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Jan 27, 2012 03:31 PM

Chipotle Taste Without The Heat In Dressings, Dips, and Sauces

This has been a vexing conundrum over the years. Virtually every recipe that you see for dressings,dips,or sauces calls for so many chipotle peppers with adobo sauce pureed or incorporated in the recipe and blended. The ultimate problem is when you have a sufficent smokey chipotle taste, you have too much heat for most people. I've ran into this problem with BBQ sauce, Chipotle Ranch that we used on our wraps and dipping sauces, and also for a short time when Chipotle Mayo was popular. I've looked at countless recipes both home and foodservice and they pretty much look the same with no clue about raising the taste signature while reducing heat. This isn't my palate alone, but those of others too that have complained about the heat and point out that commercial sauces used in the chains aren't hot. Apparently, dressing and dip manufactuers must have access to some special chipotle flavoring or products, but none list it as an extract or flavoring like they would a paprika oleoresin.

I've tried several dry, ground Chipotle pepper powders. Same heat/taste ratio and noticeable red speckling in the sauces. I've also tried bottle sauces like Cholulu and Tabasco's Chipotle. Those do give the uniform pink color without a particulate in the sauces like commercial products, but the excessive heat is still there. I've also tried carefully slitting a can of peppers in adobo sauce. Scraping out the pith and seeds and rinsing out the can and seed/pith scraping with a little vinegar to recover as much as the adobo and then blending the peppers with a little more vinegar into a paste in a mini blender. It's better, but still too hot and not the same as the commercial preps. I've seen recipes where you see a suspiciously low amount of Chipotle used and then the addition of smokey paprika or ancho powder used presumably to raise the smokey signature. It generally doesn't work and totally forget about liquid smoke.

Any suggestions?

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  1. Chipotle is a smoked Jalapeño chile, so an important part of the flavor is due to the smoking. According to The Whole Chile Pepper Book, there is a variety of mild Jalepeño, so producers with mild Chipotle products might be using that, or they might be smoking something else.

    4 Replies
    1. re: GH1618

      I have wondered if the brand that I'm using might just be a much hotter version then others. The only brand found around here retail is La Costena in 7 and 12 0z cans. Sysco carries 20, 89,and 102 oz of other institutional brands, but the amounts are beyond anything that I can reasonably use. Here in Miami, Goya is a major brand in the latin markets, but they don't carry Mexican/Southwestern staples like their own Chipotle. We have the San Marcos brand, but only in green chiles for peppers.

      1. re: DawnT

        if you buy them dried instead of packed in sauce, they will be much less spicy. the sauce is a large part of the heat in canned chipotles

        1. re: mattstolz

          But the sauce gets its heat from the peppers, not the other way around. I just minced up a dried chipotle and mixed it with some mayo (plus paprika for color). The result was plenty hot.

          1. re: paulj

            i guess my idea was more that its a little easier to control the heat with dried vs packed in sauce. its much easier to de-seed and de-vein a dried chili then de-seed, de-vein, and rinse all the spicy sauce off the canned chile

    2. Around here, the hotter they are, the better, but I can certainly appreciate that a whole can of chipotles in adobo isn't for everyone. El Mexicano sells whole dried chipotle chilis that I've found to be less hot than the average canned ones (I assume it's because they're stale, but I don't really know) You could try reconstituting these in hot water and then pureeing them, maybe removing the seeds first.

        1. Tierra Vegetables in Santa Rosa, CA makes chipotles with several kinds of sustainably grown peppers in your choice of heat level. Here's a link to its website for mail order.

          1. Try some smoked paprika with a littel cumin added.

            6 Replies
            1. re: mrbigshotno.1

              Exactly what I was going to suggest. Smoked paprika gives you that smoky taste and "oomph" of peppers (depth of flavor), without the heat. Cumin helps to round out the flavor.

              1. re: wyogal

                I rinse off the chipotle in the can and add a bit of smoked pimenton. keeps the smoke and drops the heat level. can also use a bit of smoked sea salt.

                1. re: teezeetoo

                  Thanks all but in the last paragraph, I mentioned that I have tried this with the smokey paprika (pimenton). In the brand that I use, the adobo has relatively little heat compared to the whole pepper with seeds. I do rinse the can and the scrapings with some white vinegar in a small strainer to get the residual adobo off and provide some extra liquid for pureeing into a paste.

                  My Chipotle Ranch sauce for wraps/dips and salad dressing differ only by sour cream or buttermilk for viscosity and mayo. I use a private label institutional powder mix similar to Hidden Valley's and do add cumin,sugar, and lime juice along with the chipotle puree to make the sauce. To the basic ranch dressing from the mix, I augument with extra, coarse black pepper, garlic powder, and some dried parsely. Adding the smoked paprika in moderate amounts only raises the pink color with perceptably little change to the taste.

                  I will look into dried peppers and remove the seeds and either reconstitute or grind into a powder. That's not something that's going to be found around here and I'll have to order by mail. Thanks for the idea Matt.

                  1. re: DawnT

                    the dried ones normally work pretty well for me. plus, i like to use the liquid they reconstitute in for a little extra flavor. if you have it leftover, use it to cook rice or pasta, very delicious!

                    youd be surprised where you could find dried chipotles though. i have gotten mine at publix, sweetbay, whole foods, and other various smaller groceries around here (ethnic and other). whole foods is a pretty safe bet for finding them normally, and is normally cheaper than online once you factor in shipping.

                    1. re: DawnT

                      I use "Pimenton de la vera.... Mas portell." It is very flavorful and imparts quite a bit of taste to whatever I'm adding it to. Just a 1/4 teaspoon makes a big difference in flavor.
                      It's in a little square can.