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May 5, 2013 05:13 PM

Poblano vs Pasilla, same thing?

So I've been keeping my eye out for poblano chilis to use for the COTM. At 2 different markets I did not see any labeled poblano, but saw pasillas. The ones labeled pasillas looked like poblanos. Wikipedia said that poblanos are often erroneously called pasillas, but I don't always trust wikipedia.... but I trust the Chowhounders :)

So, are pasillas the same as poblanos?

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  1. Depends on who you ask, but if you ask me (African American of Nevisian and African American by way of Alabama descent), I am in N Cal, and I think it's pretty sad when poblanos are called pasillas...but the Mexican markets here still sell them labeled that way, and I still buy them. Go with the shape.

    I have grown several varieties of poblano, and prefer Tiburon.

    1. No, pasilla are dried chilaca, ancho are dried poblano. However, in the grocery stores, poblanos are often mislabelled pasilla. The only place here they are labelled correctly are the Mexican markets.

      9 Replies
      1. re: weezieduzzit

        Thanks shrinkrap and weezie... I mainly didn't want to buy something that WASN'T really a poblano and end up with something too hot to eat or whatever. I know poblanos are very mild.

        1. re: juliejulez

          Weezie, where I am, Mexican markets sometimes label anchos as pasillas, and Asian markets often do. Whatever. It's not going to be too hot. I wish!

        2. re: weezieduzzit

          They're not really mislabeled. What's called "ancho" in most of Mexico is called "pasilla" in Michoacán and maybe some other parts, I'm not sure. Pasillas are sometimes called "chile negro". Many chiles have different names in different regions. Manzanos are surprisingly called "jalapeños" in parts of Chiapas.

          It's confusing, but that's the way it is.

          Immigrants tend to use the names they grew up using, so that confusion extends into the U.S. You have to be on your toes and know what you're looking for. But I think the ancho/pasilla case is the one you're most likely to run into.

          1. re: Soul Vole

            Often on British cooking shows, I will see all manner of chiles called "jalapeno". Banana peppers, Anaheims, Serranos, Fresnos, etc.; I have seen them all referred to as "jalapenos".

            1. re: sandylc

              Oh good heavens! Now that is definitely incorrect. But when you see poblanos or anchos labeled "pasilla", that's just a reflection of regional naming variations within Mexico itself.

          2. re: weezieduzzit

            they're unfortunately all mislabeled in the mexi-marts by my house, here in San Francisco....

            pasilla is the Spanish word for raisin, or little raisin, so pasilla is supposed to be the dried darker chile (which looks more raisin-like).

            1. re: mariacarmen

              You can't use logic to argue against the name of something. What's called "Canadian bacon" in the U.S. has little to do with Canada. Does that make it mislabeled? French toast, French fries, etc. etc. I understand that "toad in a hole" doesn't actually involve amphibians, and what a disappointment when I ordered sex on a beach. I wondered why the price was so low.

              Sure it's oxymoronic to call a poblano "pasilla". Nonetheless that's the name it has in certain regions and with certain people. I'll bet they find the irony slightly amusing.

              It's no more a mislabeling than chick peas vs. garbanzos, coriander vs. cilantro, aubergine vs. eggplant, ...

              1. re: Soul Vole

                it's not really that big of a deal to me - just answering the OP's question (and i hadn't read below that paulj had said the same thing, basically) and responding to weezie that even in some mexican marts they're called pasillas.

            2. re: weezieduzzit

              Not so. My Latino market sells poblanos ---- huge mountains of them --- as pasillas. See photo. Even Mexican-Americans I talk to don't always know what a poblano is.

            3. I don't trust all Chowhounders - just the ones that agree with me. :) But why shouldn't you trust wikipedia on matters like this?

              In any case, I basically agree with the others.

              Poblano is the large, broad shoulder fresh chile. Usually it is mild, but some are noticeably hotter. It is a good idea to take a taste nibble. There isn't another pepper that looks like, so you can go by shape, regardless of the label.

              'pasilla', meaning 'raisin like', gets applied to several things. In US markets it often is the label for poblanos. Apparently this practice arises from California (possibly Baja), and propagates down the produce supply chain. My impression is that Gringos with an excess of book learning are more upset by this usage than real Mexicans.

              In Mexico pasilla more often refers to a long narrow dried chile. Its fresh form is chilaca, which basically has the same heat level as the poblano. Mistaking a chilaca for a poblano (or vv) is unlikely, but there's no great harm in doing so.

              Sometiimes the dried poblano, usually called ancho (wide), is labeled pasilla. Again no great harm. They will produce a similar puree.

              2 Replies
                1. re: paulj

                  Agreed, very good info, thank you!

                  fresh chiles

                  dried chiles

                  Good descriptions, good pictures. However the pictures are not to scale.

                  5 Replies
                  1. re: paulj

                    This is a good resource in many ways, but it raises my hackles, as this thread has, when they say that certain alternate names for chiles are "incorrect" (or "mislabeled").

                    And some of the substitutions recommended. You can substitute two jalapeños for an habanero? O_o Maybe if all you care about is heat level and nothing about the flavor of the chiles. And even then it's way off base. It's kind of like saying you can substitute sage for basil. If all you want is some kind of herbal flavor, then sure, make that substitution.

                    1. re: Soul Vole

                      A starting point for chile substitutions is heat level. You don't, for example, want to substitute jalapeños for poblanos in rajas en crema. But I would not hesitate to substitute aji panca for (dry) pasilla in a mole like sauce. For a beginner who can only tolerate the use of half a habanero in a dish, talk about floral or grassy flavors is meaningless.

                      1. re: paulj

                        I'm not talking about the substitutions you or I might make. I'm talking about the substitutions recommended on this site.

                        Jalapeño for habanero is like sage for basil. They're both herbs.

                        It doesn't take a lot of appreciation for chiles to know that there's a lot more between the two than "talk about floral or grassy flavors".

                        Sorry to criticize, but it's a valid criticism.

                        1. re: Soul Vole

                          sage: Substitutes: poultry seasoning OR rosemary OR thyme
                          basil: Substitutes: oregano OR thyme OR tarragon OR summer savory OR equal parts parsley and celery leaves OR cilantro (This works well in pesto.) OR mint (especially in Thai cuisine)

                          1. re: paulj

                            Your point? That at least they don't regard sage and basil and substitutes?

                            That's my analogy.

                  2. Now, here's a strange thing: my neighborhood Food4Less market (a discount chain owned by Kroger) labels their poblanos as "pasillas" just like every other market, Latino or otherwise, in the area … but in the freezer case they have bags of POBLANO STRIPS, labelled as such. Since that's how I typically use poblanos anyway, I was happy to find those, and even happier to see them called what most of my books say they ought to be called.

                    8 Replies
                    1. re: Will Owen

                      Isn't that funny? WO, give us a couple of ways you use the strips please. I could see keeping that on hand. TIA.

                      1. re: c oliver

                        I think they'd be perfect for making a version of that old '70s treat, the Chile Relleno Casserole - just thaw, dry and then spread them in layers with the cheese. I'm also thinking about stirring them into the cheese sauce for tonight's mac'n'cheese. Since we're feeding guests … of COURSE I will! My favorite tightrope number.

                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Ooh, Chile Relleno Casserole. That sounds perfectly yummy. Honestly, there's probably nothing that they wouldn't enhance. We have something like Food4Less that caters somewhat to the Latino market. I'll have to check it out. Thanks. PS: Enjoy that dinner!

                          1. re: c oliver

                            BTW I did cook that for company, and it was pretty good. I do need to fiddle with egg/cream/flour ratios some more, but the concept is sound, and the flavor much deeper than the canned Ortegas that were commonly used in the dish's heyday.

                            1. re: Will Owen

                              We have grandbabes, kids and in-laws coming in in a few weeks. That sounds like a real possibility. If you 'fiddle' and come up with suggestions, please post. TIA.

                        2. re: c oliver

                          Any Mexican recipe with 'rajas' in the name probably uses these strips.


                          Frozen Poblano strips at Walmart, La Huerta brand (looks like a Mexican source).

                            1. re: paulj

                              Those are the ones I got from Food4Less. And I do want to do the rajas con crema dish!