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Dec 10, 2011 08:36 AM

My "alternate" method of working with dried chiles: good or bad?

Typically when I use dried chiles in a recipe, I dispense with the toasting/rehydrating and instead I will deseed them and then grind them into powder in a coffee grinder, adding the seeds if I want them to have more heat.

Because they are now in powder form, they incorporate quite easily into whatever I'm cooking: chili, enchilada sauce, etc.

Does anyone here have some thoughts on the advantages/disadvantages of this method? All opinions welcome, I'm not married to the technique!


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  1. From the Mexican spice rack I buy both whole dried chiles and chile powder. The powder must be the dried ones, ground up as you have done. Certainly the powder is easier to use in small quantities. I'll sprinkle it (usually the ancho variety) on stews that have nothing to do with Mexico. But there are also sauce recipes that use this ground powder as the major component.

    The flavors may be different, especially if you toast the whole dried ones before you rehydrate them. And the rehydrated puree may be smoother. But for a lot of purposes the two approaches are interchangeable.

    1. I grow and dry my own chilies, and that is definitely one of the methods I use. In fact I never buy powdered red (cayenne) pepper in stores any more, I just refill the jar with my own cayennes, dried and ground. Much more aromatic than any store-bought.

      When each year's crop is ripe I air-dry them for a month or two, and when they're fully dry I store them in heavy plastic baggies. Some end up pulverized as you describe, some I crush as needed, others are used whole, depending on the requirements of whatever I'm making.

      The differences are in the perception of the heat - powdered chili fully suffuses the food with an even level of heat, crushed gives more of a bursts of heat effect, and whole ones can be removed before serving, leaving just a warm glow behind (or offered to any serious chiliheads who may happen to be at the table).

      1. If it works for you, go with it—but when you are working with a chile-heavy dish (salsas, for example, or asado de boda, or mole) you will want to do it the old-fashioned way for the roasty-toasty flavor, and for the fact that you can use the soaking water to add another layer of flavor when you need to add liquid.

        There's one mole in particular—chichilo—that requires that the seeds be burned.

        1. While it may work in what you're cooking, the fact that you're losing the flavor of the toasting & the texture of the rehydrating most likely will have you ending up with something that isn't remotely close to the original recipe. If that works for you, so be it.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Breezychow

            But do 'original recipes' always toast? It is indeed common. But pre ground chilies are also common.

          2. The flavor will be very different if you don't toast. You could toast and then grind.

            1 Reply
            1. re: PAO

              That's exactly what I'm going to do next time.