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Nov 7, 2010 12:53 PM

Mexican red sauce - Bitter

I have been trying to make a red sauce but no matter what I do it turns out bitter. I've tried with a couple combinations of chipotle, pasilla and ancho chilis. I've tried roasting the chilis in a saute pan, and in the oven. While I may have burned the chilis a bit in the pan, I am sure there were no burned sections from roasting. I made sure to pick out every last seed as well. Is it possible that the chilis themselves are bitter and there's nothing I can do but search out different varieties/brands? I'm at a loss here.

Also, is there any way to "save" a bitter sauce? Thanks

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  1. Does your red sauce have anything other than the chiles and water?

    If your other components are not "bitter," it may just be that your "bitter," is my "earthy." Many red chile salsas that start with dried chiles could be considered bitter. I love them. I LOVE a good salsa de chile de arbol, a few friends I have say it's bitter. Tell you what though, it's all perspective. I think India Pale Ales taste like ground up aspirin in seltzer water.

    1 Reply
    1. re: gordeaux

      I'm with you on the "earthy" thing, that's the beauty of sun dried red chili either whole or pure powder. It's not bitter to me, but it could be to some.

    2. After roasting that do you do? grind the cihles, or soak them in water? If you soak them, do you use the soaking water? It's a good idea to taste the soaking liquid before you use it. If it tastes bitter, don't use it.

      1. I think that most pure dry chili sauces do have a bit of a bitter edge. I usually balance that bitterness with salt and pinches of sugar. Not to give any noticeable sweetness just as a background counter balance.
        If you have burnt your chilies when toasting them it is all over. that deep acrid bitterness is unfixable.

        1 Reply
        1. re: chefj

          Thanks for the replies. I think that most of the "bitterness" I was tasting in my second batch was more along the lines of "earthiness" as suggested above. The first time I'm pretty sure I burned the chilies.

          I was giving dried chilies a quick roast then soaking them in water. I used the soaking liquid the first time around but used water the second time to try and cut down the bitter taste. Then mixing with cumin, cloves, garlic, salt, sugar, little vinegar and water. Last night I blended this with some roasted tomatoes to go with baked chicken. Finished dish had zero bitterness.

        2. If you have a cast iron pan, use it to toast the chiles.
          Deseed and split the chiles first.
          Heat to the pan to medium high, then press and hold the chile 'inside down' with a metal spatula. Most chiles will change color about the same time as you start to smell them.
          Flip over immediately and toast on the other side for less time.
          Repeat :-).
          I soak the chiles in water unless I'm going to powder them or crush them in a mortar.

          Most chile sauces are balanced with an acid ingredient - tomato, tomatillo - that seems to mute the bitterness IMO. Adding a Pinch of sugar is a good tip.

          1. The trick with these chiles is to deseed and devein them, lay them out on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for about three minutes. As soon as you smell them, pull them out. If there are any dark spots on them they've been overcooked, and will be bitter. You don't want to dry them out either. Boil a pot of water, and turn the heat off. You want hot water, but not boiling water. Place the chiles in the pot, and weight down with a plate so they stay submerged, for 30 minutes to an hour. Blend and strain with a half and half mixture of water and the soaking liquid. The liquid shouldn't be bitter if the chiles are not burned, and they weren't boiled.