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It's Chili Time! Which chili peppers to use for your pot of chili?

With winter full upon us and as I look out my window watching the snowflakes fall, the thought of a pot of hot chili cooking on the stove is upper most on my mind. But the question is, with the wide variety of chili peppers available, what chilis should I use to give my dish just the right kick? There are so many more choices than just red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper, the usual chili peppers selected to give food some heat.

In deciding which chili peppers are right for you and your family or friends (a pot of chili always tastes better shared), there are certain characteristic of the chili peppers you need to consider. Of course, the heat level comes first; however, certain chilis can also add another level of complexity to the dish, such as smokiness, sweetness, or a raisin or tomato like flavor. Below are some of our favorites at Spice For Life for making a unique pot of chili. We will often combine different chili peppers together.

First let’s discuss heat levels. The heat level of chilis are measured by the Scoville Heat Units (SHU), developed in 1912 by a pharmacologist named William Scoville, who devised a way of measuring a chili’s pungency or capsaicin level. The SHU go from 0 (think of a bell pepper) to over 2,000,000 million (the Carolina Reaper - currently the hottest chili pepper in the world- used in the Paqui One Chip Challenge). At Spice For Life, the hottest chili pepper we carry is the Habanero, weighing in at around 500,000 SHU; it is a super-hot, yet edible chile. To make the heat levels easier for our customers to understand, we use a 1- 10 scale with Habanero being the hottest at 10. Remember that dried chilis have more intense heat than fresh chilis, so a little can go a long way.

Some of our favorite dried chili peppers to recommend to our customers for their pot of chili are in the 3-6 level range for they add complex flavors, as well as heat: New Mexico Chile Peppers, Ancho Chile Peppers, Aleppo Chile Peppers, Urfa Biber Chile Peppers, and Chipotle Meco and Morita Chiles Peppers.

New Mexico Chile Peppers (Heat Level 3-4). This chile pepper is often overlooked; however, with its sweet fruity, earthy flavor, it is a wonderful addition to a pot of chili or for adding to a chili powder.

Ancho Chile Peppers (Heat Level 3-4). Ancho is a dried poblano chile and is the most popular chili in Mexico. It is part of the “Holy Trinity” of Mexican chiles that makes up mole’. Ancho chiles have a raisin-like, sweet, smoky, flavor and at times can pack a punch.

Aleppo Chile Peppers (Heat Level 4-5): This chile originates from Aleppo, Syria and it has a sweet warm tomato-like flavor with an afterbite.

Urfa Biber Chile Peppers (Heat Level 4-5): This chile is native to Turkey and urfa means pepper in Turkish. It has a tangy sweet raisin-like flavor with tobacco undertones.

Chipotle Meco and Morita Chiles Peppers (5-6 Heat Level): Chipotles are smoked jalapenos popular in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. There are two types of Chipotle Chiles: Meco and Morita, the difference is the time they are left to mature on the bush and the time in smoking. Meco Chiles are picked when they are still green and smoked twice as long as Morita Chiles. Morita Chiles are left on the bush longer. Both have a wonderful complex smoky fruity flavor.

So, try some of these dried chili peppers in you pot of chili to add some new flavors and kick. Be sure to check out our Green Chili Chicken Stew and Tex-Mex recipes . Enjoy!