Got a bag of whole dried chilis and no idea what to do with them? You're in luck! Today, we embark on a vibrant journey into the world of whole dried chilis – a symphony of flavors waiting to elevate your dishes to new heights. In this spicy odyssey, we'll delve into the unique profiles of Ancho, Guajillo, Mulato, Yahualica, Cascabel, and the exceptional whole dried Espelette pepper. Don't worry if you've got a different variety, these recipes and techniques work with all peppers. Ready your taste buds, because it's about to get caliente in the kitchen!


Pozole Rojo Recipe

Embracing the transformative power of whole dried chili peppers is a journey worth savoring. Begin by unlocking their depth through toasting—simply dry-roast the chilis in a pan until fragrant, intensifying their smoky notes and awakening their nuanced flavors. Next, rehydrate them by soaking in hot water, unleashing a vibrant spectrum of tastes ranging from fruity to earthy. Once plump and soft, these chilis are ready to become the foundation for a plethora of dishes. You can also toss a whole dried chili or two or three into your pot of beans and it will rehydrate with the beans leaving them with a depth of flavor and spicy kick of heat. Elevate your sauces by blending rehydrated chilis into a velvety puree, infuse oils for a fiery kick, or incorporate them into spice rubs for meats that boast a complex warmth. Whether you're crafting a traditional mole, adding depth to a chili con carne, or infusing oils for a pasta aglio e olio with a spicy twist, whole dried chili peppers are the culinary alchemy that turns ordinary dishes into extraordinary, leaving a lingering warmth that defines the essence of a well-balanced and flavorful meal.

basic chili pepper sauce recipe

Basic Chili Pepper Sauce

Start by toasting 1 cup of dried chilis in a dry pan for a couple of minutes until they are fragrant. I recommend using a mixture of 3 types of peppers for a more complex flavor.  Remove the stems, shake out the seeds, and rinse the peppers. Then soak the chilies in boiling water for 20-30 minutes. In a saucepan, sauté 2 minced garlic cloves and a chopped onion in 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil until softened. Blend the soaked chilies, garlic, and onion with 1 cup of distilled white vinegar, 1 tablespoon of sugar, and 1 teaspoon of salt until smooth. Optionally, strain the mixture for a smoother consistency. Simmer the sauce in the saucepan over low heat for 15-20 minutes to meld flavors and achieve the desired thickness. Adjust seasoning to taste, cool the sauce, and store it in sterilized jars in the refrigerator. Enjoy this versatile chili pepper sauce on tacos, grilled meats, or as a spicy marinade base.


Salsa Macha is a flavorful and spicy condiment that originates from Mexican cuisine. It's delicisoun on everything from tacos to eggs. The basic ingredients of Salsa Macha typically include dried chilies, garlic, nuts (such as peanuts or almonds), and oil. These components are blended or finely chopped to create a paste-like consistency. The choice of chilies can vary, ranging from smoky to fiery varieties, imparting a complex and rich flavor profile. The use of nuts adds a unique texture, while garlic contributes aromatic depth.

Over the centuries, the recipe for Salsa Macha has evolved, adapting to regional ingredients and culinary preferences. What remains constant is its core composition, typically consisting of dried chilies, garlic, nuts (such as peanuts or almonds), and oil.


Pozole rojo (or red pozole) is a beloved Mexican soup that has been enjoyed for centuries. This traditional recipe from Chef Dave Smoke McCluskey serves up a taste of the past with heirloom corn that has been nixtamalized with wood ash, lending the stew deep and complex flavors with a hint of smoke. This is a pozole for real pozole fanatics featuring a rich home made pork broth with scorched onions, and toasted whole chilis that compliments, rather than overwhelms, the taste of the corn which is truly the star.

Whole Dried Ancho Peppers

1. Ancho: The Marvel of Depth

Spice Level 🔥🔥

The Ancho chili, a dried poblano, brings a rich, smoky sweetness to your dishes. With a mild heat and sweet fruity flavors of roasted tomato with a subtle hint of tobacco they are essential in everything from salsa to a pot of beans. We love them combined with Mulato and Guajillo peppers in our vegan 5 alarm chili. For a decadent mole sauce, toast Ancho chilis until fragrant, then rehydrate them and blend with other ingredients for a velvety, complex sauce that pairs beautifully with meats and enchiladas.


Whole Dried Guajillo Peppers

2. Guajillo: The Bold and Bright

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Guajillo chilis boast a mild heat and a bright, tangy flavor. They have a sweet, mild heat when the seeds are removed and pack in more of a punch when the seeds are used. They have robust flavors of berry with smoky undertones that add complexity and nuance to sauces, stews and marinades. Infuse them in broths, stews, or salsas to add a delightful kick. Create a vibrant Guajillo salsa by soaking and blending these chilis with tomatoes, garlic, and a dash of lime for a zesty accompaniment to grilled meats or tacos.


Whole Dried Mulato

3. Mulato: Mellow and Chocolatey

Spice Level 🔥🔥

Known for their subtle smokiness and chocolate undertones, Mulato chilis bring a unique dimension to your dishes. If you love authentic Mexican cuisine, then Whole Dried Mulato Peppers are an essential ingredient to have in your pantry. Named after the Spanish word for “dark” on account of their deep red color and intense flavor, these chiles offer a spicier alternative to traditional Ancho Chile peppers. Unlike anchos that are dried poblano peppers picked at an early stage, mulatos are left to fully mature on the plant and turn a bright red before being dried. The result is a finely-textured pepper that gives dishes like moles or chile con carne an extra bit of oomph. The flavor of mulatos is truly unique - it features sweet notes of raisins along with earthy and aromatic flavors, making it a favorite among gourmet foodies everywhere. From providing subtle heat to enhancing the spicy kick of your favorite Mexican dishes, these versatile chiles provide infinite possibilities. 


Whole Dried Yahualica Peppers

4. Yahualica: The Hidden Gem

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Yahualica chilis, with their fruity and tangy notes, offer a pleasant surprise to your taste buds. Whole dried heirloom chilis with complex flavors of smoke and stone fruit and a lingering heat. They'll add the perfect kick of heat to your pot of beans, chili or home made salsa. Infuse oil with dried Yahualica chilis for a flavorful base in salad dressings or drizzle over roasted vegetables for a touch of sophistication.

whole dried cascabel peppers
5. Cascabel: Spicy Elegance

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Cascabel chilis, resembling small rattles, deliver a spicy and nutty flavor. What makes these Cascabel chiles stand out is their intensity. These petite powerhouses bring a bit more heat than store-bought varieties, ensuring a flavor experience that tantalizes the taste buds and elevates dishes to new levels.  Grind them into a powder and sprinkle over grilled corn or mix into chocolate-based desserts for a subtle, lingering heat that tantalizes the senses.


whole dried espelette peppers
6. Espelette: The European Charm

Spice Level 🔥🔥

Venture beyond Latin American chilis with the Espelette pepper, originating from the Basque region. This unique chili offers a mild heat and fruity essence. The Piment d'Espelette pepper is sweet and spicy, warm not hot. Use these whole peppers to make a top chef worthy sauce or a salsa with a basque flair. Prized by French chefs, this ingredient was only available imported as a powder from France until a Napa Valley chef committed to sustainability made it his mission to bring the seeds to his own farm. Crush these vibrant red peppers over seafood dishes, use in marinades, or infuse them into olive oil for a touch of European flair.

In conclusion, whole dried chilis are the secret weapon in any culinary arsenal. From the smoky richness of Ancho to the European charm of Espelette, each chili variety brings its own distinct personality to your creations. So, go forth and experiment – let the heat guide you to culinary bliss! Your taste buds will thank you for this spicy adventure. 

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