The Gastro Room

Understanding the difference in Mexican Chilis (chiles)

different types of chili peppers

Chef Alejandro explaining the different types of Mexican chili peppers

Most people who aren’t Mexican think of chilies as having one purpose; adding spiciness to dishes, or “heat”. If you go with that frame of mind, does it really matter which chili you add to your food then? In Mexico, there are more than 150 varieties of chilies available, and countless more ways to prepare them. Mexicans are very selective in which chile they use to add to their food, because it’s most definitely not only about spiciness, but the other flavors that these little guys bring to the party as well. Whether you’re looking for smoky, sweet, fruity, earthy or hot notes, the chili pepper essentially forms the base of almost every Mexican dish, and has even become part of Mexico’s national identity, and most definitely for non-Mexicans.

Did you know that some of the most common chili peppers you’ve heard of are actually the same thing? Mexican chiles really only arrive in two forms, hydrated or dried (which then often get turned to powders or added to salsas) and the same chili can have different names depending on how you prepare it. This is because the flavor profile completely changes if it’s hydrated or dried. Here are some chiles that actually start as the same thing, but when they are dried, they become something completely different.

Here are some different varieties of chiles and their names in both hydrated and dried form:

  1. Chile poblano hydrated to chile ancho or chile colorado when dried.
  2. Chile jalapeño hydrated to chile chipotle, chile meco when dried.
  3. Chile chilaca hydrated to chile pasilla, chile prieto when dried.
  4. Chile serrano hydrated to chile pico de pajaro when dried.
  5. Chile piquín hydrated to chile chiltepín, chile pulga when dried.
  6. Chile mirasol hydrated to chile guajillo, chile travieso when dried.
  7. Chile bola hydrated to chile cascabel, cascabelito when dried.

Join one of our virtual Mexican cooking lessons and Chef Alejandro will go into much more detail about the wonderful world of chiles and how to take your dishes to the next level. Click here to book your lesson today!

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