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Aug 24, 2011 12:47 PM

New Mexico/California Chili Powder

I've got a couple Mexican cookbooks that call for New Mexico or California Chili Powder. I just visited a local Penzy's spices so I could finally buy some of these--but they had no such thing and they had no idea what to recommend. (I did buy ancho chili powder just because I'm always making a paste from anco chilis and thought it might be nice to have the powder form).

Can anyone help? What makes NM and CA chili powder different? Are they known by other names?

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  1. Anytime I see something like that, I use Penzey's Ground Ancho, too.

    1. They're made from New Mexico and California chiles, not too surprisingly. In California at least, a wide assortment of varietal chile powders are easily available- These are not to be confused with the generic chile powder (Gebhart's, Grandma's et al)., which are made of a mixture of chiles and usually contain cumin, oregano, sometimes onion or garlic powder and other stuff. And no doubt salt. The most common packager in my area is "Paradise Brand"- you might get somewhere by Googling that.

      1. Do the books explain why they recommend NM/CA powder as opposed to one or more of the common Mexican dried varieties (Ancho, Guajillo, etc)? Are the books giving you New Mexican or California-Mexican recipes, or are they adapting Mexican recipes to the American kitchen? My guess is that they just want you to use a mild chile, without worrying about the nuances of taste. As long as the heat range is right, it probably does not matter what dried chile you use.

        6 Replies
        1. re: paulj

          Please, stay away from CA and go right to the source and get the real stuff. Here's one site:

            1. re: carbonaraboy

              It makes me sad to see that the Santa Cruz Chile Company of southern AZ doesn't get more press, they';re a great source for those of us in southern AZ- I grew up with it and have continued to ue it due to the high quality of their products.

            2. re: paulj

              It always matters, but they do fall into groups- Anchos and Negros and the rather mixed up group of pasillas and Poblanos (the names are used differently in different places) are relatively thick walled peppers with generally complex flavors. The New Mexicos, Californias, Anaheims and Guajillos (this list is not exhaustive) are relatively thin walled chiles with all in all lighter flavors. Within those groups they interchange fairly easily, although it always makes a difference. And of course they vary by where they were grown and how, how they were handled etc. AND these are all complex hybrids that tend to be skittish genetically- often adjacent fruits on the same plant will be vastly different. As far as real stuff, bet California has more Mexicans than New Mexico- possibly more than old Mexico. But seriously, haha- I would like to hear from somebody in the Southwest how this year's brutal weather is affecting the Pepper crops- surely the unusually cool summer in Northern California is doing ours no good.
              ps- I usually pay a little under $2 for 2 oz packages of these things, but if you buy them from purveyors of "gourmet' products prepare to pay through the nose.

              1. re: oldunc

                I think that Apple Annie's in Willcox has a good crop.

              2. re: paulj

                While it is possible to make powder from any dried chili, I'm going to interpret the OP's request as referring to the long-stem New Mexican chile. It is the progenitor to the Anaheim pepper, which I'm interpreting as the reference to "California".

                Without blathering on, these two articles should clear things up. Chiles are a serious thing in NM...


              3. Here is one site for New Mexico Chile Powder:


                Also, California chiles are also known as Anaheim chiles.

                1. Just go in any store catering to Hispanics and buy the chile powder that comes in cellophane bags. Dirt cheap and good, as a matter of fact all of the spices packa.ed this way are great and much fresher as you do not have to buy a tin can of whatever you need and let it go to hell in your cabinet until you need it again.Of course living in Houston it's easy to find a store catering to Hispanics and just about any other ethnic group. I was shopping in both an asian supermarket and a middle eastern one yesterday