Ancho Chile Powder
What Is Ancho Chile Powder
Ancho Chile Powder (pronounced "AHN-cho"), Capsicum annum, is also called ancho chili powder, ancho powder, or ground ancho. The ancho chile pepper is the most used dried chile in authentic Mexican cuisine. The poblano chile when dried is called chile ancho, which translates to "wide chile".
These chiles have also secured popularity in the United States as a part of Southwestern and Tex-Mex cuisines. With more interest blossoming in the United States for authentic Mexican food, more chiles are being introduced into the repertoire of home chefs and culinary artists in swanky restaurants alike.
What Does Ancho Chile Powder Taste Like
Ancho Chile Powder has a mild fruity, sweet, slightly smoky flavor with undertones of plum, raisin, tobacco and a slightly earthy bitterness.
Is Ancho Chile Powder Hot
Ancho Chile Powder has a heat range of 1,000-1,500 SHU.
How to Use Ancho Chile Powder
Ground Ancho Chile Powder is used in spice rubs, mole sauces, and in enchilada sauces. It is used to intensify the flavor of meat marinated and seasoned with adobo, otherwise called an adobado. It's great on beans, beef, casseroles, chicken, dips, pasta, pizza, popcorn, pork, red chilis, rices, salsa, soups, and stews.
If you are looking for a simple and delicious way to glaze your salmon, try mixing a teaspoon of ancho powder with some fresh, raw honey. This is the perfect glaze for salmon or really any fish when you are going to sauté it.
Substitutions and Conversions
One (1) whole Ancho chile is roughly equivalent to one (1) heaping tablespoon of ancho powder which is also approximately equal to 1/4 oz.
History of Poblano Chiles
These chiles are native to the Puebla Valley, a fertile region that can be found southwest of Mexico City1. 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 currently 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 minerals2. Agriculture as industry expanded in this region after the founding of Puebla, and eventually fueled the national spread of the Ancho Chile.
The Ancho, and its fresh chile counterpart, 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 return to Mexico City, where nuns from the Santa Monica convent presented him with chiles en nogada, a dish created in his honor3. The green poblanos, topped with a white walnut sauce and red pomegranate seeds, paid tribute to the newly created Mexican flag. While that story makes a great legend it is more likely that chile en nogada had been around much longer. There is an earlier recipe for this dish from a family cookbook that dates to the eighteenth century4.
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. The most well-known 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. Other tales suggest that several spices accidentally got mixed up, and thus mole was born. And yet a further story dates to Mesoamerica, when the Aztec emperor Moctezuma served it to the Spanish conquistador Cortés, when he arrived in the Aztec capital Tenochtitlan (1519)5. This is also 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”. The Franciscan friar and historian Bernardino de Sahagún, who arrived in Mexico, from Spain, in 1529 spent more than 50 years studying the Aztec people of the region. He wrote about mollis being used in several indigenous Aztec dishes with one of the more popular dishes of the time being totolmolli (turkey hen or chicken in mole sauce)6.
When the Mexican Revolution ended in 1920 after 10 years of brutal fighting, Mexico’s new leadership wanted to help heal the 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 initial Spanish occupation7. And thus mole, and the accompanying Ancho Chiles that are indispensable to many moles, became Mexico’s national dish and catapulted Ancho Chiles into the forefront as Mexico’s most popular chile.
Ancho Chile Cultivation
Poblano chile plants usually grow between 2-3 feet tall, with fruits that are surprisingly heavy for their size, often needing the plant to be staked to prevent the fruit from touching the ground. They germinate from seed and the plants are multiple-stemmed and compact to semierect and semiwoody. The leaves being dark green and shiny, and about four inches long and two and a half inches wide. The corollas are off-white and appear at every node. It takes about 50 days for these plants to flower once the seeds are sown and this continues until the first frost8.
These subtropical plants do best when nighttime temperatures do not dip below 65°F, and daytime temperatures range between 75-90°F. Temperatures below 50-55ºF cause flowers to abort and/or misshapen fruit. Similarly, temperatures above 90-95ºF will cause flower abortion9. These plants do best in full sunlight with loamy soil and good drainage. They want enough water to stay damp, without becoming waterlogged. Overwatered plants will often show their stress with withered, wilted leaves and stunted pepper growth as roots are struggling to extract the needed nutrients from the soil. Healthy poblano plants can be harvested several times during its growing season and one plant has a yield of about 15 pods per plant, but up to 30 pods is not unusual10.
The pods begin as dark green and mature to a bright red color11. Poblanos are picked while they are still green, while those designated as Anchos remain on the plant to reach full, berry-red maturity. The chile should be harvested for maximum color once the fruit has partially dried on the plant, as succulent red pods will not have fully developed their full flavor and color. Advantages of harvesting by hand include the ability of harvest crews to select for proper maturity, provide successive harvests, and handle the fruit with minimum damage12.
Drying for pepper storage is an ancient art. Traditionally, the fruit was sun-dried. The fruit would be spread on the ground and turned several times over the following days, but contamination by birds and rodents reduced the usable quantity. Today commercial growers use controlled artificial drying13. Once dried they are then sorted and graded. There are three grades of quality; the highest grade, primero, consists of the thickest-flesh and is the largest size; mediano, is considered a medium grade and may be a bit hotter; and ancho, the basic grade chile that you will find to be the most often used in Southwestern U.S. cuisine.
Where are Our Ancho Chiles From
Depending on the time of year our Ancho Chiles may come from either Mexico or the United States.
|Also Called||Chile ancho, ancho chili, and ancho pepper|
|Recommended Uses||Use in chili, enchiladas, moles, salsa, sauces and tortilla soup|
|Flavor Profile||Undertones of plum, raisin, tobacco and a slightly earthy bitterness|
|Scoville Heat Units||1,000-1,500 SHU|
|Botanical Name||Capsicum Annuum|
|Cuisine||Mexican, American Southwest|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||Mexico|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Kosher, Non-GMO|
Hungry for More Information
1 Andrews, J. (1999). The Pepper Trail: History and Recipes from Around the World (Revised, Subsequent ed.). University of North Texas Press.
2 Historic Centre of Puebla. (n.d.). . Retrieved February 21, 2022.
3 Ralat, J. R. (2021, March 15). Tex-Mexplainer: The History Behind Mexico’s Most Patriotic Meal, Chile en Nogada. Texas Monthly. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
4 Zurita, R. M. (2010). Los chiles rellenos en Mexico. Antologia de recetas (English and Spanish Edition) (0 ed.). Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico.
5 Cocking, L. (2016, November 11). A Brief History Of Mole, Mexico’s National Dish. Culture Trip. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
6 Sahagún, B. D. (2021). Historia general de las cosas de la Nueva España I (Spanish Edition). Linkgua Ediciones.
7 Aguilar-Rodríguez, S. (2018). Mole and mestizaje: race and national identity in twentieth-century Mexico. Food, Culture & Society, 21(5), 600–617.
8, 11 Dewitt, D. (1999). The Chile Pepper Encyclopedia: Everything You’ll Ever Need To Know About Hot Peppers, With More Than 100 Recipes (1st ed.). William Morrow Cookbooks.
9 DeWitt, D., & Bosland, P. W. (2014). The Complete Chile Pepper Book: A Gardener’s Guide to Choosing, Growing, Preserving, and Cooking (New ed.). Timber Press.
10 Peppers – From Sweet to Fiery. (n.d.). UC Santa Cruz CENTER FOR AGROECOLOGY. Retrieved February 21, 2022
12 Walker, S. (2011, January). NMSU: Postharvest Handling of Dehydrated Chiles. New Mexico State University. Retrieved February 21, 2022.
13 Janick, J., & Paull, R. E. (2008). The Encyclopedia of Fruit & Nuts(First ed.). CABI.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*