Cooking With Chilies

Cooking With Chilies

Almost every Latin American country has its own variety, shape, and size of chili or hot pepper and including sweet peppers.

Up until the arrival of Spanish and Portuguese explorers to the New World, peppers grew only in Latin America.

After the discovery of hot peppers, they have truly become integral to cuisines across the world, from Mexico to Thailand, the Congo to India, and from Hungary to Tunisia.

The Carolina Reaper is one of the world’s hottest chilies. And the Bell Pepper is one of the world’s sweetest peppers.

Scoville Heat Units

Scoville heat units (SHU) is a measurement of sugar-water.

The Scoville Organoleptic Test measures chili heat by figuring out how much sugar-water is needed to dilute a chili pepper to the point where you no longer feel the heat at all.

Scoville heat units of chili peppers

As an example, you have a teaspoon of jalapeño peppers. And the question is, how many teaspoons of sugar-water do you need to dilute the peppers heat?

So a cup of mashed jalapeños labelled 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units would mean it would take anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 cups of sugar-water to dilute it to zero heat.

The reason for the range of sugar-water is due to the growing factors like the soil and region were the chili was planted and harvested.

Cooking With Chilies

If you want the chilies flavor without your mouth being scorched, you will need first to remove the seeds and interior ribs as that is were most of the chilies heat resides.

No matter which chili you cook with, always wash your hands and kitchen tools and surfaces after working with these spicy peppers.

Before we go further, a word of caution – DO NOT TOUCH YOUR FACE – Especially Your Eyes and Noise when cutting open a chili. As well as when touching the seeds and ribs.

It is also a good idea to have a small glass of milk or some yogurt near by. Dairy products contain casein, which helps neutralize capsaicin, the chemical that gives chiles their heat.

If you happen to touch your mouth, a few sips of milk or a bite of yogurt will Neutralize the stinging heat of a chili.

Cooking With Fresh Chilies

When buying fresh chilies choose ones that are bright, firm, and crisp. If their fresh they should snap in half with ease.

Keep in mind that green chiles are not fully ripened. As such, they lack the complexity and depth of flavor of their ripened counterpart the red chili (we are not discouraging the use of green peppers – but if you want a full flavored chili, the red ones are the best).

As the green chilies ripen and turn red, the natural sugars and acids are fully develop.

Here are a few among many fresh chilies sweet and spicy used in cooking.

Bell Peppers

Bell peppers also called sweet peppers, can be eaten raw or cooked.

Bell pepper plants produce different colors, including red, yellow, orange, green, white, chocolate, candy cane striped, and purple.

Hot Pastrami Sandwich With Provolone Cheese & Roasted Sweet Peppers

Bell peppers are delicious roasted. Roasted bell peppers make a great – Hot Pastrami Sandwich With Provolone Cheese & Roasted Sweet Peppers.

Poblano Peppers

Poblano peppers are a mild variety of chili pepper. They are as large as a bell pepper but are thinner and have a pointed tip.

Poblanos are best when peeled and seeded, which can be done more easily after roasting them.

Roasted Poblanos – Skin – Seeds – Veins – Removed

Poblano peppers are named for the state of Puebla, Mexico, where they are believed to have originated.

The mild pepper is grown and used extensively in Mexico and the southwestern United States, and while it can be eaten raw or cooked, it is frequently roasted.

Poblanos when dried are called ancho or chile ancho.

Stuffed fresh and roasted it is popular in making Authentic Mexican Chile Rellenos.

Anaheim Chili

Anaheim chilies can be used when green or red and are the most common chili pepper used in the United States.

Anaheim peppers are a mild variety of chile pepper typically used in Mexican and Southwestern cooking.

Roasted Anaheim Chilies

Anaheim peppers are named after the city in Southern California, were the pepper was first grown commercially by Emilio Ortega who founded the company that sells canned green chiles under his name.

Like Poblano peppers, Anaheim peppers are often substituted for making the dish chile rellenos.

Fresno Chili

The Fresno chile is a medium-sized pepper. It is typically confused with the Fresno Bell pepper which is a sweeter chili.

The Fresno is a cultivar of New Mexico. The chili is similar to the jalapeño pepper but has thinner walls, milder heat, and takes less time to mature.

The Fresno is genetically distinct from the jalapeño and it grows point up, rather than point down as with the jalapeño.

The fruit starts out bright green changing to orange and red as it fully matures.

They are glossy, firm, and medium thickness in flesh. A great chili to use in Latin dishes like stews, soups, dips, or even fire roasted.

These chilies are also used in Asian dishes – like this Thai Salmon Noodle Bowl.

Jalapeño Chili

The jalapeño is picked and consumed while still green, it is occasionally allowed to fully ripen and turn red, orange, or yellow.

It is wider and generally milder than the Serrano pepper.

The majority of harvested jalapeños are either canned or pickled on harvesting. Though they can be bought fresh.

As one of the more common peppers to cook with, they go great in everything from chilis and soups to salads. Like this Corn Salad with Queso Fresco.

These are one of the more common peppers to cook with, though they are also used fresh, like with this Molcajete Salsa.

Here’s a fun fact not commonly known, a chipotle pepper is simply a smoked jalapeno pepper.

Serrano Chili

Serrano peppers are hotter than jalapenos but not as hot as habaneros.

They are typically eaten raw and have a bright and biting flavor that is notably hotter than the jalapeño pepper.

Serrano peppers are also commonly used in making pico de gallo and salsa, as the chili is particularly fleshy compared to others, making it ideal for such dishes.

Like jalapenos, they’re sometimes minced and used in salsas and guacamole. Like this Authentic Guacamole recipe.

Cooking With Dried Chilies

Dried chilies on the other hand, are soft, pliable, and deeply colored.

Photo Credit: Twenty Mile

When selecting dried chiles, the general rule is that the larger peppers are milder in spice and the smaller chiles are the spiciest.

Most recipes often call for the dried chili to be rehydrated or roasted, and many can be ground into flakes or powders for quick seasonings.

The most commonly used dried pepper is the cayenne pepper. It is usually a moderately hot chili pepper used to flavor dishes. Like with this Instant Pot Filipino Style Pork Adobo.

They are also used in some varieties of store bought hot sauces in the United States. Such as Franks Red Hot and Texas Pete.

Another dried pepper is jalapeños. When they are smoked and dried, the jalapeño is referred to as a chipotle pepper.

It is said that smoking jalapeño peppers originated in the area surrounding Mexico City. People who lived there before the Aztec civilization are thought to have invented it.

The peppers may have been smoked to preserve them as the jalapeño is prone to rotting quickly.

Sweet and Spicy Chilies Dried and Ground To Make Paprika

Chilies are also dried and turned into flakes, such as pepper flakes (typically made from cayenne peppers) or paprika.

Paprika powder is often made from larger, sweeter peppers which includes bell peppers as well as varieties of hot peppers.

In the United States though, what is typically used is the Hungarian sweet paprika. Try this Southwestern Black Bean and Sweet Potato Soup which used chili powder or paprika.

Cooking With Jarred or Canned Chilies

Jarred or canned chilies or peppers take on one of three qualities: sweet, sour-pickled, and spicy.

Once roasted and marinated, red bell peppers are perfectly sweet and tender without an ounce of heat. And they have a tasty charred flavor.

The can be added to recipe dishes such as a frittata, sandwiches, pasta dishes, and potato salads, like this Mediterranean Potato Salad

Besides flavor, they add a boost of color to every dish you add them too.

Canned green chilies, like the jalapeños, can range from medium-to-very spicy. They are sold in either whole, sliced, or diced form and can be found in glass jars or cans.

Jalapeños are also smoked, dried and canned. As such they are called a chipotle pepper.

It is said that the smoking and drying of jalapeños originated in the area surrounding Mexico City. People who lived there before the Aztec civilization are thought to have invented it.

The peppers may have been smoked to preserve them as the jalapeño is prone to rotting quickly.

Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings

Give this Sweet and Spicy Chicken Wings a try. It is made with chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.


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