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Chili Powder -- Store-Bought or Make Your Own?

Now that the weather here in PA has turned winter-like, my culinary cravings turn to chili. For years I've been making my own chili powder by toasting a combination of dried chili peppers, seeding and pulverizing them, and adding toasted, pulverized dried cumin seed. Labor intensive but worth it -- or so I've believed.

Now I'm wondering if I really need to do this. What do CH chili lovers do? Do you blend your own, or do you use a readily available chili powder? Is there a particularly good chili powder that you can recommend?

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  1. I'm with you - freshly roasted whole spices makes a much more flavorful chili.

    4 Replies
    1. re: srgoodman

      Which dried peppers do you prefer?

      1. re: CindyJ

        I use anchos and chipotles. I dry cook them in a cast iron skillet, then core and seed before use. As per a good chili recipe I found on the Internet:
        http://recipes.egullet.org/recipes/r2...
        I simmer the chiles in a chicken broth and vinegar mixture, then run them through the blender. (The recipe cited doesn't use chipotles, but I love them, and would never leave them out.

        )

        Like you, I also dry cook whole cumin seed. At the last second, I throw in some Penzey's Mexican Oregano, to heat it through without burning it. I then run the mixture of cumin and oregano through my spice-dedicated coffee mill.

        1. re: srgoodman

          I'm not particularly fond of the smokiness of chipotles. But this and other posts have opened my eyes to Penzey's, and I'm about to place my first order from them.

          1. re: CindyJ

            Cindy, Welcome to the dark side of a Penzeys addiction.
            Once you have used their products, nothing else will suffice. I just recently found a Penzeys brick and mortar store(Grand-cRapids Mi), but give your debit card to a friend, as they should have a warning sign on the door.

    2. I like to use dried chilis..a lot of them. But I don't toast them. Should I? I like to put my own spices in because otherwise I would have too much cumin. To my taste, I'm careful that the cumin not dominate the chili.

      2 Replies
      1. re: Rhee

        The recipe I use is based loosely on a recipe from my old "Best Recipe" cookbook, and it calls for toasting the dried chilis in the oven for just a few minutes. This makes them puff up and it also makes them a little more crisp, which, I believe, makes them easier to seed and helps to get them pulverized into a nice, fine powder. BTW, I use an old coffee grinder to pulverize them. It's a grinder that is dedicated to spice grinding now, and it works really well.

        1. re: CindyJ

          Toasting does, indeed make it a little easier to grind, as dried chiles usually still have some moisture in them.

          but more importantly, it releases some of the wonderful flavors as well.

          I also have a coffee grinder that I use for this.

      2. I've been happy with Penzeys blend.

        1 Reply
        1. re: AKR

          AKR, I start with the Penzyes basic and hot chili mix, and then add more fresh ground pasilla's and smoked paprika.
          My BF could eat whole habs and complain that they aren't hot enough, so I keep "Dave's insanity" on the table for his garnish.

        2. I always make my own. Realize it isn't for everyone, but I think it is much better and can be customized for whatever I want it for.

          Basically, I toast an ancho, then a lot of guajillo chiles (a more fruity, less bitter flavor than anchos in my opinion), possibly a chipotle or maybe one of my own smoked habanero. I toast a little bit of cumin (I find a little goes a long way) and a good amount of coriander. Throw all that into a spice grinder with a good amount of mexican oregano. The result is, in my opinion, an amazing chile powder. Depending on the application, I might bolster it with some garlic and onion powder. Add some salt and brown sugar and it's my base BBQ rub too.

          can't go wrong.

          1. Is there any real reason to make a powder ahead of time, much less buy it premixed? The basic ingredients are some sort of blend of mild to hot chilies, cumin, mexican oregano. Coriander (seed) doesn't sound right. Garlic, onion, and salt can be added during cooking.

            Mexican oregano can be stored in its coarse form, and crumbled into the stew as it cooks. Cumin can be bought in seed form, toasted and ground at the time of use, or just bought ground.

            What I use for the chilies can vary with what is available, and how much time I have. Ground dried chili (ancho, pasila, New Mexico) is readily available on the spice rack of any Mexican food aisle.

            I also buy the whole dried chilies. You can toast them to add some flavor. You can grind them yourself. I prefer soaking them, and using a food mill to separate skin from pulp. Some times I'll tear the chilies open, remove the seeds, and put the whole thing in the stew. Then I fish out the large pieces of skin later.

            The hot part can come from your choice of hot ground chilies or prepared sauce. I also keep various brands of mild chili sauce on hand, from simple pureed ancho (or Peruvian panca) to Goya's Salsita ancho version.

            paulj