jalisco

Tacos Jalisco’s chile has a classic dark orange hue, slightly thick consistency, and melt-in-your-mouth bits of pork that make it popular with Coloradans, but we were taken aback by notes of some sort of warm spices in the background that made us long to eat it on a chilly October day. While we thought the slightly spicy stew had hints of cinnamon or nutmeg, the autumn-forward flavor could also just be the terroir of the New Mexico chiles used in the batch. 4309 W. 38th Ave.

Read More

A Taste of Colorado-Mex
Denver’s Best Mexican Food
The 11 Best Breakfast Burritos in Denver and Beyond
We Blind Tasted 5 of Denver’s Most Famous Bagels. Here’s How They Ranked.

Barbara O'Neil
Barbara O'Neil
Barbara is one of 5280's assistant editors and writes stories for 5280 and
Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan
Ethan Pan is 5280’s associate food editor, writing and editing for the print magazine and Follow his dining/cooking Instagram @ethans_pan.
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia Kaowthumrong
Patricia joined the 5280 staff in July 2019 and is thrilled to oversee all of the magazine’s dining coverage. Follow her food reporting adventures on Instagram @whatispattyeating.