Fresh and dried chiles vary widely in spiciness depending on variety and seasonality. Smaller varieties are generally hotter. What makes chiles hot, capsaicin, is found in the inner membrane and seeds. Our shopping and cooking tips for chiles will help you add flavor and spice to your favorite savory recipes.
This is an umbrella term for a group of long, thin, tapered peppers that are relatively mild. Different cultivars of New Mexican chiles include Chimayó, Española, Anaheim and Big Jim. Hatch peppers are one of the most widely available—the name Hatch doesn’t actually refer to a distinct variety of peppers, but instead to the town around which they are grown in southern New Mexico.
Fresh New Mexican chiles, often labeled Anaheim, are available in the produce department of many supermarkets. Usually roasted and peeled before they’re eaten, fresh green New Mexican chiles have a floral, grassy flavor. Depending on where you live, you may find them already roasted in the freezer or refrigerated section of supermarkets or Latin markets. You can also use canned green chiles, available in the Mexican section of most supermarkets. Or you can roast and peel them yourself.
Oven-Roasting: Place on a baking sheet and bake at 450°F, turning occasionally, until soft and blackened in spots, 20 to 30 minutes. Grill-Roasting: Preheat grill to high. Grill peppers, turning frequently, until the skin is blistered on all sides and blackened in spots, about 10 minutes. To peel: Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let steam for 10 minutes to loosen the skins. Uncover and let cool.
Peel off the skin with your hands or a paring knife. Remove the stems and seeds.
Drying whole chiles imparts a smoky, slightly bitter flavor and preserves them for longer storage. Look for whole dried New Mexican chiles in the produce or spice section of supermarkets or Latin markets. Dried chiles are also ground to make chile powder (both coarse and fine). Unlike most commercial chile powder, which is a blend of spices, New Mexican ground red chile is just straight ground New Mexican chile. If you can’t find New Mexican chile powder, you can grind whole chiles in a spice mill or clean coffee grinder to the desired coarseness. You can order chiles whole or ground online at thespicehouse.com or nativehispanic.com (for authentic Chimayó chile powder grown by Chimayó Chile Project farmers). Substitution Tip: Dried ancho chiles or ancho chile powder can be used in place of whole New Mexican chiles or chile powder.