Ancho Chilis: At a Glance
The Ancho Chili – which translates to “wide chili” – is the dried, ripened version of the Poblano pepper. Known for its medium-heat and smoky-sweet profile, the Ancho Chili is a staple in Southwestern and Mexican cooking.
Considered among the “holy trinity” of Mexican chilis, Anchos are used for seasoning tamales, salsas, red chili, and sauces. The chili’s mild flavor – it registers just 1,000-2,000 units on the Scoville scale – delivers a dash of heat, without overpowering any dish.
Cooking with Ancho Chilis
Ancho Chili powder is a quick and convenient way to add the rich flavor of Ancho Chilis to any dish. Commonly used in red chili, mole and sauces, Ancho Chilis have numerous uses in the kitchen. And they’re extremely versatile. The most common uses include:
- Sliced, Minced or Pureed: Dried Ancho chilis can be sliced or pureed and added directly to any dish or sauce to add smokiness and a dash of tame spiciness. A minced Ancho Chili can liven up plain sour cream or provide subtle notes of raisin or coffee to a Mexican stew or sauce. Lightly toasting whole chilis brings out additional heat, as well.
- Rehydrated: Dried Ancho chilies can be rehydrated in about 10-20 minutes in warm water. The key is timing. Any longer than 20 minutes, and the Anchos become bitter. Whole ancho chilis – whether rehydrated or not – provide the greatest depth of flavor. Using the whole chili is the most authentic preparation. Rehydrated chilis are also great stuffed with cheese and pork or beef.
- Ground: Whole chilis can be ground using a spice grinder or blender. Ancho powder delivers a rich, flavorful punch to any dish, and allows a bit more control over the heat. Removing the seeds prior to grinding can help to smooth out the spiciness.
Prefer to work with whole Ancho Chilis? Our whole Ancho Chilis Pods are a must-have in any gourmet kitchen.
Ancho Chilis: History and Origination
Poblanos – the pepper with which Ancho Chilis are made – originated in Puebla City, a city southeast of Mexico City and one of the largest in the country. In fact, “chile poblano” literally means chili from Puebla.
The chilis have been cultivated in the fertile Puebla Valley for centuries. The Mayans were the first to use dried poblanos in cooking, and even used them as a form of currency.
One popular Mayan sauce – a glaze of Ancho Chilis and honey – was commonly used as a spicy-sweet topping for pork and chicken.
During the Spanish Colonial period, poblanos become one of the region’s primary cash crops – which remains true today.
Cultivation of Ancho Chilis
Mexico and the Southwest U.S. offer the ideal mix of hot and dry for growing poblano peppers. The pepper requires full sun for nearly 120 days, and each plant grows to about 5 feet in height. A single plant produces about 25 peppers, which are harvested throughout the growing season.
Poblano peppers are picked while green, before they’re ripe. And this is the pepper that we’re most familiar with. Poblanos are most frequently used in chile relleno, for example. Yet, many growers designate poblano plants to be ripened on the vine.
When left to ripen, the pepper turns red. And this ripening process – which lasts about 2-3 weeks – changes the flavor profile of the fruit immensely. Ripened poblanos have a smoother, less bitter flavor, which is actually quite sweet.
Once they’re ripe, the Anchos are dried, and traditionally, this is done in open air. The peppers are tied up with twine – into a bouquet of red peppers called a ristra – which are hung in windows or open doorways. In fact, if you visit Mexico, Texas or New Mexico at the end of pepper growing season, it’s not uncommon to see ristras drying in windows or market stalls throughout the countryside.
About Our Ancho Chilis
Our Ancho Chilis come Hatch, New Mexico, which is known as the Chile Capital of the World. Hatch sits in the middle of the important Rio Grande agricultural valley. This corner of New Mexico – located near Las Cruses – has a thriving chili growing industry and produces all types of chilis and peppers.
Thanks to Hatch’s proximity to the rich Rio Grande soil, the region’s Ancho Chilis have developed their own unique taste over the last 50 years. With their sweet-honey, spicy and smoky notes, the region’s Ancho Chilis are some of the most flavorful in the world.
We source our Ancho Chilis from a small group of family farms in Hatch. Many of our partner farms have been family owned for generations, and have perfected their own traditional drying methods.