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Mexican Chili Peppers

October 13, 2015 BY Dax

Chili peppers fall into three main categories, Mexican, Asian and African varieties. Of these three categories Mexican varieties are the most recognized and have the most wide reaching consumer appeal. Also not to be overlooked is both African and the Asian chili peppers are direct descendants of the Mexican peppers. Chili peppers have been a part of the human diet in the Americas since at least 7500 B.C. Recent research shows that chili peppers were domesticated more than 6000 years ago in an area of Mexico that spans across southern Puebla and northern Oaxaca to southeastern Veracruz. The chili pepper was also one of the first self-pollinating crops cultivated in Mexico. It wasn’t until roughly 600 years ago that the chili pepper was introduced outside of the Americas to the rest of the world.

The Chili pepper is a true staple in Mexican cuisine. In fact, it is difficult to find any traditional Mexican dish that does not incorporate some type of chili pepper. There are so many different varieties and each adds it own subtle influence to the dish. Chili pepper heat ranges from the mild Poblano to the fiery heat of the Habanero.

 

PEPPERS

Ancho

ANCHO

SHU: 1,000-1,500

SUGGESTIONS: Pineapple Ancho, Ancho & dark roast coffee

INFO: Commonly used in red chili and tamales.

  • Ancho along with Pasilla and Guajillo make up the “holy trinity” widely used in mole sauces.
  • Ancho means ‘wide’, its flat heart shape creating one of the largest chiles.
  • The Ancho is one of the most commonly used chile pepper varieties in Mexico and is a basic ingredient for making many Mexican style sauces.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Sweet with underlying fruit notes and a mild heat.


Poblano

POBLANO

SHU: 1,000-2,000

SUGGESTIONS: Roasted Poblano cream cheese, Poblano and sea salt.

INFO: Commonly used in moles.

  • A mild chili pepper. Dried, it is called a chile ancho.
  • The ripened red poblano is significantly hotter and more flavorful than the less ripe, green poblano.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Mild chili flavor with slight heat.


Anaheim

MOLIDO/ANAHEIM

SHU: 500-2,500

SUGGESTIONS: Molido & sweet potato,
Anaheim and brown sugar bacon.

INFO: Also called California Chili, or magdalena.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Fresh green flavor, but also the mildest
in heat.


Pasilla

PASILLA

SHU: 250-4,000

SUGGESTIONS: Pasilla & truffle, Caramelized onion and Pasilla chili.

INFO: Pasilla or “little raisin” refers to the dried chilaca pepper.

  • Many times grocers miss label these for Ancho chilis.
  • The Pasilla chili is normally 8 -10 inches long and narrower than Ancho.
  • A key chili in the famous “holy trinity” of Mexican chilies.
  • Used in Mexican moles along with the Ancho chili.
  • Great with fruits, duck, seafood, lamb, mushrooms, garlic, fennel, honey or oregano.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Pungent and tangy with a long lasting deep
rich flavor and woodsy undertones.


Guajillo

GUAJILLO

SHU: 2,500-5,000

SUGGESTIONS: Guajillo & smoked lime, Sweet and salty Guajillo chili.

INFO: The dried version of the Marisol chili.

  • The guajillo chili is characterized by its thin, deep red flesh.
  • Sometimes used to make the salsa for a sweet taste with a surprisingly hot finish.
  • Used in pastes, butters or rubs to flavor all kinds of meats, especially chicken.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Green tea flavor with a sweet smoky heat.


Jalapeno - chili peppers

JALAPENO

SHU: 2,500-10,000

SUGGESTIONS: Black bean Jalapeno ranch, Jalapeno and cilantro.

INFO: Named from it’s origin in the Sierra Mountain region.

  • The workhorse, it is the most common of all chilies in the United States.
  • It gets its name from Jalapa (also spelled Xalapa), the capital of Veracruz, Mexico.
  • When dried and smoked, it’s called a chipotle chili
  • Commonly used in making pico de gallo.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Sweet flavor with a kick.


Chipolte

CHIPOTLE

SHU: 3,000-10,000

SUGGESTIONS: Chipotle Adobo, Chipotle Tequila lime.

INFO: From the Nahuatl word chilpoctli (meaning “smoked
chili”), is a smoke-dried jalapeño.

  • Used primarily in Mexican and Mexican-inspired cuisines, such as Mexican-American, Tex-Mex, and southwestern dishes.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Jalapenos heat with an earthy deep smoke flavor.


Serrano

SERRANO

SHU: 15,000-30,000

SUGGESTIONS: Smoked Serrano, Roasted garlic and Serrano.

INFO: Named from it’s origin in the Sierra Mountain region.

  • Perfect for salsas, sauces, relishes, garnishes.
  • Often mistakenly referred to as a smaller version of the jalapeno, it is similar in color and matures from a dark green to reddish orange even yellow in color.
  • It is a very meaty flesh pepper and is not suitable for drying. They are typically eaten raw but are usually best when roasted.
  • Commonly used in making pico de gallo.

FLAVOR PROFILE: hot, bright and biting flavor.


Chilies De Arbol

CHILIES DE ARBOL

SHU: 15,000-30,000

SUGGESTIONS: Roasted tomato and Arbol chili, Toasted Arbol salsa.

INFO: Also known as bird’s beak, rat’s tail, or Cow Horn chile.

  • A distinctive bright red color when mature, these peppers can be found dried fresh or powdered and are often used to decorate wreaths because they do not lose color when dried.
  • Meaning a ‘tree like’ plant with thick woody stems.
  • Peppers are a delicate, slender, cayenne dark-red variety growing up to 3 inches long but thin.
  • From the Oaxaca, Jalisco and Nayarit regions of Mexico.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Fiery heat and earthy with smoke.


Habanero - chili peppers

HABANERO

SHU: 100,000-350,000

SUGGESTIONS: Mango Habanero, Habanero & Honey.

INFO: This is the hottest of the Mexican chilies.

  • An integral part of classical Yucatan cuisine.
  • Native to parts of Central America and the Caribbean.
  • Add a lot of heat to cooking and should be used judiciously.
  • Great for salsa, hot sauces, a fiery chicken dish.

FLAVOR PROFILE: Floral, tangy with intense heat.


CONCLUSION

Authentic Mexican cuisine seems to have an incredibly unique soul, of course the herbs and spices play a large role in the recipes, but the true backbone of its cuisine is the Mexican chili pepper. The dishes possible with this amazing collection of chili peppers are almost endless, and the best part is that once you start using them you’ll want to experiment with them even more.

As delicious as they are beautiful, the Mexican chili pepper is a great ingredient to help you add a touch of sophistication to any Ethnic Mexican or Southwestern dish.

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