Types of Chiles for Mexican Cooking

Part of the Mexican Cooking For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Chiles are a staple in Mexican cooking. Take this list grocery shopping so you can recognize the type of chiles used for Mexican meals and choose the chiles with the flavor and degree of spiciness you like:

  • Serrano: A small, fresh, green hot chile. Used for spice and flavor in cooking and as a garnish.

  • Jalapeño: Larger than a serrano, though still small. This fresh green or red chile is probably the easiest to find in America. The ripe red version is sweeter; the green version can be spicy.

  • Poblano: A dark green, medium-sized fresh green chile often roasted and stuffed.

  • Habanero: A tiny, lantern-shaped fresh chile of extraordinary heat. Interchangeable with the incendiary Scotch Bonnet.

  • Chile de arbol: A small, red dried chile. It's the chile used for the dried red chile flakes in the spice section of the market.

  • Chipotle: A medium-small, wrinkled, dried brown chile with a unique smoky flavor reminiscent of bacon. It's the dried, smoked version of jalapeño.

  • Chile negro, or pasilla: A long, narrow, dark brown dried chile used for grinding into moles.

  • Ancho: A medium-sized, wrinkled, brown dried chile with a mellow, earthy, sweet flavor. It's the dried version of the poblano.

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