What Are Chipotle Peppers?
Chipotle peppers are dried smoked jalapeno peppers. They have an underlying sweetness with bitter and smoky notes. These chiles measure 2,500-10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), so they deliver medium heat and smoky-sweet flavor.
There are different types of Chipotle peppers. If you’re shopping for Chipotles in the US, you will most likely encounter the Chipotle Morita. This chile is smoky and medium-level spicy, with sweetness and fruitiness. It can be found dried and is also sold canned in the sauce.
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All About Chipotle Peppers
The tradition of smoking and drying chile peppers began long ago when Aztecs ruled the region around modern-day Mexico city. Jalapeños grew in abundance in abundance in that region, particularly around the town of Xalapa (ha-LA-pa). They grew so heartily in that region that they were named for Xalapa; jalapeño translates as “the thing from Xalapa”.
People began preserving these peppers to safeguard against flimsy future harvests. Other peppers were left in the sun to dry, but the thick and fleshy walls of the jalapeno don’t dry thoroughly when left out in the sun, and the amount of moisture they retained made them susceptible to rot.
Smoking, though, dries the chiles thoroughly without cooking them and adds an incomparable flavor. Hence chipotle was born. Aztecs called them chilpoctli; chil- translates as "chile pepper", and -poctli means “smoked.”
Mexican chiles can be intimidating to learn about, particularly when you’re trying to understand the difference between them when they’re dried vs. fresh. If you’re curious about Chipotle Morita we can help explain when and how to use them, the differences between the dried varieties, their origins, and which one is right for you.
For over a decade Spices, Inc. has been sourcing, processing, and selling Mexican dried chiles. You can find our chiles in Mexican restaurants, with companies crafting hot sauces, in the tanks in micro-breweries, and in home cooks' pantries.
We’ve learned about Chipotle Morita in that decade, and are ready to bring this information to you. Once you’ve settled on the chipotle pepper you want, we can help you decide how to prepare and cook with them. We’ll talk about storage, how and where to shop for peppers, and what to look for in a good Chipotle Morita.
|Also Called||Morita Pepper|
|Recommended Uses||Adobo sauce, Casseroles, chicken and meat dishes, dips, marinades, relishes, sauces, soups and stews|
|Flavor Profile||Smoky, sweet, chocolatey flavor|
|Scoville Heat Units||2,500-10,000 SHU|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||Mexico|
Are Chipotle Peppers Jalapenos?
All chipotles start as jalapenos. A Chipotle Morita is a jalapeno left on the plant to ripen until it is semi-sweet and ruby red. Then it is dried and lightly smoked. Mexican chiles often go by one name when they are fresh and another when they are dried. It takes about 10 pounds of fresh jalapenos to make one pound of chipotles.
Types of Chipotle Peppers
There are two primary chipotle peppers: the Chipotle Morita and the Chipotle Meco.
Americans are most familiar with the morita variety, which is dried until it is wrinkled and has a deep brownish-burgundy color. The word morita means “little blackberry”.
When you see a whole Chipotle Morita, it’s easy to understand where the name came from. Moritas are a deep red with hints of purple and shrink from their original size thanks to dehydration. Chipotle Moritas still retain some moisture even after drying, so they are a bit leathery and pliable and have an underlying fruitiness.
Chipotle Meco, chile ahumado, or típico, is Mexico’s preferred chipotle pepper. Chipotle Meco is fully ripened, red jalapenos that are smoked nearly twice as long as Chipotle Moritas. They turn ashy brown from the smoke and heat; the whole Chipotle Meco look almost cigar-like in their appearance. They taste profoundly smoky and rich.
There's a third variety of smoked jalapenos called capones, which means "castrated ones". These are very rare in the US. Capones are red jalapenos that have had the seeds removed before smoking. These tend to be a milder heat chile.
Are Chipotle Peppers Hot?
Chipotle Morita at the low end of the medium level of chile heat. When measured on the Scoville Scale, they clock in between 2,500-10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
What Does Chipotle Taste Like?
Chipotle Morita chiles retain the smoky flavor of the wood used to smoke it, usually pecan or applewood. This balances the raisin-cherry fruitiness that lives under the smoke and spicy heat. A little bit of chocolate peeks in at the end of the flavor to round out the finish.
How to Use Chipotle Peppers
Chipotle Morita chiles are great to use wherever you need a bit of heat and a fruity flavor. They make a terrific Adobo Sauce. You can use Adobo Sauce as a building block to making Chilaquiles or Chicken Tinga. These fruity peppers also pair well with fruit, so use them to make a spicy Orange-Chipotle Grilled Chicken. Rehydrate them and chop them into your favorite salsa, or grind them to sprinkle into chili, barbecue sauce, or even in a spicy mayonnaise that can perk up your favorite sandwich.
Orange Chipotle Grilled Chicken
Chicken Tinga with Chipotle Adobo Sauce
Chipotle Adobo Sauce
How to Toast
To enhance the flavor of the Chipotle Morita, we strongly suggest you toast them before using them. Put the whole chile in a pan over medium-high heat. Toast for 20-30 seconds, flipping as necessary to prevent scorching.
You may use a spatula to press the pepper down for even contact against the pan. The chile’s skin may blister a little, and that’s fine. The peppers should smell spicy-sweet and smoky but not burnt.
Once peppers are toasted, you can choose to rehydrate them or grind them into flakes or powder.
How to Rehydrate
Chipotle Morita peppers have thick flesh, so they take a little longer to rehydrate than other chiles. Take a knife and put a small slit in one or two sides of the pepper to help the hot water get to the pepper’s interior for even soaking.
Place them in a heatproof bowl, stems and all, and cover them with boiling water. Use a plate to weigh them down and help keep them submerged. Let them steep for 20-25 minutes. Drain chiles.
Taste the steeping water. It should be lightly sweet, a bit spicy, and pleasantly smoky. If you like the flavor you can reserve Chipotle Morita water for future use. Keep it in the refrigerator for 1-2 weeks or freeze for up to six months.
How to Deseed
Once you have rehydrated your Chipotle Morita, take a knife and cut off the pepper cap. Slit the chipotle lengthwise and pull the pepper open. Slide your knife along the pepper’s flesh to remove the seeds and veins.
Peppers that you intend to grind into powder will be processed differently. Please see the Morita Chile Powder section for more information.
Chipotles do have a medium-range spice level. Feel free to wear gloves when you handle the seeds and veins if you’re concerned about capsaicin sensitivity. Wash your hands thoroughly after processing peppers, and keep your hands away from your face and eyes.
How to Make Morita Chile Powder
To make Morita chile powder, toast your pepper first. Take a heavy knife, like a chef’s knife, and cut off the stem and cap. Moritas have thicker flesh, so you need a solid knife to cut through them. You can pour out the seeds if you prefer, but they can also be left in. Seeds do not add heat as much as they do bitterness.
Cut the chile into rough chunks and put in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Grind to desired consistency. Use right away or store in an airtight container, away from heat and direct sunlight, for future use.
How Long Will They Last?
You can plan to keep appropriately stored Chipotle Morita peppers in your cupboard for 1-2 years. Please keep them in an airtight glass or plastic container that is, ideally, opaque. They should be protected from heat, moisture, or direct sunlight.
To keep your peppers viable for as long as possible, do not store them around your stove. Cooking can raise the temperature of the surrounding air and anything stored near the stove. This can cause a dried chile to sweat out any residual moisture. With airtight storage, the moisture from the chile won’t evaporate. It can easily lead the chile to develop mold as it sits on the chile.
Properly stored chipotles will be dry to the touch and a little leathery. They will still have some pliability, though they won’t bend like other peppers since their flesh is thick. It will have a smoky aroma with hints of fruit and spice. If they look pale or ashy, have turned hard, or show signs of mold or mildew, throw them away.
Chipotle Morita can be stored for 2-3 years in a high-end pantry with climate control. The temperature must hold at 60-72°F, and humidity should be kept low. Containers for chiles should be glass or plastic, opaque, and away from direct sunlight. If these conditions are met, you can expect your chiles to have a longer shelf life. We recognize that these can be complex guidelines to maintain, so we suggest you plan for a 1-2 year shelf life for your chiles.
Morita Chile Substitute
If you're looking for a substitute chile that is close in heat and flavor, we recommend using Chipotle Meco chiles, 2,500 – 10,000 SHU. They are smokier than the Morita, so you may want to mix it with a bit of Guajillo to reintroduce the fruity aspect.
What to Look for When Buying Morita Peppers
Morita peppers should be garnet red or even a bit purple. Their skins will be wrinkled and leathery but with a rich hue. They should be unbroken. They are thicker than other chiles, so that they may seem tough, but they should still have some pliability. They should not be hard. They should smell smoky and spicy, with hints of fruit.
Where to Buy Morita Peppers
Morita chile peppers can be purchased in Mexican markets, grocery stores, and big-box and online specialty retailers. These shopping environments offer various positives and negatives.
Mexican markets are likely to employ people familiar with chile peppers and can answer questions that you know and accurately. But markets like this tend to be small, and occasionally their size works against them. They may not move products quickly, allowing chile Morita to age on the shelf. They also wield less clout in the wholesale market, which means they pay higher costs for products, which then get passed on to their customers.
Grocery stores tend to have more ability to bargain wholesale, particularly if their purchasers are buying bulk to supply a large chain of stores. This allows them to charge consumers less than a smaller store can and still have profitable margins. They’re primarily interested in moving products through the stores, so they buy the most popular chiles, limiting their selection. And employees all along the grocery store chain don’t specialize in chiles. The lack of knowledge can lead to mislabeling or an inability to answer questions confidently or accurately.
Online shopping with a big-box retailer has the allure of one-stop shopping so you can buy many things for your household in one sitting. These large retailers attract customers because of ease and benefits like free shipping, but there’s no guarantee of quality or expertise. They are often used as fulfillment centers for small third-party vendors. Hence, there’s no guarantee of quality or accuracy at the point of sale, and initiating returns for unsatisfactory dried chiles through those vendors can be difficult.
Online specialty vendors usually build their business on product knowledge and selection. They make their reputation by educating their employees, which gives them the ability to advise on peppers and recognize the differences between Chipotle Meco and Chipotle Morita. Specialty vendors have practices in place for packing orders in a timely and accurate manner. They want their employees to know about what they’re selling and make product information available all along the line, from customer service and order placement to shipping management. Customers can feel confident that they will get the peppers they’ve ordered.
The rich flavor and sassy heat of the Chipotle Morita have made it one of our top-selling chiles. They’re delicious and versatile, and you can use them to kick up everything from eggs to pulled pork.
Mexican chiles have had an enormous impact on global cuisine ever since Spanish colonizers started sending them to Europe in the 1500s. Their appeal and versatility have taken them around the globe, and we hope you dig in and enjoy the many flavors that chile peppers can bring.