12 Dried Chiles to Spice up Any Dish (2023)

  • 01 of 12

    Anaheim Chile Pepper (Anyone Can Handle It)

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    Dried Anaheim peppers left to ripen until red, then dried become burgundy-colored California red chiles. Chile seco del norte is the name most often used for Anaheim's picked while still green that dry down to a brighter red color. The three names are used interchangeably. The pepper is 1 to 2 inches wide at the stem and tapers along its 5- to 7-inch length.

    These chiles are very mild. They range between 500 and 2,500 Scoville heat units (SHU). The hottest is like a mild jalapeño, and the pepper has a sharp flavor with a hint of acidity. It's a perfect pepper for delicate palates and versatile enough for nearly any dish. When ground, it's a fantastic addition to a spice blend.

  • 02 of 12

    Cascabel Chile Pepper (Nutty Smoke)

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    Squat and round, the cascabel chile pepper grows no more than 2 inches in diameter. It's a dark brown-red color when dried and hollow inside. The seeds rattle when shaken, which explains its names; cascabel means "little bell" or "rattle," and it's known as the rattlesnake chile.

    The taste of the cascabel is earthy and nutty with a nice smokiness. Falling between 1,500 and 2,500 SHU, it's a mild pepper and there's no need to remove the seeds. You'll find it in traditional Mexican dishes like birria, and its best pairings are tomatoes and tomatillos. Ground cascabel peppers are a nice addition to meat stews and taco seasonings.

  • 03 of 12

    Ancho Chile Pepper (Sweet, Smoky Stuff)

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    The ancho is a dried poblano pepper. While poblanos are harvested when green, the ancho is picked once it's a mature red hue. It dries down to an almost black, dark red. Meaning "wide," the ancho lives up to its name, often growing 3 inches wide and 4 to 5 inches long.

    This large chile is among the most-used dried peppers in Mexican cooking and has a mild spice (1,000 to 2,000 SHU). It's loved for its sweet and smoky flavor that's reminiscent of paprika. Perfect for mole or adobo sauce, the ancho can tame the spiciest peppers when mixed into a chile paste.

  • Pasilla Chile Pepper (It's a Spicy Raisin)

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    Almost black in color, the pasilla is a dried chilaca pepper. It's often mislabeled or confused for an ancho, though this chile is considerably thinner and 8 to 10 inches long.

    The name is derived from the Spanish for "raisin," and the taste is reminiscent of dried fruits like raisins and prunes. It has a medium heat ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 SHU. Pasilla peppers are often paired with anchos and guajillos for chile sauces or spicier chiles like jalapeños for fresh salsa.

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  • 05 of 12

    Mulato Chile Pepper (Smoky With a Kick)

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    Fresh chile peppers often take a different name once dried. The poblano is an interesting case because it can become either an ancho or mulato. The two dried chiles are nearly identical and look like giant prunes. The mulato comes from a particular poblano variety and is allowed to ripen longer on the plant until it's a dark brown.

    A darker purple, the mulato is also spicier than the ancho (2,500 and 3,000 SHU). It maintains the delicate smoky flavor with hints of chocolate and is used in similar ways. It's a favorite chile for mole sauce and a great ancho substitute when you want to give recipes a subtle kick.

  • 06 of 12

    Dried New Mexican Chile Pepper (All Over the Board)

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    The state of New Mexico has a special kind of chile pepper. It was developed in the late 1800s to standardize the chile pepper's size and heat. Today there are so many "New Mexican" chile pepper cultivars that the spice range extends from a mild 1,000 SHU to a spicy 8,000 SHU, or hotter. The most famous are Hatch chiles.

    New Mexican chiles are most often eaten while green. The vine-ripened red chiles are popularly seen hanging in bunches called ristras to dry before they're ground into chile powder.

  • 07 of 12

    Guajillo Chile Pepper (Starting to Get Spicy)

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    Along with the ancho, the guajillo is essential in Mexican food. It is a dried mirasol chile measuring up to 5 inches long. The deep-red skin is glossy and tough, making long hot water rehydration essential.

    The guajillo is where dried chile peppers start to get spicy. It's a medium to hot pepper, ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 SHU, or similar to a semi-mild jalapeño. Its complex smoky flavor balances the heat perfectly. The guajillo is an ideal addition to blended pastes and sauces like that used for chile Colorado. It's also a fantastic chile to infuse some heat into stockpot water.

  • 08 of 12

    Puya Chile Pepper (Cranking Up the Heat)

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    The puya (or pulla) is like a spicy guajillo but not as common or easily found. This chile looks like a guajillo, with a similar glossy, crimson skin, though it's thinner and just a few inches long.

    This little chile packs a punch. At 5,000 to 8,000 SHU, it's twice as hot as the guajillo. Enjoyed for its fruitiness, the pepper is excellent in purées, stew water, and sauces for meat dishes. When rehydrated, it's also a favorite pizza topping.

    Continue to 9 of 12 below.

  • 09 of 12

    Chipotle Chile Pepper (Smoky Jalapeños)

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    The chipotle pepper is one of the most familiar chiles in Tex-Mex and Mexican dishes. It is a red jalapeño that is wood-smoked for days until dry, and there are two varieties. The most common in the U.S. is the morita, which is smoked until deep red or purple and retains soft skin. Chile meco is smoked longer until the skin is almost gray and crispy.

    Like green jalapeños, a chipotle can be relatively mild or very spicy, ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 SHU. The smoky flavor is chipotle's biggest appeal. It's a favorite for spicy barbecue sauces, slow-cooked beef, and often found canned in adobo sauce. It is the traditional chile choice that rounds out the complex flavor of the cold Spanish fish dish, escabeche.

  • 10 of 12

    Chile de Àrbol (Small But Fiery)

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    The slim, long shape of the small chile de àrbol should clue you into its heat. This fiery chile is similar to cayenne and is available fresh or dried, keeping its bright red color in both forms.

    When you want to kick up any dish's spice, a single àrbol will do the trick. Its heat registers between 30,000 to 50,000 SHU, placing it between jalapeño and cayenne peppers. Often pan-roasted before use, it's commonly featured in condiments such as hot sauce, chile oil, and crushed chile flakes.

  • 11 of 12

    Pequin (It's Gonna Burn)

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    The pequín chile is also called chile pequeño (little chile) or bird pepper (birds eat them and aren't affected by capsaicin). It's a tiny pepper that grows no longer than 1 inch and dries down to an orange-brown color.

    This chile packs a lot of heat into its small package. At 40,000 to 60,000 SHU, it is 12 times hotter than the jalapeño and more like a cayenne. It's at the milder end of the superhot chile peppers, making it useful in food dishes. Once you get past the spice, the pepper has a smoky, fruity taste. While they are not very common, the pequín is used in salsas, spicy soups, and oils and is a key ingredient in Cholula Hot Sauce.

  • 12 of 12

    Bird's Eye Chile (The Fireball)

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    One of the best-known dried chiles worldwide is the bird's eye chile (or Thai chile, a name that covers many varieties). These chiles are skinny and 1 to 2 inches long, green or red when fresh, and red and stemless dried.

    This is the chile most often responsible for those hot and spicy Southeast Asian foods. It can be anywhere from 50,000 to 100,000 SHU, and the redder the chile, the hotter it is. The intense spice is sneaky, so it's best to add them sparingly. Its delicious fruit-pepper taste makes it a favorite in Thai stir-fries and similar dishes.


What is a substitute for New Mexico dried chiles? ›

Anaheim Chiles are a close relative of New Mexico Chiles, and share a similar flavor and heat profile. They are the closest substitution. If you want a bit more heat we recommend Guajillo Chiles.

How much dried chili equals fresh? ›

Chilli flakes: These are made from dried, crushed chillies and can be used in place of fresh chillies: half a teaspoon equals about one chopped fresh chilli. Chilli powder is made from ground dried chillies and can be used in place of fresh chillies: half a teaspoon equals about one chopped fresh chilli.

What can I use dried chilis for? ›

Dried chiles are often pureed down into what is known as an adobo in cooking, to be added to salsas, marinades, stews, and more. But first, the chiles must be soaked in hot water until the skins soften, to yield a smooth puree and release their full flavor.

Can I substitute red pepper flakes for dried red chilies? ›

Red pepper flakes are a common substitute for chili peppers. They are made from dried and crushed red peppers and they have a similar fiery flavor. They are also called red chili flakes. To substitute one chili pepper, use 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes.

How do I substitute dried chiles for fresh? ›

Fresh Chiles to Chile Flakes Conversion

One pound of fresh peppers will give you approximately 4 ounces of dried chiles, so one tablespoon of chile flakes is about 4 times as potent as one tablespoon of freshly-chopped chiles. Remember, the weight and bulk of the pepper may change as it dries but the capsaicin remains.

What is the difference between New Mexico and Guajillo chiles? ›

A Mexican chile with medium heat and a sweet, fruity undertone, the Guajillo chile can be compared to New Mexico chiles. However, the flavor is deeper and sweeter, making it essential to Mexican dishes and any fusion experiment. (De-Stemmed peppers reduce process and preparation time in the kitchen.

Can I substitute dried peppers for fresh? ›

Dried peppers often have a richer, earthier flavor that fresh peppers, which are much more vegetal. Substituting them will usually result in different flavors from the original recipe, but they are still worth considering.

Why use dried chiles instead of fresh? ›

Dried chile peppers are a flavor powerhouse! They give off a depth of smoky, fruity, and rich flavor. And because they have a long shelf life (even longer if you store them in the freezer), they're the perfect item to keep in a well-stocked pantry.

Do you need to rehydrate dried chili? ›

Dried peppers are often leathery or brittle in texture, giving them an unwanted crunchy texture in cooked meals. To avoid this, rehydrate the peppers using a bowl of boiled water. Boil the water and remove it from heat, then pour some into a bowl large enough to hold your peppers.

How do you use Mexican dried chilies? ›

Dried chiles are used in a wide variety of ways in Mexican cuisine; they're often rehydrated and ground into a paste called sofrito that's used as a cooking base, or in a thick, tomato-laced sauce called adobo. They can be used in combination with fresh chiles to create salsas with terrific complexity.

Can you cook with dried chili peppers? ›

Cooking with dried chiles is like unlocking a new taste bud. Stirring peppers from their dried slumber awakens uniquely savory, sweet, spicy, and fruity flavors that aren't found in their fresh forms.

Do dried chilis get hotter? ›

Our customers often want to know if dried chiles are hotter than fresh and the short answer is: Yes. The long answer is, the heat in chiles comes from the chemical compound capsaicin. As a chile dries, the components in it, like capsaicin, concentrate.

Can you eat dried chillies? ›

People all over the world are loving hot foods and want to experiment more than just eating bland foods. Chillies are mainly used as a spice and can be cooked, dried or eaten just like that.

Are chilli flakes the same as dried chillies? ›

"Don't be fooled—chile flakes (a.k.a. crushed red pepper flakes) are very different from dried chiles. They're good to use when you need a measured amount of dried chile. If you add them to a dish at the beginning, it makes the whole thing spicy; if you add them at the end, they give nice pops of heat.

Can I substitute guajillo chiles for New Mexico chiles? ›

I consider Guajillo and New Mexican chiles to be interchangeable, so feel free to substitute one for the other in a pinch. Keep in mind that Guajillos tend to have a more prominent fruity streak. The other key characteristic to keep in mind is that New Mexican chiles work well with others!

Are ancho and New Mexico chiles the same? ›

New Mexico chili is a type of chili pepper that is similar to ancho chili in both taste and heat. The main difference is that New Mexico chili is a bit sweeter than ancho chili. So, if you use New Mexico chili in a dish that calls for ancho chili, you may want to add a little bit of sugar to balance out the sweetness.

Are California chiles and New Mexico Chiles the same? ›

New Mexico Chiles, while considered a mild heat chile, are a bit hotter at 800-1,400 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) and more flavorful than the California Chiles (500-1,000 SHU).

Can you mix guajillo and New Mexico Chile? ›

Submitted by Chef Jeff S. "The Guajillo, Ancho and Hot New Mexico chiles gives this sauce it's deep and smoky flavor. The heat is present but isn't over the top, allowing you to adjust heat in recipes that use chile sauce."

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