What is an ancho chile? It is one of the most popular dried chiles in Mexico and in Southwestern cuisine.
This mild and earthy chile is extremely versatile and used as the base for many stews, sauces, and more.
What is an Ancho Chile?
There are some dried chiles that I can’t be without. Just like salt or oil, chiles are a must in my kitchen. One of them: Ancho Chile
If they are allowed to ripen, poblano peppers turn red and have some sweetness to them.
That’s why an ancho chile is red while the poblano pepper is green.
It is one of the most popular chiles in Mexico because of how versatile it is.
Unlike some unknown or regional chiles, you can find Ancho Chile in just about any part of the Mexican Republic and most US grocery stores with a Latino section.
How to Work with an Ancho Chile
You can grind them up in a spice grinder and continue with the recipe in that way. Some people will make mole, stews, or chili from the ground Ancho Chile.
It is sometimes referred to as “Ancho Powder.”
The heat will not be affected unless it is finely ground. When finely ground, it will be spicy.
Or, you can reconstitute a dried ancho chile. The reconstituted chiles will disperse their heat more evenly.
How to Reconstitute Ancho Chile
To reconstitute a dried ancho chile is very simple. Remove the stem with your kitchen shears.
Cut lengthwise and remove any seeds from the inside. Removing the seeds will help bring down the heat.
It can be difficult to remove all the seeds. It is ok if you can’t remove all the seeds.
Most recipes that call for reconstituted chiles involves straining, and you can eliminate the seeds then.
I recommend boiling water in a medium-sized stock pot.
Turn off the heat and place the ancho chile in the water for 5 minutes. This should bring them back to life. Then continue with the recipe.
If they are still not pliable after 5 minutes, leave them in the pot a little longer. Or, you might need to submerge them with something heavy.
Often times, you’ll see a recipe that suggests using the cooking liquid.
I don’t recommend this for many reasons. Sometimes, dried chiles are stored in dusty bins. That’s a wonderful hiding place for insects. Yuck, I know.
One thing you can do is with a wet towel dab the ancho chile. Never ever rinse dried chiles. It will take away some of the flavor.
Instead of using the cooking liquid, I suggest using:
- chicken stock
- beef broth
- vegetable broth
The result will be just as delicious.
If you insist on using the cooking liquid because that’s the way your grandma made a dish, taste the cooking liquid. If the water is bitter, don’t use it.
What does an Ancho Chile taste like?
If you look at an ancho chile, you will notice the deep red color and wrinkled skin.
It is sweet and smoky. Some people describe it like a smoky, earthy raisin.
Their heat level is mild to medium-hot. Chipotle and Chile de Arbol chiles are a lot spicier than ancho chile.
Substituting Ancho Chile:
- There is no real substitute for reconstituted ancho chile. It has a unique flavor just like the other dried chiles. In a pinch, you can substitute with guajillo chiles or mulato chiles.
- For a recipe that calls for 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder, substitute 1 teaspoon regular chili powder and 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper. Or paprika.
The Name: Ancho Chile
“Ancho” in Spanish means “wide.”
Interestingly enough, the word “poblano” is in reference to the state of Puebla.
As in where the Battle of Puebla was fought and won, and why we celebrate Cinco de Mayo.
It is also the same state where poblano peppers are said to have originated.
Some stores will mislabel the ancho chile for “pasilla pepper” or as “poblano pepper.”
More Facts about the Ancho Chile:
On the Scoville heat units, Ancho chiles register between 1000-2000.
In a nutshell, they are quite mild.
Chile Vs. Chili
Chile is a pepper – ancho chile, poblano, jalapeño.
Chili is a dish made in one-pot usually with beans, spices, and some sort of stewed meat.
How to Store Dried Ancho Chile:
Growing up, I was taught to put them in a sealable plastic bag and leave them in the cupboard. That’s how my grandma, my mom, and all my aunts did and still do it.
However, I found a really neat trick. Try freezing them. Place them in a sealable freezer bag, removing as much air as possible.
I know it sounds weird, but this is one way you can ensure that no bugs will be in your dried chiles. They also last longer if they are frozen.
How long with dried chiles last?
- Dried chiles will last 3-6 months in the pantry or cupboard.
- Frozen dried chiles will last for up to a year.
Enough talking, let’s start cooking.
Check out these Ancho Chile Recipes:
Chile Colorado is one of those recipes that’s near and dear to my heart.
I made it with beef shank, but you can use any beef cut you like.
The ancho chile really gives that sauce an incredible texture, color, and depth. YUM! Get the Recipe
These are Bean Tamales Made Northern Style and just like my mom makes.
They’re also 100% vegan. See how the masa is slightly orange? That’s because of the ancho chile.
The ancho chile flavors the masa, the refried beans and takes the tamales to an entirely new deliciousness. Get the recipe
Birria de Res is a robust and hearty stew. Deep with flavors from the chiles.
Perfect for cold days and parties where you need to feed a lot of people. Get the Recipe
Red Pork Tamales (Tamales de Puerco). We call them “red” because of the ancho chile sauce or “chile rojo” sauce. The sauce is so incredibly tasty, so delicious.
They are worth the effort to make. Get the Recipe