Turn the Heat Up: Chili Peppers You’ll Find in a Mexican Kitchen

January 14, 2021

The chili pepper makes up a big part of Mexican cuisine — locals have been incorporating the ingredient into their dishes for years. In fact, researchers believe that the plant came from the country itself, as they found 7,000-year-old chili pepper remains in Puebla and Tamaulipas.

The sway of chili peppers hasn’t waned with the passing of time; they still dominate Mexican courses, from simple, everyday meals to elaborate fiesta dishes. They’re also one of El Paso Mexican Restaurant’s ingredient staples in our Mexican food in Alexandria, VA. Let us tease your taste buds by listing down the different types of this healthy and flavorful ingredient.

The Top Trio of Chiles

Many varieties of chili peppers are found in Mexican kitchens, but three relatively mild chilis (dried peppers) dominate the cuisine, especially mole sauces, soups, and sauces. Sometimes, people combine them to create a rich flavor.

The Ancho chilis are dried, ripe Poblano peppers (which we will describe later) that have a distinct sweet and raisin-like flavor. Not only are they favored in Mexican dishes, but they’re also widely popular in Tex-Mex and fusion cuisines. It has a lower heat compared to its cousins, too; it registers about 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs).

Mulato chilis are, meanwhile, also made from Poblano peppers and have a sweet, fruity, and slightly smoky flavor. In fact, they lend a distinctive chocolate, cherry, or licorice note flavor to the dishes. Among the three, Mulato chilis are the hottest, as it usually scores about 2,500 to 3,000 SHUs.

Lastly, the Pasilla chilis — also known as the “Chile Negro” — are dried, ripe Chilaca peppers. They have a flavor reminiscent of sweet raisin and coffee. Long and thin, they taper at one end and have a wrinkled, nearly black skin. People commonly use them in meat dishes. They have a mild-to-moderate heat level, measuring about 1,000 to 4,000 SHUs.

The Kitchen Staples

Mexican cuisine has more to offer than the mentioned varieties. Here are other famous and flavorful peppers that you’d encounter in authentic Mexican food:

Jalapeños are one of the most popular pepper variants. It is often used as an ingredient of salsa and guacamole. Common varieties of the pepper include the Señorita, Fresno Chile, Sierra Fuego, and Mucho Nacho. Some famous chilis, such as the chipotle meco and morita chipotle, are made from Jalapeño peppers. It registers about 2,500 to 10,000 SHUs.

Serrano peppers are hotter than its Jalapeño cousin: they range between 5,000 and 20,000 SHUs on the heat scale. Like Jalapeños, however, people can still incorporate them into salads and salsas. Mexico is home to about 140 varieties of Serrano peppers, which have a fresh and crisp flavor.

Poblano peppers, meanwhile, have a rich and smoky flavor. They are a common ingredient in chile relleno, which are peppers stuffed with meat and cheese due to their sturdy, thick walls. They are about five times milder than the Jalapeño, with the mildest having 1,000 SHUs.

Habanero peppers are some of the world’s hottest varieties. They measure between 100,000 – 350,000 SHUs and are 12 to 140 times hotter than Jalapeños. They are commonly used for making hot sauces.

Fresh Chili Peppers in Authentic Mexican Food

Our staff can name and describe several other types of chili peppers as we handle them round the clock. Furthermore, our restaurants in Alexandria, Springfield, and Woodbridge offer authentic Mexican food heaped with pepper dishes that will give you a kick of flavor any time of the day.

Ready to experience the heat of Mexican peppers? Drop by our restaurants or contact our team to make a reservation.

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