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Jul 2, 2012 08:00 AM

Does cocoa + cinnamon = Ancho chili powder?

I recall someone saying on a chili thread that the use of cocoa and cinnamon in chili is to sub for the flavor of ancho chilis. Wanted to confirm that. Making black bean/turkey chili for a crowd and like this particular recipe with cinnamon and cocoa added--but I've got ancho chili powder from Penzey's that never gets used so am wondering if I should use it instead. My husband and I like the cinnamon/cocoa flavor, but we're guessing most in this area will not have experienced it and might think it very odd.

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  1. I don't think I'd say that it substitutes for it, though others may disagree. I would say that they would complement each other when used together, so try that. And if you go light on each flavor, I bet people won't identify the flavors - they'll just think you have some magical chili.

    1. Ground dried mild chiles are the base flavor for chili - unless you are making one where tomato dominates. Ancho is one of those chiles. It is the dried form of a large, mild-medium hot pepper (poblano), and quite dark in color.

      Mexican mole, a complex sauce using peppers, nuts, and spices, may include chocolate and cinnamon in that spice list. That is how cocoa powder and cinnamon have come to be added to some chili recipes. The cocoa, if used in moderation, darkens the color, and adds to baseline complexity. Cinnamon is popular in Mexico. Cinnamon is also an ingredient in the Greek inspired Cincinnati chili.

      So as the other poster wrote, cocoa and cinnamon complement the chiles, but are not a substitute (or v.v.). But we really need to know what other spices are in this particular recipe. Competition Texas beef chili has little more than the chiles, cumin and oregano.

      1. No, ancho chili is ancho chili.

        Although some Mexican friends tell me that Ancho is used for the color, my taste buds get the hot from it, too. If folks aren't used to peppers, paprika, etc., a little hot may go a lot farther than you'd guess.

        1. If you don't have ancho chile powder and need to use regular chili powder or another type of chile powder to substitute, I agree that cinnamon and/or cocoa can add a little of the missing ancho flavor profile. However, they are definitely not a substitute - if you want chile flavor, you need SOME type of chile.

          1. Sorry, there definitely IS chili powder in the recipe, but along with it is the cinnamon and cocoa. I would still use my Badia "polvo de chili" but then add ancho instead of the cinnamon and cocoa. (The recipe is the Turkey/white bean chili from Beth Hensperger's "Ultimate Rice Cooker Cookbook"--but I've made so many changes to it, there's not a lot of resemblance.)

            2 Replies
            1. re: Thanks4Food

              Try it and see what you think - the ancho may or may not hit all the flavor notes you are used to from the cocoa and cinnamon. If it doesn't, you can always add them later - a little extra seasoning isn't going to hurt.

              1. re: Thanks4Food

                Apart from the cumin and/or oregano, does the Badia taste much different from the Penzeys? My guess is Badia uses a mix of ancho and New Mexico chiles.