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.
Chipotle 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.