Which Mexican Chilli Should I Use

Here are some of the most unique and popular varieties of Mexican chillies. 

Ancho Chilli

Ancho chilli is a large, dried poblano chilli about 8 cm long and 4 cm wide. Deep-purple to black in colour, it has a mild fruity flavour with notes of coffee, tobacco, wood and raisin. When you think of combining chocolate and chilli, such as in a Mole Poblano or chilli chocolate drink, defer to ancho chilli.

The fruity notes in Ancho chilli marries perfectly with chocolate. Ancho chillies are arguably the most used dry chilli in Mexican cooking. They are quite mild with a heat level of around 4/10

Chipotle Chilli

Chipotle chilli (pronounced che-pote-lay) is a large, smoked, dried jalapeno with a smoky, deep well-balanced heat. Chipotle Chilli Powder is a little like an extra smokey, slightly hot smoked paprika.

Chipotle is delicious when added to pumpkin soup, is used in many Mexican dishes, and by vegetarians in stews, soups and casseroles as a substitute for bacon bones. They are quite mild with a heat level of around 5/10.

Guajillo chilli 

Guajillo chilli (pronounced hwa-hee-yo) is very similar in appearance and taste to New Mexico chillies. Because of the large amount of flesh relative to seeds, guajillo chillies add a pleasing rich, red colour to food. They are about 15 cm long, and have an earthy, cherry-like flavour and distinct yet mild heat.

Guajillo chilli Powder is a convenient way to add this unique flavour to soups and casseroles, and to sprinkle on chicken and pork when barbecuing, roasting or grilling. Guajillo is an ideal chilli to use with pork as it’s in a favourite Mexican recipe for Pulled Pork Tortillas. Guajillo Chilli Powder has an agreeable heat level of around 4/10.

Mexican Chilli Powder

Mexican chilli powder is generally a blend of medium heat chilli powder, paprika and ground cumin seed, with oregano and salt sometimes included. This is what you would sprinkle on your tacos and use as a condiment whenever you are looking for that characteristic ‘Mexican’ taste. Heat level is around 6/10. 
For a milder, family friendly taco seasoning with no artificial ingredients, use Herbie’s Mexican Spice Blend.

Mulato chilli

Mulato chilli is very similar to ancho, being another type of dried poblano chilli. It’s dark-brown in colour and with a similar taste that is somewhat smokey. Heat level is only 3/10.

New Mexico chilli

New Mexico chilli is also referred to as ‘Colorado’ and ‘dried California chilli’. A New Mexico chilli is very large, about 15 cm long, with an earthy, cherry-like flavour and distinct yet mild heat. Use in stews containing chicken, seafood and beans. Heat level 4/10.


Pasilla (pronounced pas-ee- ya) is a dried chilaca chilli and is sometimes called ‘chile negro’. The flavour is similar to ancho and mulato chillies with fruity, herb-like notes and faint licorice tones.

This makes pasilla an ideal chilli to use with guacamole, as in Kate’s recipe for Cashew Guacamole with Pasilla Pepitas. Pasilla chilli is also used traditionally in making the famous ‘mole’ sauce. Heat level of pasilla chilli is around 4/10.

For more information about chillies, and herbs and spices in general, look for The Spice & Herb Bible 3rd Edition by Ian Hemphill with recipes by Kate Hemphill. Published by Robert Rose Inc. Toronto, Ontario, Canada.   

From www.herbies.com.au 
Check out the range of Herbies Spices at Peppertree Kitchen.