As the weather turns cold, a pot of hot chili is the type of comfort food that can restore the soul, as well as re-kindle the fires. But which chilis will give just the right kick to the dish?  Of course, that depends upon your flavor preference and heat tolerance. Fortunately, there are so many choices of chili peppers, much more than the red pepper flakes or cayenne pepper, usually chosen to spice up a meal.

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 characteristics 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 often combine different chili peppers together in our pot.

Understanding the Heat Level:

The heat level of chilis is measured by Scoville Heat Units (SHU), developed in 1912 by a Detroit pharmacologist named William Scoville. He 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. And the smaller the chili pepper the hotter it will be.


Chili Peppers to Use in Your Chili:

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 some heat. They are: New Mexico Chile Peppers, Ancho Chile Peppers, Mulato Chile Peppers, Pasilla Negro Chile Peppers, Guajillo 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.

Mulato Chile Peppers (Heat Level 3-4). Mulato is also a dried poblano chile, which is native to Mexico, and is the second part of the “Holy Trinity” of Mexican chilis that makes up mole’. The difference between this chile and the Ancho chile is that the Mulato Chile ripens longer on the bush, giving it a deeper brown color, leading to a more complex and fuller body flavor than the Ancho Chile.

Pasilla Negro Chile Peppers (Heat Level 3-4). This chile is a dried Chilaca Chile and it is the third part of the “Holy Trinity” of Mexican chilis that makes up mole’.  The Pasilla Chile is also used in adobo sauces. It has a mild fruity, somewhat chocolate-like, woody flavor.

Guajillo Chile Peppers (Heat Level 2-4). The Guajillo Chile is a very popular chile in Mexico with a more subtle flavor that does not overpower dishes. It has sweet, slightly tart, mildly smoky flavor. It also is used to make Harissa, a North African spice blend.

Aleppo Chile Peppers (Heat Level 4-5). This very popular 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 unusual 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 Chile Peppers (Heat Level 5-6). 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, giving the Meco a wonderful deep smoky flavor. Morita Chiles are left on the bush longer, are not as smoky, but fruitier in flavor. Both are a wonderful addition to a pot of chile, especially combined with any of the Mexican chilies mentioned above.


Try some of these dried chili peppers in your pot of chili to add some new flavors and a kick. In addition, be sure to check out two of our favorite Spice For Life chili recipes: Green Chili Chicken Stew and Alan’s Modern Cincinnati Chili. Both of these recipes use our own Spice For Life Mild Chili Powder, made up of a blend of Ancho and Mulato chile peppers with paprika, cacao, onion, and garlic.

Remember, it’s chili time! Enjoy!






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