Chiles are the foundation of Mexican cuisine. Most Mexican recipes use fresh chiles or dried chiles. Their flavors, textures and uses vary. Two of the most popular fresh chiles used in Mexico are the jalapeño and poblano. Jalapeños are readily available in most grocery stores. Also, the poblano, famous as the pepper battered and filled with cheese is easy to find.
When chiles are dried, their flavor profile changes and so does their name. For example, a dried poblano is an ancho. Smoke dry a jalapeño and you have a chipotle. Learn more about different varieties of chiles – fresh and dried. Watch Chef Rick Bayless’ crash course and learn everything you need to know about Mexican chiles.
Types of Fresh Chiles in the Mexican Kitchen
Not all chiles are hot. Usually larger chiles like the poblano have more flavor. While smaller chiles like the serrano and jalapeño are more spicy. However, if you are looking to reduce the spice, it’s important to remove the veins and seedpod inside. This is where the capsaicin is. Capsaicin is what give chiles their heat.
Some chiles are extremely hot. The habanero has one of the best flavors, but also one of the hottest spice levels. This pepper ranges in color from green to red to bright orange. It has distinct floral notes and packs a punch of heat. It is commonly found in Mexico, especially in the Yucatan.
When working with chiles of any it is important to remember the oils can get on your hands. So remember to wash your hand very well before touching your eyes or anywhere on your face. And especially be careful when using the restroom. That’s a burn you don’t want to have.
Note: Chile is sometimes spelled chili or also called chili pepper.