Techniques

Chile Guide

chiles
Here is some basic chile pepper information to help you navigate through spicy recipes and the chile pepper section of your market. There is no standard method of naming chiles. They could be named for a guy, or a town, or a characteristic of their appearance or flavor. And if that weren’t confusing enough, they can have different names in different parts of the country, and different names when fresh or dried.

Chiles, both fresh and dried, have varying availability depending on where you live. Throughout the west they can be found in most big city markets. For the rest of the world, there is always the internet.

Commonly Used Fresh and Dried Chiles

Anaheim
4-6 inches long, tapering to a point
Available fresh
Mildly hot
*Also called California and Chiles Verde when green. They ripen to red, at which time they can be dried and go by the name California Red, Colorado, or California Chili Pods. These are what you’ll find inside a can of green chiles. They are just barely hotter than a bell pepper.

Ancho
3-5 inches long, triangular or heart shaped
Available dried
Mildly hot
*These brown, dried Poblanos are commonly used for enchilada sauce.

California Red
4-6 inches long, tapering to a point
Available fresh and dried
Mildly hot
*These are red Anaheims. When dried they are often decoratively strung together.

Cascabel
1-2-inches round
Available dried
Very hot
*A reddish-brown dried chile with loose seeds that can be heard when shaken, like a bell.

Cayenne
4-5 inches long
Available dried
Hot
*These peppers ripen green to red, but are mainly seen dried and ground.

Chiles del Arbol
2-3 inches long, very thin
Available dried
Very Hot
*These bright red chiles are quite hot and are often used in sauces, oils and vinegars. They are also known as bird’s beak chiles.

Chipotle
2-3 inches long, tapering to a point
Available dried
Hot
*These are Jalapeño chiles that have been smoked and dried. They are available loose, or canned in adobo sauce.

Colorado
6-8 inches long, tapered
Available fresh and dried
Mild
*These are Anaheim chilies, ripened to red. They are also available dried, and used as the base of Colorado sauce.

Guajillo
2-3 inches long, tapered to a point
Available dried
Hot
*This dark orange-brown chile has a fairly smooth skin, and the flavor is hot but also sweet and fruity.

Habenero
2-inches long, short and wrinkly
Available fresh
Very hot
*Look out for these bright orange chiles. They’re cute, but deadly.

Hungarian Cherry
2-inches round
Available fresh
Very hot
*These can be used green, but the flavor and heat intensify as they ripen to red.

Hungarian Yellow Wax
1-2 inches long, tapering to a rounded point
Available fresh
Moderately hot
*If left on the vine these peppers will ripen to red. They are also called Guero and banana peppers.

Jalapeño
1-2 inches long, tapering to a rounded point
Available fresh
Moderately hot
*This is the most commonly used chile. They are deep dark green, sometimes red, and are available fresh, canned and pickled.

Mulato
3-5 inches long
Available dried
Mildly hot
*This deep, dark brown chile has a chocolaty flavor, and is often used for mole.

New Mexico
4-6 inches long, curved
Available fresh and dried
Moderately hot
*These are green when fresh, then ripen to red. They are more commonly used for chile paste and powder.

Pasilla
5-7 inches long, tapering to a rounded end
Available fresh and dried
Moderately hot
*Also called chilaca when fresh and pasilla negro when dried. They ripen to a deep, green-brown.

Pequín
1/4-1/2 inch small ovals
Available dried
Very hot
*Also called chilepequeno and bird peppers, these little red peppers are petite but potent.

Poblano
4-inches long, tapering to a rounded end.
Available fresh
Moderatly hot
*Poblanos ripen to dark green or brown-green, and are most often used in Chiles Rellenos.

Santa Fe
4-6 inches long, curving to a point
Available fresh
Moderately Hot
*Ripens from yellow to orange and red. Also known as Santa Fe Grande and Big Jims when they reach sizes up to 12-inches.

Scotch Bonnet
1-2 inches, like a squat bell pepper
Available fresh
Very hot
*These bright yellow torpedoes are common in cuisines of the Caribbean.

Serrano
1-2 inches long, thin and pointed
Available fresh
Hot
*Available both green and red, serranos are often used in Asian cuisine as well as a hotter substitute for the jalapeño.

Tabasco
1 to 1-1/2 inches long and very thin
Rarely seen fresh or dried
Hot
*Ripen yellow to red. Used specifically to make Tabasco sauce.

Thai
1-inch long, thin
Available fresh
Very Hot
*Available both dark green and Thai chiles are smaller and hotter than serranos.

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