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Morita Chili Pepper Guide: 9 Things to Know

Morita chili peppers are dried and smoked Jalapeño peppers and are the most widely used Chipotle pepper variety in the United States and.

Morita chili peppers have a smoky taste and medium heat intensity. Morita peppers are used in a wide range of recipes and have many substitutes. Morita peppers have a shelf life of up to two years if stored in an airtight container.

This article will discuss nine exciting things you probably never knew about Morita chili peppers.

Photo of Morita Chili peppers set against a white background
Morita chili peppers, which are smoked dried Jalapeno chilies, are great flavor enhancers. Photo by Maxim Tatarinov

What are Morita Chili Peppers?

Morita chili peppers are essentially dried and smoked Jalapeño chilis. Jalapeño peppers, when fully ripened and red in color, are dehydrated and then smoked. The final product is known as a Morita chili pepper.

The smoking process gives the pepper a subtle, smoky taste while still retaining its original fruitiness.

In Spanish, “Morita” means “small blackberry,” which is why Morita chilis are sometimes referred to as blackberry chilis. Other names for Morita peppers include Mora chilis and Chipotle Colorado peppers.

Morita chili peppers come in a whole, dried form, or you can buy them as chili powder. To use dried Morita peppers, you need to soak them in hot water for 20 minutes to rehydrate them.

What do Morita Chili Peppers Taste Like?

Morita chili peppers are richly flavored, spicy, and have an exciting and in-depth taste profile. The smoking process gives the peppers notes of applewood and pecan, which act as the perfect balance to the pepper’s berrylike fruitiness.

The Morita pepper’s soft, rich fruitiness is not sweet but somewhat tangy and slightly acidic. The delicate fruit notes pair well with the sweet chocolate overtones, which also help balance out the acidity. 

As a chili, the Morita variety does not have intense heat, and many people describe its heat as a medium, earthy heat that is slightly grassy. Of course, the more Morita chilis you use, the hotter your dish will be, so the final taste of your cuisine is heavily dependent on the quantity used.

Morita chilis taste different depending on whether they are dried, used whole, or in a powder form. This is because the powder often contains other spices, which can impact the taste.

What do Morita Peppers Look Like?

You would be forgiven for mistaking a Morita pepper for a large raisin because that is kind of how it looks!

Like raisins, Morita peppers have a very wrinkled appearance, and their color can range from deep red to dark brown.

Morita peppers plump up when soaked in water, and the skin becomes pliable and not as wrinkled.

A Morita chili pepper’s size varies. Their length can range from two inches (5 cms) to four inches (10 cms), and they are typically around one inch (2.5 cms) wide.

How Spicy are Morita Peppers?

Morita peppers are considered medium heat intensity chilis and measure from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units on the Scoville Scale. The Morita has the same heat levels as its unprocessed fresh Jalapeño.

Morita chilis are fully-ripened Jalapeño peppers, and this accounts for their full-bodied smoky and spicy taste. They are definitely hot peppers but are not overpowering.

The Morita pepper’s medium heat intensity makes it a very versatile chili. Used sparingly, it can create a mildly spiced recipe, perfect for those who can’t handle spicy foods. When more significant amounts of Morita chilis are used, a much hotter dish is created, satisfying people who love the heat.

What to Use Morita Chili Peppers on

Morita chili peppers are incredibly versatile and make an excellent addition to any kitchen pantry.

In southwestern U.S. states and Mexico, the Morita pepper is a staple ingredient, forms part of many popular dishes, and helps build additional flavor.

You can use Morita chili peppers in a broad range of dishes and recipes, including sauces, stews, and seasoning. Most people use them in a similar way to other chili peppers.

When using them in dishes like stews or salsas, it’s best to rehydrate Morita peppers by soaking them in hot water for around 20 minutes.

If you want to bring out the full flavor of your Morita peppers, you can roast them lightly for ten minutes in a pan. This process loosens up the chili’s oils and enhances the fruity taste.

When chopping Morita chilis, make sure to wash your hands thoroughly once you’re done. Your eyes might get irritated if you inadvertently touch your eyes with the juice still on your fingers. It’s always a good idea to wear disposable gloves when working with chili peppers to avoid this painful sensation.

Below are some popular ways to use your Morita chili peppers:

  • Sauces. Morita peppers work well as part of a sauce. A famous Mexican sauce to use is a mole poblano sauce, which also features poblano, ancho, guajillo, and pasilla peppers.
  • Stews. Morita chilis can give life to an otherwise ordinary stew. Tinga de Pollo is a Mexican stew that can also be eaten with tacos or tortillas. It consists of chopped Morita peppers, chicken, and tomato.
  • Salsa. A popular dish using Morita chili peppers is salsa de Morita, a basic salsa consisting of tomatillos, garlic, and finely chopped Morita chili peppers. Of course, Morita peppers also give regular salsa an exciting kick.
  • Paired with cilantro. Morita chili peppers and cilantro taste great when paired together. This combination is popular in sauces, salads, and as a pizza topping.
  • Dry salsa. This snack is similar to gremolata and is also called salsa seca. You can make dry salsa by combining chopped Morita chilis, sesame seeds, fried peanuts, lime, salt, and garlic. Salsa seca makes an excellent side for braised steak.
  • Fish. Although fish has a delicate flavor, Morita peppers enhance the taste by introducing smoky and spicy notes. Camarones a la diabla is a shrimp-based fish dish that uses Morita chilis to give it some pleasant heat.
  • Chili. Chili con carne is a spicy meat stew containing beef, kidney beans, tomatoes, cumin, onion, garlic, and Morita chilis. You can adjust the spice level with the number of Morita peppers you use.
  • Meat rub. Morita chili pepper powder can be combined with other seasonings (like sea salt or garlic) to create a tasty and mildly-spiced meat rub.
  • Pizza seasoning. Morita chilis can bring life to a bland Margarita pizza. Simply sprinkle some finely-chopped Morita peppers on your pizza and enjoy the spicy yet fruity kick.
  • Chili powder. Many Morita chili fans like to ground these peppers finely to form a tasty chili powder, which can season anything you want.
  • Baking. Morita peppers complement chocolate well and is excellent for baking brownies or chocolate cakes.

Are Morita Peppers the Same as Chipotle Peppers?

Chipotle peppers are dried Jalapeños. There are two kinds of Chipotle peppers: Moritas and Mecos. So, while all Moritas are Chipotle peppers, all Chipotles are not Moritas.

Morita and Meco peppers share many similarities, the main one being that they are both smoked and dried Jalapeño peppers.

Meco peppers (also known as Chili ahumado, chili Meco, or Típico) are smoked for a more extended period than Morita peppers, and they, therefore, have a smokier taste.

The longer smoking process also gives Meco peppers more heat than Morita chilis, and they tend to be drier.

You can tell if a Chipotle chili is a Meco or a Morita pepper by its color. Morita peppers are red to brown, while Meco peppers are light brown and similarly colored to tobacco leaves.

The term “Chipotle” refers to any Jalapeño pepper that has ripened on the vine. Chipotle peppers are then dried out and smoked.

Photo of morita chili peppers sitting in a mortar.
Morita chili peppers sitting a mortar. Photo by Carlosrojas20

What are the Best Substitutes for Morita Chili Peppers?

Each chili variety has its unique flavor profile and spice level, making it difficult to find an exact match. However, many chili peppers share a lot of similarities.

The best substitutes for Morita chili peppers are Pasilla de Oaxaca chilis, Meco chilis, Cascabel chilis, and Guajillo chilis. You can also use smoked sweet Paprika powder as a substitute.

  • Meco chili. Although Meco chilis are hotter on the Scoville scale, you can use the two pepper varieties interchangeably. You can use fewer Meco chilis than Morita peppers to ensure your dish has the same spice level.
  • Guajillo chilis. If you are looking for a chili pepper with the same fruity taste profile as Morita peppers, Guajillo peppers are ideal.
  • Pasilla de Oaxaca chili. This chili originates from the Oaxaca region of Mexico. It gives the same heat intensity as the Morita pepper but is not widely available in U.S. stores.
  • Cascabel chilis. These peppers are a fantastic alternative if you are looking for a chili pepper with the same nuttiness as the Morita chili. They pair well with de arbol chiles as this variety brings intense heat to any dish.
  • Smoked sweet paprika. This chili pepper variety has the same smoky depth profile as the Morita pepper and is a great alternative.

Can I Use Powdered Morita Peppers Instead of Dried Moritas?

Morita peppers are available whole, dried, or in powdered forms.

If your recipe calls for dried Morita peppers and you only have powdered ones (or vice versa), you can usually use them interchangeably. However, the powder tends to be more bitter and is not as fruity, smoky, and tangy, so you should be prepared for a slight flavor difference in your dish.

In addition, if you want to ensure you have the same heat level, you will need to use a little less powder compared to chopped or dried Morita chilis.

Finely chopped Morita peppers give a pleasant pop of heat to sauces and stews. With Morita chili powder, the heat is more evenly dispersed.

If you only have Morita chili powder, an excellent idea is to combine it with some flour to make a roux, which will help the sauce bind with the chili powder.

Bear in mind that chili powder typically contains a mixture of other spices, so it’s a good idea to consult the product label to check the ingredients.

How to Store Morita Chili Peppers?

Correctly storing your Morita chili peppers is essential if you want them to retain their unique taste and flavor profile. 

You should store your Morita chili peppers in an airtight container to help preserve the compounds that give them their flavor. An airtight container also helps maintain the chili pepper’s softness.

You can store your airtight container in your kitchen pantry or the refrigerator. However, be sure to keep the container away from direct light as this can impact the pepper’s color.

Most people don’t use their chili peppers all at once. If you were to store Morita chili peppers in a porous container, air would circulate around them freely, causing total flavor loss.

Over time, chili peppers lose their texture and gradually become hard and leathery, which is not only unpalatable but challenging to chop.

How Long do Morita Chili Peppers Last?

Morita chili peppers can last for up to two years if stored in an airtight container. However, they are best eaten or used within three to six months if you want to benefit from their complete flavor profile.

If you have a large number of Morita peppers and you aren’t sure when you’ll use them, you could freeze or dry them to help retain the flavor.

Closing Thoughts

As one of two types of Chipotle chilis, Morita peppers are dried and smoked Jalapeño peppers. They are red or brown, wrinkled, and have a rich, smoky, and fruity flavor profile,.

As medium heat chilis, Morita peppers measure between 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units. Morita peppers can be substituted with Pasilla de Oaxaca, Meco, Cascabel, Guajillo chilis, or smoked sweet Paprika.

With a shelf life of up to two years, Morita peppers are incredibly versatile. They can be used extensively in many dishes or as a seasoning. For best results, make sure to store your Morita chilis in an airtight container.