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Oct 9, 2010 06:49 AM

Do you make your own chile powder blend?

I've done this in the past -- taken an assortment of dried chile peppers, toasted them for a few minutes in the oven, de-stemmed and de-seeded them, whirred them in my former coffee grinder, and stored the mixture in a covered glass jar. But, truth be told, I never really know what I'm doing as I try to decide which chiles to use in which quantities. That's because I don't really have a sense of the distinctions between them, beyond whatever the package might indicate. Hot, mild, earthy -- how do you choose a pleasing combination? I'm also not sure whether to toast up some cumin seed and add that to the blend, or whether to add some Mexican oregano. My primary use of chile powder is for making chili, and I like heat in my chili. Can anyone offer up a bit of guidance for me? I believe I have access to a fairly good variety of dried chiles. Thanks!

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  1. I make something for a friend of mine that he calls "magic powder." He mostly uses it as a dry rub on meat before grilling. I buy all my spices at Penzey's.

    8 parts Ground Ancho Chili Pepper:

    4 parts garlic salt:

    1 part ground red pepper I usually use cayenne, but here are some other options:

    1 part ground cumin. You can grind it yourself. I generally buy it ground, but I'm not a big fan of cumin.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Jay F

      Jay F....penzeys is great. been in many a store *favorite one The Burg.
      but...I like the chase and the hunt so my purchases are made wherever I happen to be on any given day. my husband, he's so patient. if he even sees a fun looking (new to me) store, he stops and says, "go ahead honey, I know you're dying to go in there."


      that's a hug

    2. The Mexican line cooks where I used to work in California liked guajillo chiles for the salsa they'd make up for their own use. (the restaurant salsa was a canned tomato and jalepeno 'gringo'-type). When they were toasting the chiles, the whole back area would fill up with the most delicious smell. The restaurant bought whole dried California chiles (labeled that way--I know of no true variety name of 'California') but the prep cooks said at home everyone used Guajillos even though they are more expensive; they have better flavor.

      1 Reply
      1. re: toodie jane

        Guajillo chiles... I'm sure I've seen them, but I don't think I've ever tried them. Are you saying they'd use dried guajillos for salsa, or fresh ones? This might sound like a naive question, but, if you are talking about dried peppers, how do you use them in salsa? Do you reconstitute them?

      2. For chili you don't have to make up a powder before hand. The basic ingredients of commercial chili powders (i.e. ones intended for use in chili) are dried chiles, cumin, and oregano. Maybe salt and powdered garlic. But you can add all of those items to your chili as you make it.

        The WIck-Fowler mix (2 alarm), packages all of these items in separate cello packages. The mild chile base is separate from the smaller packet of hot chile (cayenne).

        An alternative to grinding the whole dried chiles is to rehydrate them in some water, and then separate the pulp from the skin (a food mill works best).

        As to what chiles to use:
        Mild ones:
        Ancho - (dried poblano peppers), widely used in Mexico to give the complex 'base notes' to dishes, and quite common in commercial powders.
        Guajillo - some hotter than Ancho, brighter red color. Smooth tough skin. A common base for hotter chile powders in Mexico (such as for chile coated candies).
        Pasilla (long narrow dried pods) - similar in heat to Ancho, may be used in combination
        New Mexico chiles - these vary in heat.
        California - basically the same as NM.

        To make it hotter:
        chipotle - smoke dried Jalapeno, hot and smoky
        arbol - narrow hot
        cayenne -
        Places like Penzey's offer several mixes, and may list the ingredients, and flavor profiles.

        1 Reply
        1. re: paulj

          Good descriptions Paul.

          I make my own chile powder and use many of the dried peppers mentioned. I've even put them on my smoker and smoked them for a couple of hours at either very low heat or did a cold smoke. Just so much better than store bought. Commercial chili powder may contain cumin, garlic and onion powder as well as MSG. If I want cumin in a rub with my chile powder I will grind it separately.

        2. i do, but I wouldn't put them in my spice grinder. First of all they would never make it to a fine enough powder, I soak the chiles after cleaning them then whirl them with broth, use a strainer with cheese cloth and then use them. Ancho, guajillo, and then a few pasilla. I would not make it ahead of time for fear that it would lose flavor. I add fresh chiles like the serrano for heat, seeds and all chopped very fine.

          18 Replies
          1. re: chef chicklet

            Are you saying you soak the dried chiles and then use them, reconstituted, in whatever dishes you're preparing? And when you "whirl" them -- is that with a blender, food processor, immersion blender, or something else?

            1. re: CindyJ

              Yes. Clean them first off the stem and seeds, give them a good wash. then Soak them in hot pork butt broth, or beef broth or chicken. Even hot water is fine. then You cut them in halve and drop everything into a blender. Then run it through a sieve, then cover it with cheese cloth, and run it through again. My blender misses pieces at times so that's why the double straining. Depending on amount of chiles and broth, you'll get a few ups of good red sauce. I like to use the three Chiles I mentioned but add less of the pasilla. Like a fine wine blend, the pasilla will give you sweet, smokey notes. Depending on your personal tastes, make your own combination for the sauce.

              I use packaged dried chile powders for different things at times, but when I make chile colorado, or tamales I want my own blend of sauces.

              1. re: chef chicklet

                Thanks for the clarification, ChefC. Funny you should mention chili colorado -- I've been looking for an adaptation of chili colorado that uses turkey in place of the beef. (I understand that's akin to making boeuf bourguignon without the boeuf, but still...) I can definitely understand the use of the chile sauce rather than a powder for that type of dish.

                1. re: CindyJ

                  Well wouldn't all you do differently would be swap the pork or beef out for the turkey? I'd take dark meat and chunk it, then add it pretty much at the end as to not overcook it.

                  Powders the way I think of them are a matter of convenience. I don't mean that they're less quality at all, just faster.
                  Unless you're using the chile as part of a rub? Then that would be done differently, say if you were grilling a chicken, or roasting it to rub it down with your mix of powsders for a crispy coating.

                  1. re: chef chicklet

                    Competition chili cooks often prefer powders for their consistency. Individual peppers vary in heat level, even for the same cultivar. A blended powder reduces this variation.

                    If you want explore chile combinations, do some reading on moles. These are the complex blends of chiles, nuts, and other spices that serve as the base for a sauce served with poultry.

                    1. re: paulj

                      Are you speaking of dried chile? I've not found any inconsistencies in my red sauce. The chiles I'm using aren't all that hot. I like to add fresh chiles for heat and yes you're correct they can vary, that's why I don't add them all at the same time. I work gradually since these sauces for me, cook most of the day, sometimes two. I don't cook to compete, but will keep that in mind.

                      1. re: chef chicklet

                        The variation in heat is more noticeable in fresh poblanos than the dried ancho, at least in my experience.

                        The bit about dry mix used in competition is based on things I've read or heard on TV chili championships interviews.

                        1. re: paulj

                          Do you grind your chiles for a powder? and if you do, what kind of grinder are you using to make it nice and fine? I'm sure that most items like rubs are done in advance just as you said.

                          1. re: chef chicklet

                            Most often I go the rehydrate and food mill route.

                            I have tried grinding the dried ones, with mixed results. A whirly blade coffee grinder works better than the food chopper that works with the immersion blender. But the softer, leathery chiles don't grind as finely as harder ones. Still, if I want to add a pinch of chile to a dish, ground dried is easier to use than rehydrating.

                            While I have a stash of several kinds of dried ones, my current favorite is aji panca, an maroon colored Peruvian chile, smaller than ancho, and only a bit hotter. Sometimes I buy a ready made paste of that from Latino groceries.

                    2. re: chef chicklet

                      Yes, I'd swap the beef out for the chunks of turkey. But it's the effect of the longer cooking time for the beef that's had me puzzled. During that longer cooking time, as with other beef stews and braises, the flavors have time to "meld" -- maybe I've got an overactive imagination, but I've always though that when I've simmered a braise in the oven for 2-3 hours, the flavors in the sauce are enhanced by the beef during that cooking time. I can't imagine turkey imparting a richness to the sauce the way that beef does. So maybe the sauce would need additional ingredients.

                      1. re: CindyJ

                        I make spaghetti sauce cook it all day, and use ground turkey. Yes the pork or beef are going to meld in there, and add richness and fat. Turkey is just different. I'm sure you 've done a braise before with beef or pork. The cheaper cuts with the fat running through or where you see it shred nicely, turkey does'nt do that. It will break down, the tissue just doesn't hold up, same with chicken.

                        Pork fat will bring your the richness. Again why the desire to use turkey?
                        I think I have recipe for turkey mole come to think of it.

                        1. re: chef chicklet

                          I'm just trying to cut way back on beef and pork in my diet. I'm finding that there are times when turkey is an acceptable substitution (I really do like chili made with ground turkey) and times when it is not (meatballs served with pasta). The other thing I'm finding is that I'm often better off cooking things that are intended for the leaner meats rather than trying to substitute one meat for another. I would love to have your recipe for turkey mole, if you're willing to share it.

                          1. re: CindyJ

                            The gist of traditional Mexican turkey mole is:
                            - cook the bird in seasoned water till tender (with wild ones this took longer)
                            - toast chiles, tortillas, and nuts on a comal - a clay (now steel) gridle, over an outdoor charcoal fire
                            - take these ingredients to the neighborhood food mill to be ground into a paste
                            (shortcut - buy a premade paste from a local vendor)
                            - fry the paste, and thin with turkey broth to make the sauce
                            - cut the bird into pieces and serve with the mole sauce.

                            1. re: paulj

                              "cook the bird in seasoned water till tender" -- does that mean to take a whole turkey, plop it into a BIIIIIG pot, fill the pot with water (which seasonings?) and simmer it? How will I know when it's tender?

                              Also... what's the paste of chiles, tortillas and nuts called? I don't know of any "neighborhood food mill" in these parts (southeastern PA).

                              1. re: CindyJ

                                What I outlined was typical of times when most birds, turkey or chicken, where old, tough and flavorful. And since most of the flavor in the dish comes from the complex mole sauce, flavoring the bird during initial cooking was not important. Now days you could cook the turkey (or parts) in any way that is convenient.

                                Commercial mole mixes can be found in any Hispanic grocery or the corresponding aisle of a grocery. Dona Maria is the most common mole mix, available as a stiff paste in 'jelly glass jars', or in ready to use tretra packs.

                                Of the offerings on this page, I think the Teloloapan Red Mole in a plastic tub is probably closest to a mix that could be bought in bulk in a Mexican market.

                            2. re: CindyJ

                              I'll try to find it for you, this is one of those long handwritten recipes, passed to me from a friend. I was looking for it today, ( I have files) and saw that I've mixed a few.... the little 4yr old...I think he was helping me. hmmm. I should be able to check tomorrow.

                2. re: chef chicklet

                  I grind dried chiles in a dedicated blade coffee grinder and it gets to a very fine powder.

                  1. re: scubadoo97

                    That's what I've been doing, too; seems to work fine.

                3. Alton Brown has an excellent homemade chili powder recipe. I would check it out if I were you.