Chimayó authentic food and Northern New Mexico cuisine are based on the chile pepper, which appears in time-tested recipes handed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. Chile has been a staple Chimayó crop for centuries, as well as a major trade good in generations past. Today the small, crooked heirloom Chimayó chile pepper, which has a mild but robust flavor, is on the brink of extinction, although an agricultural growing project is working to revive the strain by encouraging local farmers to plant and preserve it.
Chimayó's early growing methods relied on directing river water to small fields via acequias, a linked system of water ditches that in some areas of New Mexico predate the arrival of the Spaniards. Today, this same traditional method brings water to the fields for the short growing season of about 150 days. Local agriculture centers on the “three sisters” that were grown together on indigenous New Mexico farms—squash, beans and corn—as well as garlic and onions, and wild greens called quelites or lamb's quarters.
Authentic Chimayó cuisine that every visitor should taste includes homemade tamales, tortas (egg patties), hand-formed yellow, white or blue corn tortillas, posole (hominy stew), and enchiladas filled with beef, chicken or cheese. No visit to Chimayó is complete without answering the State Question: “Red or green?” Referring to different sauces, made with chiles at different stages of ripeness, one reply might be "Which is hotter?" Adventurous diners might also ask for a serving of both, called “Christmas” because of the combination of colors.