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I want to blend my own chili powder (or is it chile powder?)

I have access to a good selection of dried chiles, but I'm at a loss when it comes to combining them into a great powder. I've been using a recipe from America's Test Kitchen that has no kick (heat). Can anyone recommend a good combination of chiles for me to use (please suggest a proportion, too).

BTW, the way I've been making the powder up until now is to toast the dried chiles in the oven for just a few minutes -- until they get puffy and dry -- then cool them, de-stem and de-seed them, and pulverize them in my born-again coffee grinder. Is that the right way to do it? And what other seasonings do you add afterward, if any? (Oregano, cumin, paprika, etc.???)

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  1. Cindy: I'll leave it to others to suggest custom-blending (not my forte), but: if you want a bit more bite/heat, don't de-seed those chiles, or only de-seed maybe 1/3 or 1/2 of them. The seeds and inner membranes contain not only lots of flavors, but heat, too. If the chili (i.e. stewish/soupish) is for Mr. Pine, I'll use my dried, home-grown bhut jolokias and habaneros chiles (peppers). If the chili is for company, blistered anchos, piquillos, serranos.

    1. According to The Whole Chile Pepper Book (DeWitt & Gerlach, Little, Brown & Co., 1990) chili powder usually contains powdered chiles, garlic, cumin and oregano. Vary the types of chile, and proportions of other ingredients, to suit your taste.

      1. I have had great success using these two sources to create my own blend. Somewhere, I have written down what I actually do these days, but can't seem to find it at the moment:


        1 Reply
        1. re: smtucker

          After looking at those two links, I think I need to find more of a description of the characteristics of various dried chiles so I can figure out how I'd like to combine them.

        2. If it is to be your own chili powder blend then you really need to decide proportions.
          Depending on the application the bulk chilies I use are; Anchos, Guajillos, New Mexicos or Californias. One or a combo of these makes up 80% of the total.
          For smokey notes and heat Chilies Mecos, for smokey but less heat Chilies Moritas. For a darker powder, Mulotos, Passilas or Negros. To add heat use Arbols, Cascabel, Habanero or Pequins.
          As for the other flavorings I add them to the dish individually rather than blended into the Chili Powder, It gives me more flexibility in adjusting the flavor. Mexican Oregano, Cumin, Black Pepper are the most commonly added. After that sometimes Clove, Allspice, Coriander, Mexican Cinnamon or Thyme depending on the application.

          4 Replies
          1. re: chefj

            Is the darker color indicative of a particular flavor profile?

            1. re: CindyJ

              The Darker Chilies I listed all have a similar flavor profile each with small variations.
              Earth,Smoke(but not actually smoked ) Chocolate, Coffee, Prune and Raisin. Light on the Heat and Acid.

            2. re: chefj

              chefj...very helpful to this -me-novice, thank you

              1. re: chefj

                Chefj gave excellent advice. I leave mine in separate Zip bags. Currently anchos and quajillos. Mix on the fly

              2. The best chili I have made I did by taking a bag of dry arbol chilis, cutting them open, removing the seeds under running water, putting them in a little bowl with a bit of water, and microwaving them for a few minutes to soften. Then I process them in the Cuisinart with an 8-z can of plain tomato sauce and also garlic, salt, and cumin. This makes not a powder but a nice dark rich chili paste. You may want to adjust the spices by adding more salt, garlic, and cumin when you make the chili, also hot red pepper if you like it. I would add that this chili paste is mild---we don't like great heat.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Querencia

                  Wow! My experience with chiles de arbol is all heat.

                2. How do you want to use this powder?

                  Santibanez in Truly Mexican suggests grinding 1 oz quantities of a variety of dried chiles, so use when you need a small amount in various dishes, e.g. arbol, cascabel, or chipotle.

                  For the same purpose I have cello packets from the Mexican spice rack of guajillo, pasilla and/or ancho.

                  But if you want something suitable for the American beef stew, I'd suggest grinding a half dozen large anchos, and some small hot ones (e.g. arbol, chipotle) to taste. Cumin and Mexican oregano are typically used in that stew as well, but there isn't much point in premixing them with the ground chiles. Same would go for onion and garlic, unless you really need a 'one dump' seasoning.

                  1. I like to use equal parts of ancho and guajillo, add toasted ground cumin and mexican oregano. I like to add fresh garlic and canned chipotle when cooking the dish.

                    I buy ground chiles to make my chile powder because when you grind them yourself they don't get as finely ground as the store bought ones do. They seem to be just fine slivers and not really powder. When I make a sauce from dried chiles I put them through a sieve after they come out of the food processor. That gets rid of the slivers but it is time consuming.

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: cajundave

                      A food mill is a good way of separating skin from pulp when rehydrating dried chiles.

                      A blender, even a immersion blender, might do a better job than a food processor, at pureeing chiles. But I agree that when it comes to grinding whole dried chiles, the bought stuff is finer than anything I can make at home.

                      Competition chili (the stew) cooks often use a custom blend of ground chiles, in part because they want consistent results.

                      1. re: paulj

                        I have thought about getting a food mill but I just haven't gotten around to it. I even tried my juicer, that was a big failure. I put the reconstituted blended chiles in it and the entire amount came out the pulp chute. I got maybe a half a teaspoon of juice.

                        I wish I knew of a better way to strain the chile mixture because it takes a lot of time.

                        I didn't have much luck with the blender either.

                        1. re: cajundave

                          Just use a molcajete. Either use it to grind them all the way or to finish off the grind after the coffee grinder. Unless you're making an absolutely huge batch it should only take a couple of minutes to finish up what you've ground. You could always then run it through however fine a screen you want to separate out any few remaining slivers. If you have one of the large Thai granite mortar and pestles I don't see why that wouldn't work also. I just use the molcajete for this because I figure the larger and rougher pestle allows me to more easily grind versus pound.

                          PS If you use a molcajete, make sure to season it and buy a traditional lava one versus some of the decorative models made partially of concrete or of soft rock.

                    2. question...
                      is cocoa powder ever an ingredient in making any kind of authentic chili powder?
                      I made a batch of chili powder because of a recipe that called for chili powder. < I needed to chuck the old container so bought the chilies mentioned here on CH and proceeded. It's only ok and I think it's missing something to round it out... > could it be cocoa powder as I've read somewhere that it 'is' an ingredient in some cp's. TIA

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: iL Divo

                        I think the cocoa is inspired by the chocolate that is added to some moles. But keep in mind that that sort of mole hales from central Mexico, while chili has its roots in Texas.

                        There are also some European (Spain, Sicily) stews that include a bit of chocolate. What it contributes, when used in moderation, is a dark color, and a bitter complexity. A touch of coffee (espresso), or dark beer can do the same. The dark mild dried chiles that form the base of chili are also dark, and slightly bitter.

                        1. re: paulj

                          I ran a CI taped show again, it was a chili recipe where they made their own chili powder but then turned it in to paste that they tossed in with the meat. They'd added 2T cocoa powder. So now I know where I saw it.

                      2. What is the best source for buying a variety of dried peppers. Here in eastern PA, southwestern ingredients are a little lacking.

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: mary0201

                          Penzey's - they have a store on Germantown Ave in Philly if you're in the area. Otherwise, they are online. http://www.penzeys.com/cgi-bin/penzey...

                          1. re: mary0201

                            I realize this reply is a bit late, but, depending where in eastern PA you are, you might just not be looking in the right places. If you're anywhere in the vicinity of southern Chester County, or if you don't mind traveling here, there are a number of Mexican grocery stores that have huge selections of dried chiles. There's one in Toughkenamon (just outside Kennett Square) called El Cunado http://local.yahoo.com/info-29263787-..., and another, even larger, just a few miles further out in Avondale called El Sombrero, where you'll find a wall of packaged, dried chiles and cartons of packages of still-warm tortillas stacked in the middle of the store. http://www.yelp.com/biz/el-sombrero-g...