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Nov 5, 2013 08:56 AM

Chili powder/Cayenne question.

Here in the UK almost all "Chili Powder" sold is a cocktail of spices (mainly cumin, paprika and cayenne) and flavourings which does a passable job in producing an ordinary chili con carne. It often comes in mild or hot versions, and I'm happy to use the mild sort, usually with sliced fresh chilis to give some heat.

In the US, however, it seems that chili powder is a pure hot powder, which, when I've found it in the UK (Rajah brand), appears to be identical to cayenne.

Are they one and the same please? Do some recipes call for both chili powder and cayenne?

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  1. Cayenne powder is specific to a certain type of chili. It is usually ground when red and ripe and is used more for the heat than for flavour. At least in my kitchen.

    Chili powder in North America is usually non specific and can use a variety of chilis. As such, the heat level can vary widely. Tasting them to find your preference is usually very economical.

    Unlike curry, I have yet to find anybody who grinds their own. But I am sure that I few Hounds will fess up, if not to yield their secret recipe.

    1. "Chili" powder is usually the blend, whereas "chile" powder is usually the ground powder of a single type of chile. Depending on how much heat you want, try different ones - ancho is milder and tends to be my go-to is I don't want a lot of heat.

      I have recipes that call for both, in which case I always use ancho for the "chile" powder and cayenne as indicated in the recipe. But I don't use the mixed chili pwder in these cases - as you state, that makes decent chili con carne.


      1. I live in California. I can buy "chili powder" a mix or "ground chili" an individual species of chili, dried and ground. Cayenne is a hot chili

        Not all chilis are the same, one can use different chilis in any combo they want, how much spice do you want

        1. 53% of chilies are poblanos, and most chili powders will be mostly anchos (dried poblanos), which are fairly mild, plus unknown others. Cayenne by itself is pure heat.
          The term 'chili powder' is very ambiguous.

          1. If you ask most Americans for chili powder, they will give you a blend of paprika, cumin, oregano and chiles that is mostly used to make chili con carne.

            Cooks who are familiar with South Asian or Mexican cooking may use the terms chili/chile powder differently. In my home, I cook a lot of South Asian food so the only chili powder in my cupboard is the red chilli powder I procure from the Indo-Pak grocer. Other Americans may keep chile powders of dried guajillos or anchos, which would give a very different flavor profile.

            When I am making chili con carne, commercial chili powders rarely have enough heat for me so I will add cayenne or Indian red chilli powder.