Beyond basic heat, dried chilies also add deep, complex flavors reminiscent of dried fruits, bittersweet chocolate, red wine, warm spices and smoke. We use them to add depth as well as heat, as in our Mexican carne adovada, a braised pork dish made with a full 6 ounces of dried chilies. Surprisingly, it’s flavorful but not fiery.
Dried chilies do require some preparation. First, Remove their stems and shake out the seeds. Then heighten their flavor by toasting them in a dry skillet (about 1 minute per side) or in a moderately hot oven just until fragrant and beginning to darken. At this point, the chilies can either be ground to a powder in a spice grinder or soaked in hot water to soften and puree. A few tips for each of the varieties we use most:
Earthy and warm, ancho chilies taste of dried fruits, red wine and bittersweet chocolate. The dried version of ripe poblanos, anchos are perfect with rich braised meats or creamy pinto beans. Use them in chili or try our posole rojo with chicken.
Fruity, bright and moderately hot, guajillo chilies pair well with tomatoes and balance the earthier flavors of New Mexico or ancho chilies. We blend them into pasta sauces or use them to add big flavor to a simple orange-guajillo pulled chicken that’s perfect folded into tortillas. Puree with peanuts to spoon over grilled meats, or use as a dip for grilled vegetables.
Árbols are small but can pack a real wallop of bright, bracing heat. We use them whole to add heat to dishes like our stir-fried cumin beef or break them into pieces and use as we would red pepper flakes. Blend with peanuts and salt for a spicy spread for toast drizzled with honey. Or grind to a powder and use instead of cayenne pepper (they are similar).
Morita chilies are a type of chipotle chili, or dried smoked jalapeño. All chipotles have assertive heat, but their smokiness and deep flavor notes make them good additions to dark sauces such as mole negro, as well as hearty soups, meaty stews and bean dishes. Or you can fold a small amount into a garlicky gremolata of sesame seeds to pair with fatty meats. We prepare homemade chipotles in adobo sauce, our fresher, more flavorful take on the canned version.
The ripe version of green Anaheim chilies, Californias have a light, bright flavor reminiscent of golden raisins and red peppers. When toasted and ground to a powder, they can be used in place of chili powder or mildly spicy paprika. Their vibrant color and flavor work great in our piri piri chicken. Or use them to add complexity to a chunky salsa like pico de gallo for tacos, burritos and nachos.
On the sweet side and slightly earthy, these brick-red chilies have a subtle cherry flavor and moderate heat. They are used widely in Southwestern cooking, most famously in the braised pork dish carne adovada. depth to sauces or salsas, and can enhance a pot of pinto beans.