Any chili devotee worth his salt holds Chipotle up on a pedestal in his or her spice collection. As dried pepper can sometimes be hard to come by, the next best thing and the most convenient to stock in the kitchen is its powdered form. True Chipotle fans would be curious about it, so we are happy to oblige them with some tidbits.
Our Chipotle powder guide discusses all things Chipotle: its appearance, taste, composition, shelf life, where to buy it, the best uses for it, and possible substitutes. We also discuss how it’s different from chili powder and how to make your own.
This guide discusses the various aspects of Chipotle powder. If you’ve ever been interested in the spice that makes your cooking taste so lip-smacking terrific, read on.
Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked Jalapeños with a sweet, smoky flavor. Most Jalapeños are sold unripe and green, but some are left on the vine to be turned into Chipotle peppers. Jalapeños become red when they ripen on their vines.
Farmers pluck them at their ripest and smoke them with moist wood until completely dried for several days. Approximately 10 pounds (4.5 kgs) of Jalapeño peppers generate one pound of Chipotle peppers.
Chipotle peppers don’t look anything like their fresh Jalapeño counterpart—they look like prunes—dark and wrinkly with dry skin. Most are dark red in color, a deep crimoson red that is darker than red wine.
Hultquist says there are two types of Chipotle peppers, classified according to their drying time:
- Morita peppers are red, ripe Jalapeños smoked and dried for 50 percent less time than darker Chipotles, making them spongier, full-bodied, and dark red. They are standard additions to adobo sauce.
- Chipotle Meco is smoked for double the time as Moritas. That’s why their color is darker, specifically grayish or tan.
Chipotle powder is a fantastically zesty, immensely versatile seasoning made from dried, smoked, ground Jalapeños. It is a staple spice in Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisines.
Its medium heat makes it an appealing addition to dishes if you just need a tiny kick.
Chipotle powder is made solely of dried, smoked, crushed, and ground Chipotle chilis. Its smoky, moderate heat and fruity undertones make it a superb ingredient in barbecue sauces, chilis, and meat rubs.
Apart from boosting bland cuisine, Chipotle powder is considered a “super spice” with numerous remarkable health benefits. Health pundits say it helps in weight management, cardiovascular disease prevention, blood pressure reduction, and cancer prevention.
A tablespoon of Chipotle powder contains 3 grams (0.106 ounce) of fiber and approximately 24 calories. Chipotle powder is nutrient-rich with iron, potassium, and vitamins A, B2, and B6.
Chipotle powder has a subtle fruity, slightly sweet, earthy, funky, smoky taste cultivated from the smoking process, making it an ideal meat marinade for barbecues. Its spicy flavor comes from smoked Chipotle peppers typically used in Mexican cooking.
Chipotle powder is mildly spicy, with deep, complex heat, but it’s not overpowering. Some chili aficionados don’t consider the Chipotle to be a hot pepper because its heat level is not exceptionally noteworthy.
Chipotles are as hot as average Jalapeños, which vary from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units. The Scoville scale and its heat units were named after scientist Wilbur Scoville, who used them to measure a chili pepper’s heat and pungency level.
You can always make it the way the ancients did: manually, with a mortar and pestle or using a spice grinder.
To make chipotle powder, crush dried chipotle peppers in a spice grinder until they turn into powder. If you prefer a smoother consistency, sift out pulpy material. Alternatively, you can grind them into chili flakes, then use them as a dry rub or a seasoning to bring bland dishes to life.
Although Chipotle powder’s domain is Mexican cuisine, it also graces Tex-Mex cooking, Southwestern fare, and has permeated American dishes.
The best uses for Chipotle powder include stirring it into salsas, chilis, and curries. You can put it in dips, deviled eggs, tacos, and pizzas. If you’re having a movie night with popcorn, you can sprinkle it on your popcorn to give it a little kick.
Let’s look at some more of its varied uses:
- Stir it into sauces, salsas, chilis, stews, soups, and curries to add spiciness and color
- Rehydrate and process it into a chili paste or marinade
- Sprinkle it onto popcorn, potato salad, and deviled eggs
- Add it to chili con carne, tacos, quesadillas, and burritos
- Use it to fire up dips, salad dressings, hummus, and hot cocoa
- It makes a great topping for pizzas and sandwiches
- It is a delicious meat and seafood rub
Chipotle powder and chili powder are not the same. Spice specialists categorize their differences according to several distinctions. Let’s take a closer look at them.
Chipotle powder comes from dried, smoked, and ground Jalapeño peppers. Chili powder is a seasoning mixture of salt, powdered garlic, cumin, and oregano, with ground red chilis as its base.
The drying and smoking method used in making Chipotle chilis give the powder a smoky, earthy flavor. Chili powder’s spicy, pungent taste comes from its spice combination. If you want to use the latter in your dishes, reduce the number of other spices in your recipe to avoid over-seasoning.
Chili powder is pungent and tastes like a spice blend with a hefty portion of chili. Chipotle powder is also earthy but with a deep smokiness.
In general, store-bought chili powder is spicier than chipotle powder, but it does depend on the blend of spices used to create the chili powder. You could buy a version that is not as spicy as Chipotle powder.
Chili powder is a fusion of diverse seasonings, as mentioned previously. It generally includes either powdered Cayenne pepper or red chili pepper, along with salt, garlic, cumin and oregano, depending on the blend.
The quantity of chili pepper in the mixture varies from one brand to another. The type of chili pepper used may also be different, which affects the spice level of each blend. Some brands use ancho, while others prefer cayenne.
In contrast, chipotle powder has only one ingredient: dried, smoked, crushed Jalapeño peppers ground into powder form. Its simplicity and purity exhibit the intrinsic nature of the chipotle chili from where it originated.
Chipotle powder’s flavor is one-of-a-kind, so there is no perfect substitute for it. But the next best spice is always around the corner. Here are some suggestions:
- Ancho powder: This is the top choice for a chipotle powder alternative because, like Chipotle, ancho is also made from dried, ground peppers. The difference is that the peppers used are Poblanos which are chili peppers from the Mexican state of Puebla. Its sweet, fruity, and smoky flavor resembles that of raisins and exudes mild to medium heat.
- Smoked paprika: Though milder, it has a similar earthiness and smokiness to Chipotle because it is also made from smoked chilis. The difference is that paprika’s red peppers are smoked over an oak fire. Also, its color is brighter than that of Chipotle’s, and the intensity varies from brand to brand. You might try blending dark chili powder with smoked paprika.
- Spanish paprika: This spice, aka pimentón, doesn’t just originate from Spain but also from Hungary. When heated, Spanish paprika reaches its full potential, delivering a rich, earthy, sweet taste and a mild to fiery heat, depending on the variant. Traditionally, all paprikas are made from varieties of the same pepper group, including chili peppers, but those reserved for paprika have a thinner constitution and are milder in heat.
- Pimentón Dulce or sweet paprika: Sweet paprika is the most popular kind that tastes like fruit but with a trace of bitterness. It is made from sweet, bright, round red peppers but has a light orange color.
- Pimentón Picante: If you want your dish to deliver a blast of zing, go for the hottest member of the ground paprikas, which is hot paprika made from several varieties of long red peppers. Don’t be fooled by the initial sweet, pleasant, smoky flavor. A few seconds in, and your tongue will be on fire.
- Guajillo powder: This essential powdered seasoning in Mexican cuisine comes from dried Mirasol peppers. Its rich, complex, tangy flavor has traces of green tea, berries, and pine nuts. Some say the Guajillo pepper is a direct substitute for the Chipotle chili.
- Pasilla powder: Made from ground Pasilla black chilis, this powder has a rich, deep, fruity taste resembling raisins and prunes.
- Piri Piri powder: Generally ground Piri Piri peppers, but when you can’t find those peppers, you can create this powder with a mélange of Cayenne pepper, ginger, paprika, and oregano.
- Aleppo pepper: A flavorful spice conventionally used in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cooking. Its deep red color contrasts with its mild heat, described as half of a crushed chili flake.
- Crushed red pepper: Generally a hodgepodge of Anaheim, Bell, Jalapeño, and Fresno peppers.
- Cayenne: A very hot, intense red powder from dried, ground chili peppers.
- Adobo seasoning: Typically used in Mexican, Spanish, and Portuguese cuisine, this mixture combines salt, vinegar, garlic, oregano, and paprika. Turmeric or ancho is sometimes used as a substitute for paprika.
As heat levels vary among these spices, adjust the amount of each per recipe.
Where to Buy Chipotle Powder?
You can buy Chipotle powder in Mexican specialty stores, your local grocery’s Latin American section, farmers’ markets, and online. Chipotles are not just available in powder or ground form but also in adobo seasoning and whole pods.
These are three to try from Amazon:
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- Amazing Chiles & Spices: This premium, medium to high-heat chipotle powder seasoning is 100 percent natural from pure ground Morita chilis.
- Simply Organic: Get this if you want a 100 percent organic, vegan, and kosher-certified product. The Chipotle used in this powder is cultivated and manufactured in the U.S. with organic and non-irradiated methods. It doesn’t contain ionizing radiation, preservatives, additives, or chemicals.
- McCormick: This gourmet powder is for those who prefer a familiar brand and is non-GMO.
Opinions about Chipotle powder’s shelf life differ. Chipotle powder stays fresh up to six months if you store it in a cool, dry place. If your stash has lost its brilliant hue and intense aroma, it’s time to replace it.
Technically you can use it indefinitely if you store it properly away from bugs and mold. It is safe to consume and will retain its potency, flavor, and quality for one to two years after its “use/sell by” date. That is more of a “quality date” than a safety precaution, though. I am a big believer in used the freshest ingredents so if your chipotle powder has lost some of its flavor it’s time to replace it.
To get the most out of your Chipotle powder, keep smaller quantities for daily use in the pantry, storage rack, or kitchen cupboard. If you must hoard large amounts for some reason, store the powder away from oxygen, moisture, and light. Store in a properly sealed container in your pantry for best results.
Consuming spices and dried herbs past their prime is generally safe and unlikely to cause illness. However, they won’t flavor your dishes as much as fresh ones.
If you’re unsure how long you’ve had your Chipotle powder, check its flavor and scent. Crush a small amount, then rub it on your palm. If its smell is feeble and the taste is flat and dull, it’s time to replace it.
Tired of the same old chili on Fridays? Liven up those ho-hum recipes with this offbeat substitute to the routine spice. Now that you know more about Chipotle powder, you can now appreciate how it’s a force on its own. Sprinkle it on pizza for starters, then go the whole enchilada the moment you feel brave enough. Happy eating!