Hot Stuff: A Guide to Chiles Part 2

June 15, 2011

Dried chiles have a rich and concentrated flavor.  They can pack a spicy punch.  Peppers often become hotter as they ripen and they can be at their hottest when they're dried.  As a rule of thumb, the smaller the pepper, the spicier it will be. To tone down the heat, remove the seeds and white ribs.  To prepare dried chiles, it is best to either soak the chiles in warm water until soft or grind the peppers in a food processor.  The method you choose will depend on its application in a dish.  Look for dried chiles in the Latin section in your market.  Here is a list of the ones you are most likely to find.

Ancho: These are dried poblano chiles.  They are brownish-black in color with a flavor similar to raisins.  They are present in a number of Mexican dishes including tortilla soup and salsas.  Scoville Units: 1,000-2,000

Guajillo:  These chiles are smooth and reddish-brown.  Guajillo chiles have a sharp flavor and are moderately spicy.  Soak and puree this chiles and add to a Mexican mole sauceScoville Units: 2,500-5,000

Cascabel: These small cherry shaped chiles make a rattling sound when shaken, hence their nickname "rattle chile."  They have a smoky flavor and are delicious added to ground meat for tacos or to chili.  Scoville Units: 1,500-2,500

New Mexico: These chiles have an earthy flavor. They are the star ingredient in the state's red enchilada sauce. Scoville Units: 2,500

Pasilla: This is the dried version of the chilaca chile.  Pasilla are often mislabled as ancho because of their similar appearence.  They are thin and long with a slightly bitter flavor.  Scoville Units: 4,000

Chipotle: A smoked and dried jalapeno pepper, often found canned in adobo sauce.  It has a smokey flavor reminiscent of barbecue. For ideas of how to use chipotle peppers, read one of my previous posts.  Scoville Units: 10,000

De Arbol: These thin red chiles remain the same color even after drying.  They are wonderful tossed whole in dishes like kung pao chickenScoville Units: 50,000-65,000


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Barnaby's picture

I love exploring the world of Chiles! So many different flavor profiles in addition to the varying levels of heat.