The Most Popular Mexican Dried Chiles

The Most Popular Mexican Dried Chiles

Those dried up and wrinkled Chiles that you see wrapped in plastic bags at your local supermarket really do have a purpose. Although they might not look like much at first, they have an abundance of uses.

Ancho is the most common dried chili used in Mexico. This chili is actually called a Poblano when ripe.  Ancho means wide and the best Mexican Dried Chiles of this variety have a brown or reddish wrinkled skin that is still shiny. Ranging from mild to hot, Ancho’s are usually lightly toasted and then soaked before being ground to a powder for sauces. 

Cascabels are small and round with a reddish and brown skin. The name literally means rattlesnake because of its heat and the sound the small chili makes when you shake it. When toasted the flavor is quite rich and earthy. Casacabels work well in table sauces or cooked sauces made with tomatillos or tomatoes.

Chilpotle is actually a jalapeno chili that has been ripened and then dried with smoke. These small Mexican Dried Chiles have a tough skin almost like leather that is light brown and covered in a gold web. Chipotle Chiles are very hot with a fruity and smoky flavor. In Mexico Chipotle is used in broths and for canning. One of the most popular Mexican Dried Chiles in the US, it is used in everything from breads, salads, soups, sauces and salsas.

Dearbol is a fresh bright green chili that when ripe turns a bright red. When carefully dried, the Dearbol will retain its vibrant color. Long and skinny the Dearbol chili has smooth skin and is frighteningly hot. The most common way to use the Dearbol is to lightly toast and ground to a powder. This Mexican Dried Chile can also be added to refried beans and other Mexican favorites like burritos.

Guajillo is another popular Mexican Dried Chile that has a tough, smooth, and dark red skin. Long and narrow it can be mildly hot to hot. The sharp flavor lends itself well to table sauces and seasoning pastes when ground into a powder. If using Guajillo remember to strain thoroughly to remove the tougher bits from the skin.

Mulato is rarely used fresh unlike some of the other Chiles. One of the more expensive Mexican Dried Chiles, it is very similar to Poblano, but is darker and shinier. The taste is sweet and could be compared to chocolate. Ranging from mild to hot, they are about 5” long. Mulato is usually toasted or soaked before being ground into a powder. Popular uses include mole.

Pasilla is called chilac when it has ripened and been dried. It has a rich and sharp flavor and is black and shiny with vertical ridges and a wrinkled surface. Toasted or soaked, this Mexican Dried Chile is wonderful when blended with table and cooked sauces. It also makes a good sauce for seafood.

Seco Del Norte is actually a dried Anaheim chili. This 5” long Mexican Dried Chile has a full top and tapers to a pointed end. Smooth with a matte finish, this burgundy colored Mexican Dried Chile has a light acidic and sharp flavor ranging from very mild to hot. The Seco Del Norte is used in asados, carne con chili, chilaquiles, and enchiladas. 

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Marvelous Marinades


'Marinade' photo (c) 2011, Naotake Murayama - license:
Types and Purpose

There are two purposes for marinades. One is for tenderizing, while the other is for flavor enhancement. You can prepare dry, paste or liquid marinades.

Marinades that are acid based will tenderize and add flavor to all types of food, not just seafood and meat. Acids from citrus fruits, yogurt, pineapple, wine, and buttermilk will tenderize your food by unwinding the strings in your protein. This also adds flavor. Marinades that contain oils will penetrate deeper and more quickly into your foods. Extra-virgin olive oil makes a wonderful base for dozens of marinade recipes.  

To enhance the flavor, cooks use rubs or dry marinades. Although some rubs may be beneficial for tenderizing, the main reason for dry marinades and rubs is for flavor enhancement. The dry marinades can be mixed with oil, which is rubbed into the seafood, poultry, or meat. Most dry rubs are used when broiling, pan-frying, or barbecuing.

Flat cuts of meat work best for tenderizing marinades. Larger roasts will only be penetrated so far, leaving you with a tough center, and a mushy exterior. Even if you puncture the meat for penetration, you will get an uneven result. When marinating for tenderizing, place your meat in a large, heavy zip-lock bag. Squeeze out the air, and turn often. 

When marinating with acidic or enzymatic ingredients, made sure that you use glass, stainless steel or ceramic as aluminum will cause a chemical reaction leaving a discoloration. The marinade could also damage your aluminum container.

Average Marinating Time

The longer you leave your food in the marinade, the more flavors it will have. With that being said, marinating time will depend on the size of your ingredients and the marinade that you use.
'Spiedie marinade' photo (c) 2011, whatleydude - license:
As a general guide, marinate beef, pork and lamb for two to four hours, whole roasts four to six hours or overnight. Poultry fillets, wings, drumsticks and cutlets two to four hours, and a whole chicken four to six hours or overnight. Seafood like squid, octopus, and prawns should be marinated for one to two hours, while whole fish, fillets, and steak take two to four hours. Never marinade for more than two or four days, as your marinade will not destroy bacteria. As a rule of thumb only marinate for as long as the meat would remain fresh without marinating in your refrigerator. 
'lamb marinading' photo (c) 2009, mjtmail (tiggy) - license:

Safety in handling proteins and marinades

If you are marinating fish, be sure and discard the marinade after use as it contains the raw juice from the fish. Never reuse marinade as it could be contaminated. If you do want to reuse your marinade, make sure that you boil it for at least five minutes before you use it again.  

Never baste meat or vegetables on the grill with the marinade or raw juice as it could be contaminated.
Before you add your food to the marinade, wash your hands with soap and water.

Marinade Recipes

14 Marinades and Rubs