A Guide to Mexican Dried Chili Peppers: What Chili Do You Need?

So, I’m sharing some veggie-packed comfort food recipes to help carry us through to springtime.

Mexican cuisine uses chili in copious amounts, both fresh and dehydrated. Fresh serrano, jalapeño, or even habanera add a quick herbaceous floral warmth and are an integral part of the kitchen; but to really make Mexican food you need to know dried chilies.

The complex heat of dried chili provides the backbone of most cooking, and whether it’s to make a simple dry chili sauce or a mole sauce, dried chilies are essential.

Some of the most common dried chilies used in Mexican cuisine are:

The width

This is truly the workhorse of Mexican cuisine, and it is the most widely used of all chili peppers. The ancho is simply a dry poblano and tastes delicious, rich, smooth and slightly sweet, with hints of dark chocolate. Because it is not too spicy, it can be pureed to thicken the sauces.

The guajillo

A more aggressive chili, the guajillo is very often combined with the ancho. Spicier and less complex, guajillo adds heat to many famous Mexican dishes. Smoked and less sweet than ancho, it has a simpler dry chili flavor.


A ripe red jalapeño dried over smoked mesquite, the chipotle adds a sweet spice and is a much loved chili. Chipotle is sold both dry and canned dehydrated in adobe sauce.

The pasilla

Of persistent complexity and an acid heat that lingers in the mouth, the pasilla is highly spicy and is often used for excellent table sauces and gravies. You will often use the pasilla in a mole sauce.

The tree pepper

Direct dry chili heat. Arbol is one of the hottest Mexican dried chili peppers and offers little more than one-dimensional chili flavor and spices, perfect for a very spicy and basic table sauce!

To truly cook Mexican, you need to understand and appetizers the various chili peppers in Mexico. Complex, rich and flavorful, cooking with dried chili peppers allows for an incredible wealth of flavors and, of course, great spiciness in every bite!

Also read The pleasure of discovering easy-to-prepare Mexican recipes

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Patricia Miller

Patricia Miller

As certified chef & holistic nutrition specialists, we work alongside hotels & spas, restaurants & people like you and me, all over the world.

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