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Chili Peppers Capsicum species - Mexico

DK Publishing's logoDK Publishing 02-07-2014 DKBooks
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© Provided by DKBooks


In Mexico, fresh and dried versions of a chili pepper often have different names. Specific chilies are required for specific dishes; using the wrong one can alter the balance of flavors. Large, fleshy poblanos are used as a vegetable, often stuffed; jalapeños and serranos appear in salsas, stuffings, and pickles; dried anchos and pasillas are often ground to thicken a sauce. When used fresh, green chili peppers tend to be preferred, and they are often charred and peeled before being used.

Other chili peppers

Mulato (C. annuum) is similar to ancho, but chocolate brown; the taste is full-bodied, sweeter than ancho, with notes of dried cherries, and mild to medium-hot. Mostly toasted and ground for sauces. 3–5/10

De arból (C. annuum) is seldom found fresh; it remains bright red when dried. Slender, curved, and pointed, with thin flesh and a smooth skin, it is searingly hot and has a somewhat tannic flavor. Soaked and then puréed, de arbóls are used in stews and as a table sauce. 8/10

Poblano (C. annuum) is dark green and shiny, with a ridge around the base of the stem. The shape is triangular and tapering, and the flesh is thick. Roasted and peeled, poblanos are stuffed or fried. They pair well with corn and tomatoes, and have a rich flavor. 3–4/10

Pasilla (C. annuum) is the dried chilaca, slender, wrinkled, and almost black. It has an astringent yet rich flavor with herby notes that is complex and long-lasting. Toasted and ground it is used in table sauces or in cooked sauces for fish. 6–7/10

Güero (C. annuum) is pale yellow, smooth, long, and pointed, with thin flesh. The taste is lightly floral, mild to medium-hot. Güeros are used fresh in salsas and moles. 4–5/10

Serrano - C. annuum

Mid-green, cylindrical, crisp-textured, with a concentrated, fresh, grassy flavor and very pungent seeds and veins. It ripens to bright red. Commonly used in sauces. 6–7/10

Habanero - C. chinense

Lantern-shaped, mid-green ripening to yellow, orange, and deep red, thin-fleshed, and fruity. Mostly used in Yucatán, raw or roasted, to flavor beans and sauces. For a hot sauce, blend roasted habaneros with salt and lime juice. 10/10

Jalapeño - C. annuum

Bright green, some with dark patches, torpedo-shaped, quite fat with crisp, thick flesh. Sometimes roasted and peeled. Jalapeños have a light flavor and are medium-hot. Red and fully ripe they are sweeter and less hot. Also sold canned en escabeche (pickled) and widely used as a table condiment. 5–6/10

Chilaca - C. annuum

Thin, deep red and shiny, with vertical ridges. The deep flavor has a hint of licorice. Roasted and peeled, they are used in vegetable dishes, with cheese, and in sauces. Sometimes available pickled. 6–7/10

Cascabel - C. annuum

This is round and brown-red, with a smooth, translucent skin; the seeds rattle when you shake it. It has a lightly acidic, smoky flavor and is agreeably nutty after toasting. Moderately hot, it is toasted and blended with tomatoes or tomatillos to make a salsa, and crumbled in stews. 4–5/10

Ancho - C. annuum

This is a dried poblano. Deep red-brown, wrinkled, fruity, and sweet with rich flavors of tobacco, prune, and raisin, and slightly hot. Anchos are toasted and ground for sauces, or can be stuffed. Also available as powder and blocks of paste. The most popular dried chili pepper. 3–4/10

Chipotle - C. annuum

The smoke-dried jalapeño. Tan to coffee-colored, wrinkled, leathery, it has a smoky, sweet, chocolate smell and taste. Often used whole to flavor soups and stews. Soaked and puréed, it goes into sauces. Available canned in a light pickle for use as a condiment. 5–6/10

Guajillo - C. annuum

This is long and slender, with a blunt point; maroon with brown tones and a smooth, tough skin, it has high acidity, giving a tangy, pleasantly sharp taste. It is soaked and blended for enchilada sauces or crumbled into stews. It colors foods well. 4/10

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