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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:
        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.


            1. www.penderys.com in Ft. Worth has great chiles. They have very fresh whole chiles and they also grind single varieties and also do some good blends of pure chiles. Their blends like Bull Canyon are wonderful and contain pure chile and no other adulterations. They also produce chile pastes where they have done all of the soaking etc. for you., Prices are quite reasonable and I'll take almost anything from Pendery's over Penzy's any day. The company is smaller and every thing is impeccably fresh.

              1 Reply
              1. re: Candy

                Candy - there are so many different chile blends. How do you choose? Which, if any, have you ued in chili?

              2. I use the Bull Canyon which is dark and rich, Cochise it is very good and I was born in Chchise County so I've got to have that, Concho which is similar to a ground Ancho. i buy most of my dried pods from them too. Their prices are great. I buy my pepper, black anmd white from them. Their Telicherry is the best!

                1. I just checked out Pendery's. That place is NOT cheap. I pay $5 a pound for amazing ground New Mexican chilis. At Pendery's they're $5 a quarter pound.

                  It might be worth it, though. I'm definitely kind of done with Penzey's chilis. I was getting their ground anchos for quite a few years, and, every time I made chili, there was an occasional piece of grit. When I stopped using the Penzey's I stopped getting grit. Besides, ever since I had stumbled across ground freshly harvested/freshly dried mild New Mexican chili powder, I pretty much crossed Ancho's off my chili list. Those mild New Mexicans are the best mild chilis I've ever tasted. Besides the New Mexicans, I LOVE guallijos, both from a perspective of taste AND color. The intense orangey color that guajillos lend chili is breathtaking, imo. If I could get a decently consistent, reasonably priced guajillo powder to supplement my mild New Mexican- I'd be a very happy man.

                  I don't resonate with the idea of roasting dried chili peppers. Maybe if you had a batch that wasn't completely dry, perhaps. For those of us that don't live in the Southwest, though, pretty much any whole chili we get is dry as dust. If you try to toast a dry chili, they turn dark really quickly and the flavor goes to pot. Even if you're incredibly careful and only roast them a tiny bit, I'm still not fond of the flavors I get from even a shade darker chili. Unroasted chilis have a much brighter vibrant warmer flavor than roasted ones. I find that toasted chilis get the same dark irony notes that you get when you overcook tomatoes. I don't roast my spices either, but I do take a page out of the Northwest Indian cookbook and saute my cumin in fat. I saute my cumin for everything, including taco filling.

                  "I toast a little bit of cumin (I find a little goes a long way) and a good amount of coriander."

                  Coriander? Are you making chili or Chicken Tikka Masala? ;)

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: scott123

                    I find Pendery's worth it for quality and freshness. I also find that their price of $7.92/lb. for Tellicherry pepercorns a bargain.

                    Sure I can get whole dried chilies here in Bloomington, IN but they don't turn that fast and can be pretty dried out.

                  2. I've always found the spice-rack chili powder to be devoid of flavor. I've been making my own chili sauces with dried pods for a while, but for some reason I've never gotten around to making my own chili powder... I attribute that to absent-mindedness.

                    I suppose some anchos, dried anaheims, cumin, hmmm... I'd probably need to consult a few recipes before deciding what to put in. I caught an Alton Brown show the other day where he made some good looking chili powder.

                    The only kind of chipotles I can get are the canned ones in adobo sauce. I like them, but I don't think they'd find a place in my chili powder.