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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.

            2. Thanks everyone! I usually just incorporate dried chipotles when I want that smokey flavor. However, they can easily overwhelm everything else, so I think I'll play around with toasting other chiles to see how they taste.

              Thanks again. :)

              1 Reply
              1. re: austintexican

                Don't mistake smoking with toasting. When you toast and soak a dried chile, you get a roasted flavour. Chipotles (and their better, more handsome, much more successful cousins, chiles pasillas de Oaxaca) provide a smoky, beef jerky-like flavour.

                It only takes a few minutes to toast and soak; you can even use hot tap water, assuming your taps put out hot water and not just warm water.

              2. I'd be concerned about the effect on the coffee!

                5 Replies
                1. re: GH1618

                  That is an issue. I have a completely separate device, a mini-Cuisinart the size of a large coffee grinder, that i use for spices, hard cheeses, etc.

                  Nothing but coffee beans EVER goes in the coffee grinder!

                  1. re: BobB

                    True coffee aficionados don't grind their coffee in one of these whirly grinders anyways. :) So repurposing it for spices (and grains) makes sense. Actually, I bought one specifically such as use in mind. Grinding something like rice is supposed to remove most of the spice oils.

                    1. re: paulj

                      I used my mini grinder for ghost peppers last week, and was shocked (after a thorough washing/airing), that this week's spice blend wasn't blazing hot. BUT, I did the rice grind, followed by panko grind, so most of the oils must have been removed successfully.

                      1. re: pine time

                        The plastic cover is more likely to retain oils than the metal cup. When I bought my current grinder, I specifically chose one with a deep metal cup (Capreso). I had cracked the cap of a previous grinder while grinding hard spices.

                        And, yes, it is easier to grind a brittle pepper into a powder than a leathery one.

                  2. re: GH1618

                    I use separate grinders, but fyi a little chile powder and cinnamon with coffee is actually pretty good--if you're addicted to chiles, that is! :)

                  3. The disadvantage that I see is that with the toast/rehydrating method, you can create a paste or thick sauce that seasons the rest of the dish and adds texture differently than a powder. it may not be worse, just different.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: cocktailhour

                      Competition chili cooks normally use a blend of dried chile powders. It gives them greater consistency than the rehydrated puree approach (and not as messy during the competition cooking).

                      1. re: paulj

                        Mexican cooks often put the liquefied chile gunk in a blender, then press it through a cloth. The result is a glossy, silky sauce with no textural strangeness.

                        1. re: Das Ubergeek

                          I get a plenty smooth puree with a food mill. But when I wrote 'consistency', I was thinking of the same flavor profile, from one competition to the next, i.e. uniform over time, as opposed to uniform texture.

                          1. re: Das Ubergeek

                            My thoughts exactly. The OP's method is fine but it doesn't yield the same results as rehydrating, puree-ing and then straining chile sauce. There are many sauces that are best this way, enchilada, adobado cooking liquid, types of mole, etc.

                            Sometimes for Indo-Pak cooking, rather than roast and grind whole chiles, if I am feeling lazy I sometimes roast ground red chile powder (usually with ground cumin) in the pan for a few moments.

                            1. re: luckyfatima

                              In Indo-Pak cooking do they use rehydrate and puree approach much? I suspect it matters more with the milder chiles like ancho. Based on some discussions on Chow, the closest might be some mild Kashmiri chiles, ones where the 'base' flavor is as important as the heat.

                              1. re: paulj

                                "In Indo-Pak cooking do they use rehydrate and puree approach much?:

                                Not that I know of.

                                I don't think chile ancho taste like Kashmiri chiles, either, just IMHO.

                      2. Anchos account for more than half of all dried chilies, and the best and freshest I get still have a little moisture and flexibility, and wouldn't grind well. So I prefer to rehydrate, usually with warm water in a small bowl. It's then very easy to open them and remove the seeds with the back of a knife. The water takes on some color and flavor, and as has been noted elsewhere here I save it in the event that liquid other than stock or wine is desired.

                        1. Good quality powders are fine and I use them but when I have the time and I want the best result it has to be the full process. Method I use I learnt from Bayless, toast, rehydrate and blend the chiles with other ingredients such as salt, spices, roasted garlic/onion but no tomato at this point. (My old food processor doesn't do a perfect job of this so I push the result through a medium sieve). Then heat some good lard in a pan and when VERY hot add the chile puree and keep stirring for several minutes over the high heat, other ingredients can then be added as required.

                          1. I just wanted to thank everyone for the input. :)

                            I'm going to try toasting/grinding to powder vs toasting/rehydrating/pureeing to see which I like best.