Chile names in Mexico can be a conundrum…

Pretty much every region of Mexico has it own commonly used chile. Some are big and fat like the chile ancho, some are black, some are small and some are little.

Each part of Mexico may use a different name for the same chile. So when you are preparing a recipe, try to do some advance work prior to going to the market to figure out the correct name for your region.

80% of the peppers around the world are native to México and belong to the capsicum annum family.

The element that gives the bite to the peppers is the capsaicin which is located in the fleshy interior of the chile  close to the shoulder. Frequently people think that the seeds cause the heat, an incorrect assumption, though, be sure to use gloves when handling the interior of the chile pepper.

Chile 101

Dried Versus Fresh Chiles

Dried chiles should be pliable, and have a darker color. If they are dry or brittle they’ve been hanging around for a while and won’t have the good flavor that you are looking for.

Fresh chiles should be shiny and crisp. If they look soft and tired, dig through the store display to find ones that look firmer.

Fresh chiles have more of a kick, especially the green ones. Red can be more mild and fruity.

Dried chiles are picked when red and ripe, so they have a rich flavor. Green chiles turn black when dried. Which is fine, depending upon the savory elements of your recipe.

Larger chiles have harder and larger seeds, which should be removed prior to cooking. As they are more woody and tannic. Many larger chiles also have very tough skin.

The skin on a dried chile can be easily puréed into sauces. Too, try roasting fresh chiles to enhance flavor and to allow for easy removal of the skin.

Fresh Poblanos are deep green to red color. They are not super spicy. They have a sweet, fruity flavor
Great for roasting and stuffing. This is your classic Chile Relleno pepper.

When dried, the poblano changes it’s name to ancho, and has darker red woody color.
Spice is mild to medium, and can have a flavor reminicent of a plum. Use your anchos for sauces, rubs, pastes and marinades.

Chilaca and pasilla chiles

The fresh chilaca should be a dark green, they are mild to medium as far as heat goes. And can be succulent and fruity. Great for roasting, stuffing and salsas.

The dried Chilaca is called pasilla, and is a dark deep black color. Not super spicy, and gives your dish a dried currant flavor. This pepper is also terrific in sauces, pastes and rubs.

Mirasol and Guajillo

When fresh the Mirasol is green to red, depending upon ripeness, they are spicier, and have a stronger flavor. Roast them, stuff them, and serve with fresh salsas.

The Marisol is called a Guajillo when it’s dried, and is a dark brick red. Spicier with hints of tomatoes. Great for an added kick to sauces and pastes.

Jalapeño, when fresh can range from green to red. They are spicy, but add a whole host of yumminess. Sweet, herbaceous and acidic. Roast or stuff them, make a fresh salsa and great for pickling.

The dried Jalapeño is called the Chipotle, Morita or Mora. Reddish brown and HOT!
Super smoky and heavenly in a sauce or rubbed on meat.

The Fresh Árbol is Bright green or red and VERY HOT but quite tasty for the seasoned chile veteran. Great for salsas, and stews. Will brighten any dish.

The dried Árbol is bright red and very HOT!!! It adds a nice nuttiness to your dish. People use it for sauces, pastes, rubs and as a condiment in chile flake form.