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Jun 6, 2008 03:12 PM

Guajillo Chile Crisis

Rick Bayless' recipe in Mexican Everyday for Guajillo Pork and Potatoes is one of my favorites. We were planning to make it for company tomorrow, but there isn't a guajillo chile to be had in all of Berkshire County. He says as a "riff" you could use half ancho chiles with half the guajillos. I have on hand: ancho chiles, pasilla chiles, New Mexico chiles and Anaheim chiles. Also two bottles of Frontera Guajillo salsa.
Mexican Chowhound cooks: which would you go with for a savory result, flavorful without being overly spicy?

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  1. 1/2 Ancho, 1/4 Pasilla, 1/4 Anaheim you will be fine.

    3 Replies
    1. re: Eat_Nopal

      The slow cooker is going right now. I decided (given Eat Nopal's Mexican credentials) to go with his suggestion. Besides, it was fun to weigh the chiles. I'll report how it turns out compared with the original made with straight guajillos. Winechik, thanks for the scoville scale, it'll come in handy.

      1. re: Eat_Nopal

        Guests were DELIGHTED with the dish. I thought it was fine; but I also could clearly taste the difference from the guajillos. Can't describe the difference, though, unless it might be that guajillos somehow taste a little smoky? Mellow? In any event, I learned something from the emergency: different dried chiles (not just the fresh ones) really do taste different! Thanks, E.N.

        1. re: BerkshireTsarina

          No problem.... Guajillos have a brighter flavor, almost berry like, than either Anchos (dried prune ish) or Pasilla (dark... tobaco, burn rubber)... the Anaheims should be somewhat similiar to Guajillos.

      2. Your choices are all relatively mild, but I'd probably go with the Pasillas myself. I found a couple of websites comparing the Scoville ranges of each of those here:

        1. BerkshireTsarina,

          I love that recipe as it is a favorite around our house. And you are 100% correct that the peppers do affect the flavor.

          I keep a stock of different peppers in our house, but in Texas we're fortunate to have most of these things readily available.

          Here's a link to Pendery's guajillo products that you can order for your pantry.

          By the way the guajillo paste is out of this world!

          2 Replies
          1. re: kkak97

            kk, Google found Pendery's when the link turned weird. Thanks for the info. What do you use guajillo paste for? When I order the guajillo pods, I'd like to amortize the shipping costs with a few other items, but they don't describe a lot; just assume you already know! Do you have any other recommendations?
            Nopal, those descriptions are immensely helpful. For instance, they alert me that it's pasilla chiies I'm not crazy about. Anaheims sound more promising. In San Miguel de Allende this spring I took a cooking class with Kris Rudolph, and she used pasillas in two dishes which weren't my favorites. Now I know why. You could do a guide to chile flavors, like a guide to wines!

            1. re: BerkshireTsarina


              I used the guajillo paste for pasta dishes, marinates, rub a bit on beef or pork tenderloin, I use it as a final layer in my chili, and it's great to make a quick queso. I think you'll love it.

              Other favorites of mine from Pendery's are habanero pods and powder, sarrano's, the ancho's are wonderful. If you don't like the heat of havanero a good alternative is the costeno's great with lamb. I will sometimes add pasilla negro to beef stew and it adds such an amazing dimension to the dish.

              Many of the pods are avaialbe as a powder, which I like to keep on hand for afterthoughts of some dishes.

          2. I'm not as knowledgeable (I'm sure) as EN but I have been cooking with these peppers and collected these notes:
            Ancho chile peppers: The dried version of Poblano, or "people" peppers. Ancho means "wide". Their flavor is somewhat mild, sweet, earthy and somewhat raisin-like, with medium heat. The outer skin has a richer, sweet, raisin-like flavor, which is most commonly associated with the flavor of chili; the inner veins of the pepper are quite hot. When you buy the whole pod, you have the advantage of being able to separate these two distinct flavors. You can grind the whole dried pod in a blender (with or without the hot seeds, depending on heat preferences). You can also "bring them back to life" by pouring boiling-hot water over them and steeping for about 20 minutes. An Ancho can be used as a substitute for Guajillo or Pasilla Negro Chiles and vice-versa. These chiles have the same heat range and flavor profile.
            Anchos, combined with the Pasilla and Guajillo, form the “Holy Trinity” of chiles used to prepare traditional mole sauces. Anchos are also available in granulated and powdered form (100 pure). This chile ranges from 3 to 5 on a heat scale of 1 to 10. Scoville heat units are 1,000 to 3,000.
            An Ancho (the dried form of a Poblano Pepper) and often is mislabeled as a Pasilla or Mulato Pepper.

            Pasilla Negro (if smoked) or just "Pasilla" chiles: one of the most popular chiles. Elongated, flat chile, measuring 6 inches long and 1-1/2 inches wide. The Pasilla's wrinkled body curves into an arc. The color of this pepper is dark purple-black; similar to the color of a dark eggplant or a dark raisin.
            This thin fleshed chile has a rich, complex, deep, smoky, berry or raisin flavor with herbaceous tones. The word Pasilla comes from the word PASA which means “little black raisin”. Pasilla Negro, combined with the Ancho and Guajillo chiles, form the holy trinity of chiles used to prepare the traditional mole sauces. They're great for sauces of all sorts.
            This is a medium-hot chile; on the heat scale this chile is a 3 to 5 on a scale of 1-10. Scoville heat units 1,000-2,000.

            Guajillo: It is in the family of the mirasol chiles whose flavors are direct and intense. Its fruits are large, mild in flavor and moderately hot. The dried fruits are seeded, soaked, pulverized to a thin paste, then cooked with salt and several other ingredients to produce a thick, red, flavorful sauce traditionally used make the salsa for tamales, sauces, soups and stews. This chile requires a longer soaking period than most due to its leathery skin. The guajillo benefits from toasting on a comal or other hot pan prior to use.
            Along with anchos, they're the (second) most commonly used chiles in Mexico. What the anchos are to 'deep' and 'rich', guajillos are to 'spicy' and 'dynamic' with notes of spiciness, tanginess (like cranberry), a slight smokiness and the warm flavor of a ripe, juicy, sweet tomato. Substitutes: cascabels (rounder and shorter), New Mexico chiles or California chiles (milder). The guajillo chile is also related to the pulla chile and the costeno chiles. The guajillo costeno chile is a specialized kind of guajillo chile, considering the fact that it is an old heirloom pepper from the cayenne family, in an orange-red color and has a sweeter heat and flavor. These kinds of chiles are used in various meals, regardless of the cuisine, region and cooking style, as they are among the most popular types of chiles. A Guajillo can be used as a substitute for Ancho or Pasilla Negro Chiles and vice-versa. The guajillo is considered a medium-hot hot chile or a 2 to 4 on a scale of 1 to 10 (10 being the hottest). Scoville heat units 2,500 to 5,000.

            De Arbol (Capsicum Annuum): the chile is narrow, curved and bright red in color. A De Arbol is thin fleshed, with tannic, smoky, grassy flavor and serious heat in the range of 7.5 on the heat scale of 1-10. De Arbol Powder is made from the whole De Arbol Pepper seeds and stem. De Arbol is comparable to a Cayenne Pepper. Scoville heat units 15,000 - 30,000.

            2 Replies
            1. re: Scargod

              Wow! All of you people are awesome. I'm going to order anchos and guajillos from Penderey's, and maybe experiment with costenos (I've seen those around). And I'm going to try and taste more seriously and critically myself. The education one gets on Chowhound! Muchissimas gracias a todos.

              1. re: Scargod

                Great Info! Thanks. I just moved to El Paso about 2 years ago and am now getting into Mexican cooking, so good info on chile peppers is much appreciated.

              2. this is a super late reply BUT you can use dried New Mexico chiles, and also "Chile California", as well as "Chile Costeno" in place of guajillos and interchangeably. Chile Puya as well (although Puya is spicy)