Chipotle Peppers: The Mexican Staple We Can’t Be Without

Chipotle peppers are an essential part of Mexican cuisine, and it’s not hard to see why. Smoky, spicy, and full of flavor, this classic dried pepper is a quick and easy way to instantly elevate your cooking.

What Do Chipotle Peppers Taste Like?

Chipotle peppers are moderately spicy with a smoky, earthy flavor and a hint of fruity sweetness. They’re typically sold swimming in adobo, a tangy, garlicky, and spicy sauce used throughout Mexican cuisine. The adobo sauce plumps up the dried chipotle peppers and doubles down on their heat and earthiness.

How Are Chipotle Peppers Made?

Though often thought of as a separate kind of pepper, chipotle peppers are actually dried jalapeno peppers. While jalapeno peppers used in cooking are picked when they’re unripe and green, the ones used to make chipotle peppers are left to ripen on the bush until they’ve dried and turned dark red. The ripened jalapenos are dried and smoked over firewood for about six days, then sold dried, ground, or canned with adobo sauce.

Image Credit: Flickr user woodleywonderworks ( CC BY 2.0 )

There are two kinds of chipotle pepper – morita, which is the kind you’re most likely familiar with, and meco, which is generally only found in Mexico or specialty food stores. Chipotle meco peppers are smoked for a significantly longer amount of time, which gives them an ashy brown color and an intensely smoky flavor.

Cooking with Chipotle Peppers

Chipotle peppers add mouthwatering heat and rich smokiness to savory dishes like our chicken taco bowl and chipotle black bean soup. Contrast its earthy flavor with tangy sour cream, bright cilantro, or tart tomatoes. Layer the heat of chipotle peppers with other peppers such as poblano, jalapeno, or cayenne. We used chipotle peppers in the marinade for our chipotle skirt steak and added a salsa spiked with roasted poblanos for good measure.

Don’t discard the adobo sauce that the peppers come in; it’s an easy way to bring the flavor of chipotle without having to add chunks of pepper. An extra tablespoon of adobo sauce goes a long way in barbacoa or braised pork with tamales.

Feature Image: Flickr user woodleywonderworks ( CC BY 2.0 )

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