Ancho Chile Flakes
Ancho Chile Flakes
Ancho (AHN-cho) Chile Flakes, Capsicum Annuum, are also referred to as chile ancho, ancho chili, and ancho pepper.
One cup of Ancho Chile Flakes is approximately 3.4 ounces.
What Are Ancho Chile Flakes
When Ancho Chiles are dried, they are processed in several ways. Some chiles are left whole. Others are ground into a fine powder. And then there are the peppers that are milled into bold flakes, which add the Ancho’s distinct smoky raisin and berry flavor and terrific, toothsome texture to dishes.
The name ancho means “wide” and refers to the flat, paddle-like shape they take when they’re dried. When this chile is still fresh, this chile is called a poblano, in recognition of its native state of Pueblo, Mexico. It’s been a staple food of Puebla for thousands of years.
Ancho Chiles are some of the most popular peppers grown in Mexico. They are anywhere between 2-3 inches across at the top, and 4-5 inches long, tapering at the bottom to a heart shape. As they dry they become extremely wrinkly, and develop a deep, rich, mahogany-red color. Along with Pasilla Negro and Guajillo Chiles, Anchos are the “holy trinity” of Mexican chiles that are found in a great many Mexican dishes. You can find these chiles in enchilada sauce, black bean soup, or the classic, chile-and-chocolate sauce mole poblano.
History of Ancho Chiles
These chiles are native to the Puebla Valley, a fertile region that can be found southwest of Mexico City. Puebla City, Mexico’s fourth-largest city, was established ex nihilo—“out of nothing”—by Spain in 1531, after the Spanish monarchy had recommended that their colonizers not overrun established indigenous settlements but rather, build on previously unclaimed territory. Once Puebla City—or in its first official naming, Puebla de los Ángeles—was established, it was quickly recognized as a significant cultural and strategic center. Located roughly mid-way between Mexico City and Veracruz, Puebla became a convenient stop for travelers and an important trading post. Puebla lies at the foot of the volcano Popocatépetl, and the soil of this region is rich with volcanic minerals. Agriculture as industry expanded after the Spanish conquest, and eventually fueled the national spread of the Ancho Chile.
The Ancho, and its parent chile, the poblano, can be found in two signature dishes that have roots squarely in Puebla. The Mexican War of Independence lasted for more than a decade and finally, in 1821, the Mexican General Agustin de Iturbide signed the Treaty of Cordoba in Veracruz. This secured Mexican independence from Spanish rule and brought the war to an end. After the signing, he stopped in Puebla on his way back to Mexico City, where nuns from the Santa Monica convent presented him with chiles en nogada, a dish created in his honor. The green poblanos, topped with a white walnut sauce and red pomegranate seeds, paid tribute to the newly-created Mexican flag.
The other Puebla-associated dish, mole poblano, has an even murkier history. A complex combination of ground chiles, nuts, tomatoes, chocolate, and sweet spices like Cinnamon and Cloves. Legend credits its invention to a 16th- or 17th-century Dominican nun, Sor Andrea de la Asuncion, in Puebla’s Santa Rosa convent. Sor Andrea was charged with the responsibility of creating a special dish in honor of a visiting archbishop; initially lost for inspiration, she prayed for divine guidance and then directed her kitchen staff to combine everything in the kitchen and hope for the best. This is a terrific story, though it’s likely that mole existed long before the Spaniards came to Mexico.
In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, molli means “smashed” or “pureed”; you can still see this in evidence elsewhere, like the -mole part of the word “guacamole”. What is likely is that Aztec cooks had already created a pureed sauce with local ingredients like chocolate and peanuts. With the advent of Spanish crops—and spices, hence, things like cinnamon and clove—and a surprising similarity in the Spanish verb moler, “to grind”, mole became a literal melting pot of old and new cultures in Mexico.
The Mexican Revolution ended in 1920 after 10 years of brutal fighting and Mexico’s new leadership wanted to help heal a war-torn country. They wanted to promote the idea of one country, one people, a country of mestizaje, people who embodied the fusion between indigenous heritage and colonial influence. Mole, which reflects a wide range of cultural influences, was used as a tool to unify the country. It was promoted as the dish that spoke for the people, and it was an easy banner to wave, since different regions have different moles that reflected the various influences of the region and had been woven into cultural fabric in the 500 years that had passed since the Spanish occupation. And thus mole, and the Ancho Chiles that are indispensable to a good mole, became Mexico’s national dish and catapulted Ancho Chiles into the forefront as Mexico’s most popular chile.
Poblano chile plants usually grow between 2-3 feet tall, and are surprisingly heavy for their size, often needing to be staked up to prevent the fruit from sogging into the ground. They germinate from seed in soil that can maintain a steady temperature of 65°F, and it takes about 50 days for these plants to flower once the seeds are sown, and another 50-60 days from flowering to produce harvest-ready peppers. These subtropical plants do best when nighttime temperatures do not dip below 65°F, and daytime temperatures range between 75-80°F.
These plants do best in full sunlight and loamy soil with good drainage. They want enough water to stay damp, without becoming waterlogged. Overwatered plants will often express their dilemma with withered, wilted leaves and stunted pepper growth, since roots are struggling to extract nutrients from the soil. Healthy poblano plants can be harvested several times during its growing season and one plant can produce around 3 pounds, or 18-20 chiles each.
Unripe chiles are grassy green; as they ripen they change to yellow, and then to red. Poblanos are picked while they are still green, while those designated as Anchos remain on the plant to reach full, berry-red maturity. Once harvested, chiles are laid on well-ventilated oak mats and left to dry in direct sunlight. They are flipped at three-day intervals to ensure they are drying evenly. After 15-30 days, chiles should be wrinkly and deep, mahogany red, and feel somewhat leathery. They are then sorted and graded; "Primero" is the highest grade ancho, with a ripe, full berry flavor. "Mediano" is the medium grade ancho, which isn’t as sweet and tends to be a bit hotter than the primero. "Ancho" is the standard grade pepper.
Where Are Ancho Chile Flakes From
Mexico or the USA
What Do Ancho Chile Flakes Taste Like
Ancho Chile Flakes have a rich, fruity fragrance reminiscent of sweet raisins, with a hint of leafy tobacco. They taste deeply fruity, like dried plums and raisins tempered by a bit of sun-dried smokiness. They finish with a mild heat and an earthy bitterness.
How Hot Are Ancho Chile Flakes
Ancho Chile Flakes have a mild-to-medium heat range; they can measure anywhere from 500-3,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
What Is The Difference Between Chipotle and Ancho Chile Flakes
Ancho Chiles are often confused with other chiles. Anchos are the product of the poblano pepper, after it’s been allowed to ripen into redness and dried in the sun. Chipotles are the product of jalapeño peppers, picked when red and ripe, and then smoked. Chipotles, which measure between 5,000-10,000 SHU, are two to three times as hot as Ancho Chiles.
Poblano peppers are also the parent pepper for Mulato Chiles. These richly-flavored chiles are left on the pepper plant to ripen even longer than Ancho Chiles, turning brown when they reach full maturity. As they dry, Mulato Chiles turn almost black. They develop deep, earthy, sweet flavor, and trade in a bit of heat for the subtly smoky, chocolate flavor for which they are famous.
What Are Ancho Chile Flakes Used For
You can use Ancho Chile Flakes anywhere you’d use any chile flakes, particularly if you’re looking to make food with Mexican flair. Steep them in hot water and add them to the Mexican stew, Birria. Toast Ancho Chile Flakes in a pan and then rehydrate to add to the pot for a classic Mole Poblano. Simmer with pork shoulder for a hearty Pork Burrito and have some fun with dessert and make a Cinnamon and Ancho Chile Chocolate Bark. For a more adventurous snack, mix egg yolks with Ancho Chile Flakes and some mayonnaise for a kicked-up batch of deviled eggs. Stir a teaspoon or two of Ancho Chile Flakes into cornbread batter for a fruity, smoky twist on a rustic favorite. Combine with finely chopped onion and tomato for a fresh, raw salsa, or add to onions and diced pineapple for a fruity, spicy salsa. And of course, don’t leave these chile flakes out of a steaming pot of homemade chili!
What Can I Substitute for Ancho Chiles
If you don’t have Ancho Chiles, Mulatos are a very good substitute. Pasilla Negro and Guajillo Chiles are also reasonable substitutes, though Guajillos are a bit hotter, so you’d need to manage the heat levels. You want to look for a chile that’s got lots of fruity depth without too much heat.
1 heaping Tablespoon Ancho Chile Flakes = 1 Tablespoon Ancho Powder = 1 whole Ancho chile, which is approximately 1/4 oz.
|Ingredients||Ancho Chile Flakes|
|Also Called||Chile ancho, ancho chili, ancho pepper|
|Recommended Uses||Chilis, sauces, burritos, stews, salsas|
|Flavor Profile||Raisin and plum flavors with a touch of smokiness and a bitter finish|
|Scoville Heat Units||500-3,000|
|Botanical Name||Capsicum annuum|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||Mexico or USA|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free|
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Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*