The Ultimate Guide to Ancho Chile Peppers: Flavor, Heat, and How to Use Them

There’s a good possibility that you’ve encountered the Ancho Chili Pepper if you enjoy Mexican food or have ever perused the spice section of a grocery store. These dried chiles give sauces, salsas, and marinades a distinctive and savory dimension. They are frequently used in many traditional Mexican cuisines.

Pile of dried black ancho chiles in burlap

We’ll delve into the definition of ancho chile pepper, some of its culinary applications, and how it differs from other varieties of chili peppers in this article.

What is an Ancho Chile Pepper?

Ancho chili peppers are a particular variety of chili pepper that are usually dried and utilized in their dehydrated state.

cooking chile ancho, mexican dried chili pepper seeds

It belongs to the Capsicum annuum species, which also includes bell peppers, jalapenos, and poblanos, three additional well-known chili peppers.

Ancho peppers are a dried variation of the mild to medium-hot poblano pepper, which is a Mexican chili pepper. The poblano pepper transforms into an ancho pepper once it has been dried and allowed to develop to a deep red color.

Ancho peppers have a mild to medium heat level, a deep, rich, and smoky flavor, with hints of dried fruit.

Depending on the particular pepper and how it is processed, the heat level can vary significantly, but it normally ranges between 1,000 and 2,000 Scoville units, which is comparable to the heat of a jalapeno pepper.

Ancho peppers can be used fresh, though it is less popular, and are also frequently used in dried form.

Culinary Uses of Ancho Chile Peppers

Ancho chile peppers are a common ingredient in traditional Mexican cuisines and can be added to a variety of sauces, salsas, stews, and marinades.

Heap of Ancho chile peppers on counter at market

Mole, a complicated sauce prepared from a number of ingredients, including Ancho peppers, chocolate, and spices, is one of the most well-known meals that uses Ancho peppers.

Adobo sauce, which is used as a marinade for meats including chicken, beef, and hog, also contains ancho peppers as a crucial ingredient.

In order to develop distinctive flavor profiles, ancho chiles are frequently combined with other chili peppers. For instance, they are frequently combined to make a smoky and spicy sauce with the smoky and hot Chipotle pepper.

Moreover, they are frequently mixed with other dried chilies, such as Pasilla and Guajillo peppers, to make a chili powder mixture that is used in Mexican food.

Outside Mexican food, ancho chile peppers can be utilized in a wide range of cuisines.

They can be used to offer a distinctive twist to traditional foods like spaghetti sauce and BBQ sauce as well as to lend a deep and smoky taste to soups, stews, and chili.

They can also be included into a marinade to enhance depth of flavor or used to make a tasty rub for meats.

How Ancho Chile Peppers Compare to Other Chili Peppers

Ancho chile peppers are just one of many different types of chili peppers, and each variety has a different flavor and heat level.

traditional mexican cuisine mexican food red hot chili pepers

These are some additional well-known chili pepper varietals and how ancho peppers stack up:

  1. Jalapeño Peppers: Jalapeños are milder than Ancho peppers, with a heat level of around 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units. They have a fresh and bright flavor and are commonly used in salsas and as a topping for nachos and tacos.
  2. Poblano Peppers: Poblanos are the fresh form of the Ancho pepper, and they have a mild to medium heat level, similar to the dried Ancho pepper. They have a slightly sweet and earthy flavor and are commonly used in chiles rellenos, a classic Mexican dish where the peppers are stuffed with cheese or meat and then fried or baked.
  1. Chipotle Peppers: Chipotle peppers are made from smoked and dried jalapeño peppers, and they have a medium to high heat level, ranging from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville units. They have a smoky and slightly sweet flavor and are often used in barbecue sauces and marinades.
  2. Habanero Peppers: Habanero peppers are much hotter than Ancho peppers, with a heat level ranging from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units. They have a fruity and floral flavor and are often used in Caribbean and Central American cuisine.

It’s crucial to remember that the degree of heat in chili peppers can change depending on a variety of elements, including growing circumstances, ripeness, and preparation.

To get the right level of heat when using any kind of chili pepper, it’s always a good idea to start with a tiny amount and add more gradually.

Cooking with Ancho Chile Peppers

To bring out the full flavor of ancho chile peppers while cooking with them, properly rehydrate them first.

Varieties of chile ancho and arbol chilli

Remove the stems and seeds from the ancho peppers before soaking them in boiling water for 20 minutes or so, or until they are soft and malleable, to rehydrate them.

The peppers can be diced and added to recipes or incorporated into sauces after being rehydrated.

Furthermore, ancho peppers can be powdered and used as a condiment. Just remove the stems and seeds from the dried peppers and grind them into a fine powder in a spice grinder or food processor to create ancho chili powder.

It’s crucial to remember that Ancho peppers can vary in heat level while working with them, so it’s a good idea to taste a little piece before adding them to a meal.

You might want to start with a lower amount or remove the seeds and membranes to lessen the heat if you’re sensitive to spice.


Assortment of chili peppers in farmer Hands

What does an Ancho Chile Pepper taste like?

Ancho peppers have a slightly sweet and smoky flavor with a mild to medium heat level. They are often described as having a raisin-like flavor.

Where can I buy Ancho Chile Peppers?

Ancho peppers are widely available in many grocery stores and specialty markets. They can also be purchased online from spice shops or specialty food retailers.

Are Ancho Chile Peppers spicy?

Ancho peppers have a mild to medium heat level, ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 Scoville units. They are generally considered to be less spicy than jalapeño peppers.

How do I rehydrate Ancho Chile Peppers?

To rehydrate Ancho peppers, remove the stems and seeds, then soak them in hot water for about 20 minutes until they are soft and pliable.

Can Ancho Chile Peppers be used in place of other chili peppers?

Ancho peppers have a unique flavor profile, so they may not be the best substitute for all types of chili peppers. However, they can often be used in place of other dried chili peppers in recipes, such as guajillo or pasilla peppers.

What are some dishes that use Ancho Chile Peppers?

Ancho peppers are commonly used in Mexican cuisine, such as in mole sauce or chiles rellenos. They can also be used to add flavor to soups, stews, and sauces. Additionally, they are a popular ingredient in Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisine.

Dried hot mexican chili on the white plate


Ancho chile peppers are a tasty and adaptable ingredient that may provide a variety of dishes depth and complexity.

Ancho peppers are a terrific way to improve your cooking, whether you’re making a classic Mexican mole sauce or giving your favorite barbecue sauce a smokey touch.

You can make distinctive and mouthwatering taste combinations that are guaranteed to wow by correctly rehydrating them and combining them with other chili peppers and spices.

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Written by Brian Nagele

Brian has over 20 years experience in the restaurant and hospitality industry. As a former restaurant owner, he knows about running a food business and loves to eat and enjoy cocktails on a regular basis. He constantly travels to new cities tasting and reviewing the most popular spots.