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The Best Way to Rehydrate Dried Chili Peppers

Chili peppers are often listed in many delicious recipes and a staple in many homes. If you buy them in bulk, you’re better off buying dried chili peppers because they last longer. But that means you’ll have to rehydrate them to get the most out of them.

The best way to rehydrate dried chili peppers is by de-stemming and de-seeding them, toasting, and then soaking the chilies in water. Although you don’t have to toast the chili peppers before soaking them, toasting will release all the natural flavors and result in great tasting recipes.

Before you rehydrate your dried chilies, make sure they’re high quality, and your chilies should be tough but still a little bit flexible. There should be no spots or discoloration on any of them, and they should be evenly dried and uniform in color. Read on to find out more about the rehydrating process.

Photo of three dried deep brown chipotles laying down on a white background. One of the chipotle peppers is propped up onto the pepper closest to the camera.
Photo by Maxim Tatarinov

Step-by-Step Guide to Rehydrating Dried Chili Peppers

This guide will discuss how you should rehydrate your dried chili peppers so they will retain their flavor. If you do it right, your meals and dishes will be full of wonderful spicy flavors.

To rehydrate your chili peppers the best way, follow these steps:

Remove the Stems

Cut off the top of the chili to remove its stem, and then cut a slit down the side so the chili splits open. Use a sharp knife that will cut easily and not bruise the chili peppers. Discard the stems.

Remove the Seeds

You will notice that you can shake out most of the seeds quite easily. If any stubborn seeds stick to the chilies, you can scrape them out with your finger or a spoon. Don’t use a knife for this because you can damage the chilies. You should also remove any dried veins from the chilies.

Toast the Chilies (Optional)

Once you have removed and discarded all the seeds, you should toast your chilies. To do this, put them in a skillet or a pan that has been heated on a medium-hot flame. Toast the chilies for three to four minutes and turn them often. Turning them frequently will prevent any burning that will ruin their flavor.

If you have accidentally burned your chilies, you should throw them away—the chilies will have a burnt flavor that won’t taste good when you cook with them. The chilies will transfer the burnt taste to the dish you use them in.

It’s best to dry toast your chilies, so don’t use oil or butter. Dry toasting ensures that the chilies’ natural oils are released.

Soak the Chilies

After you’ve toasted the chilies, it’s time to soak them and get them rehydrated. Put your chilies in a bowl and cover them with hot water. Soak them for 20 to 30 minutes. You don’t need to use any special or flavored water—plain hot water from your tap is good enough. In fact, it’s best if you don’t use flavored water because you want the chilies to release their own natural flavors.

How long you soak them depends on how thick they are. Thicker chilies call for a longer soaking time. If the chilies float a little too much, use a spoon to push them under the water occasionally. You can also place a plate above them to keep them submerged.

Inspect the Water

Once the chilies have been soaked long enough, the water should have a brownish color, much like diluted coffee. Taste the water and if it’s bitter, discard it, as it has no use. If the water has the flavor of your chilies, however, you can keep it.

You can later use this water in any recipes with chilies that call for liquid. You can also use the water in stews or cook meat in the now chili-flavored water.

Your Chilies are Ready to be Used

Now that you have rehydrated your chilies you can use them in recipes. Depending on what the recipe calls for, you can chop up, dice, or blend your chilies. If you want to blend the chilies, you may need to add liquid, and what better than to use the water left over from soaking your peppers (if it doesn’t taste bitter)

If your recipe has a sauce with vinegar, you can add some of the vinegar to the chilies during the puree process. You can even add your other seasonings and garlic to the chilies to save time.

Photo of a plant with exposed roots soaking in a fishbowl half full of water
Photo by Kids Nord

How Long Do You Need to Soak Dried Chilis To Rehydrate Them?

As we have discussed above, you should let your chilies soak for anything between 20 minutes to half an hour. This is the perfect amount of time to soften up the chilies enough for use. Take note not to soak the chilies too long, as they might get too soft or become bitter

Is There a Difference Between Reconstituting and Rehydrating Chili Peppers?

There is no difference between rehydrating and reconstituting chilies—it is two different words for the same thing. Reconstitute means ‘to build up something’ and when it comes to food, this restoration is done by adding water. When you rehydrate chili peppers, you are restoring it to its former state to be used in meals.

Should You Toast Dried Chili Peppers Before Rehydrating Them?

We highly recommended that you toast the chilies before you rehydrate them, as it adds a nice flavor. If you skip the toasting step, your chilies will not be as flavorful and could be quite bland. Toasting the chilies helps to ‘wake them up’ and releases all the flavor locked inside.

How Do You Use Rehydrated Chili Peppers?

There are many different things you can do with chilies that have been rehydrated. You can use rehydrated chilies the same way you would use fresh chilies bought from the store. They are great for sauces or can be used in a wide range of delicious dishes, such as salsas, chili pastes, or simply to add flavor to dishes you are cooking.

Photo for four deep brown dried chipotle peppers. The peppers are pointing upward and downwards in an alternating fashin
Photo by Gareth Bogdanoff

How Do You Clean Dried Chili Peppers: Do You Do It Before or After Rehydrating?

The best way to clean dried chili peppers is to use a damp paper towel to wipe off any dust or dirt. You can also rinse them off using plain, tap water before you start the process of rehydration.

Can You Freeze Rehydrated Chili Peppers?

If you have scoured the internet but turned up with no information on whether or not you should freeze rehydrated chili peppers, we’ve got you covered. While relevant information on this is relatively scarce, we found it best not to put rehydrated chilies in the freezer.

If you want to store the rehydrated chilies for later use, put them in an airtight container and store them in your refrigerator. It’s a much friendlier way to keep them fresh and ready for use when needed.

While you can certainly freeze your rehydrated peppers to keep them fresh for longer, it is not recommended that you freeze your chilies once you’ve rehydrated them. You just gave them back their moisture; why freeze them? Freezing rehydrated chilies might result in a loss of flavor, which is something no chili lover wants. If shelf life is your main concern, you are better off keeping the peppers dried, and only rehydrating small quantities of chili peppers as needed per recipe and use.

Closing Thoughts

Chilies are flavorful and delicious ingredients that can bring to life many otherwise bland recipes. Drying chili peppers is a great way to prolong their shelf life and rehydrating them prepares them for easy use. Rehydrating your chili peppers is easy and doesn’t take exceptionally long—just de-stem and de-seed the peppers, dry toast them in a pan, and soak them in water for up to 30 minutes. Once you’ve rehydrated your chilies, you can use them in any of your favorite recipes or store them in your fridge for later.