Add a smoky dimension to your recipes with this classic ingredient, the Chipotle Pepper! There’s no mystery here, Chile Chipotle (Chipotle Chili) is simply a smoked version of the jalapeño pepper. However, these wonderful smoky chilis add a rich depth and authentic flavor to a variety of Mexican dishes! Let’s dive in a talk a bit more about this dried champion of culinary savvy.
What Are Chipotle Peppers?
Chipotle Peppers are, simply put, smoked jalapeño peppers. These chilis originate in Mexico and were introduced to the United States around the 1800s. They’re made by smoking jalapeño peppers over a mesquite wood fire, stringing them together, and hanging them out to dry in warm, open air. Dried Chile Chipotle is used to add a smoky flavor to soups, salsas, and stews. And, If you’ve ever eaten at a classic Mexican restaurant and had that “how did they make it taste like this?” thought, you’ve likely been bedazzled by this chili pepper specifically.
The Two Types of Chile Chipotle
There are actually two different types of Chipotle Chili. The first is called Chile Morita (which I covered in a separate post), and the second is the Chipotle Meco (the pepper we are speaking about here). Both chilis are dried and smoked versions of the jalapeño pepper. However, Chile Morita has a more muted smoky flavor whereas the Meco is bold. Additionally, the appearance of both is dissimilar. The Morita has a dark, blackberry color, whereas the Meco is tan and appears weathered like old wood. In fact, the next time you enter an antique shop and find something wrinkled, brown, and flaky, don’t automatically think it’s driftwood, it could be a Chipotle Pepper and you may actually be inside a grocery store.
Why I Love Using Chipotle Pepper
We all remember that first glimpse of a new flavor which leaves us irrevocably in pursuit of repeat encounters. For myself, the Chipotle Pepper and its smoky, woodsy-warm, flavor is in my top ten of food memories unshaken by time. It began with family outings to El Torito Grill where I would, without fail, order their tortilla soup. I remembered thinking that there was something different about it. It was the rich flavor of the warm broth; again, the smokiness of it. But not artificial smokiness. No, this called to mind a hot cauldron simmering over a fire made of ancient twigs sending up tendrils of wispy smoke. I later discovered that this flavor was due to no such fantastical measures, but was likely the simple inclusion of Chile Chipotle in their soup recipe.
Now, years and miles later, I use Chipotle Chili in many of my salsa and soup recipes as written law. I hope you will join me and elevate your dishes to that authentic realm.
How To Cook With Chipotle Peppers
Chipotle Chili is commonly prepared and added to recipes in two different ways. It can be ground into a powder and then sprinkled into a variety of dishes. Additionally, it can be rehydrated and then blended together with other ingredients. To rehydrate dried chilis, you will first toast them in a cast-iron pan and then soak them in boiling hot water for about 20 minutes. Chipotle Peppers are used in a variety of dishes, here are some quick ideas for you to begin adding this pepper to your culinary arsenal.
- Add them to soups like my Vegan Tortilla Soup.
- Mix them into mayonnaise and create a spicy chipotle mayo.
- Add a dash of ground Chile Chipotle to level up your average rice recipe.
- Use them in any of my tomato salsas to add depth of flavor. Try them out in my Salsa Ranchera or Salsa Roja recipe.
Are They Spicy?
Well, because the Chipotle Chili is the smoked version of the jalapeño pepper, I’ll put the question back in your court; do you find jalapeño peppers to be spicy? Chipotle Pepper has the same range of spice level as that of the jalapeño pepper. The Scoville scale has assigned a range between 5,000 and 10,000 heat units to jalapeño peppers. And, while this may sound rather hot, it’s actually considered only a moderately spicy pepper. However, it’s really a matter of personal tolerance. That’s why I always encourage my readers, when adding chili pepper to any recipe, add a little a time.
Where Can I Buy Chile Chipotle?
Some supermarkets do carry Chipotle Peppers. Typically they’re displayed in the international aisles on a wrack with other Mexican chili peppers, all of which are packaged in clear wrap. However, many supermarkets are limited in their variety of dried chili peppers which necessitates purchasing them at either a Mexican market or online. However, if you do purchase online, make sure you buy from well established brands such as El Guapo. Additionally, make sure you look for chilis that are whole and unbroken. Finally, make sure they’re kept in an unbroken, airtight, package. Otherwise, they will have lost much of their flavor.
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