What are Chipotle Peppers?
Chipotle peppers have become a spicy staple of many households. They are a relatively recent addition to the American culinary scene, with McCormick’s labeling them as a “flavor to watch” in 2003. But what, exactly, is a chipotle? We know that both Chipotle Morita and Chipotle Meco are spicy, smoky flavor nuggets, but where do they come from? What are they? And how do they fit into the hierarchy of spicy food?
The tradition of smoking jalapeños began long ago, when Aztecs ruled the region around modern-day Mexico city. Jalapeños grew in that region, particularly around the town of Xalapa (ha-LA-pa) in abundance. 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 simply left in the sun to dry, but the fleshy walls of the jalapeño don’t dry thoroughly when simply 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 the chipotle was born. In Nahuatl, the language of the Aztecs, chipotle means “smoked pepper”.
|Also Called||Morita Pepper||Chile meco, chili ahumado or típico|
|Recommended Uses||Adobo sauce, Casseroles, chicken and meat dishes, dips, marinades, relishes, sauces, soups and stews||BBQ sauce, brownies, dips, marinades, potato dishes, sauces, soups and stews|
|Flavor Profile||Smoky, sweet, chocolatey flavor||Earthy, smoky flavor with hints of grassiness|
|Scoville Heat Units||5,000-10,000 SHU||5,000-10,000 SHU|
|Species||Capsicum annum||Capsicum annum|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||Mexico||Mexico|
Are Chipotle peppers the same as jalapeños?
To understand the chipotle chile, you have to know a little bit about the jalapeño. That is how all chipotles start out as. A chipotle pepper is a jalapeño that has been left on the vine to ripen, and is then smoked and dried. They are from the same exact pepper, but they are processed in different ways. We are used to seeing jalapeños that have been picked while they’re still green, but like any berry, if they’re not picked early they change color as they mature, eventually turning a deep, ruby red. The flavor also has the time to develop, going from the grassy green flavor of an unripe jalapeño to rich, fruity sweetness, which is made more complex by the drying and smoking process.
How many types of Chipotle peppers are there?
There are two kinds of chipotle peppers—Chipotle Morita and Chipotle Meco. Americans are most familiar with the morita variety, which is dried until it is wrinkled all over and a deep brownish-burgundy color. The word morita means “little blackberry”, and when you see one of our whole Chipotle Moritas it’s easy to see where the name came from, with its dark color and shriveled appearance. Moritas still retain some moisture, so they are a little bit leathery and pliable and have an underlying fruitiness. They are also available as Chipotle Morita Flakes or ground into a pure Chipotle Morita Chile Powder.
Chipotle Meco, also known as chili ahumado or típico (the typical chile) are the preferred chipotle pepper in Mexico. Chipotle Meco are fully ripened, red jalapeños that are smoked for nearly twice as long as Chipotle Moritas. They turn ashy brown from the smoke and heat; whole Chipotle Meco look almost cigar-like in their appearance. They taste profoundly smoky and rich. Ground Chipotle Meco Chile Powder is also available.
How hot and spicy are Chipotle Morita and Chipotle Meco?
Both Chipotle Morita and Chipotle Meco chiles are at the low end of the medium level of chile heat. When measured on the Scoville Scale, an industry standard for measuring the concentration of spice in a hot pepper, they clock in between 5,000-10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). 10,000 of anything may sound like a lot, but the range of the scale is fairly broad. A bell pepper measures 0 SHU, but the current record holder for the hottest pepper in the world, the Carolina Reaper, measures 2.2 million SHU, which is 220 times as hot!
What do Chipotle chiles taste like?
Chipotle Morita Chiles retain the smoky flavor of pecan or applewood, which balances the playful raisin-cherry fruitiness that emerges from under the smoke and spicy heat. A little bit of chocolate peeks in at the end of the flavor to round out the finish.
Chipotle Meco Chiles have a profound depth to their flavor, which is dominated by the sweet wood smoke. There’s a touch of a lighter, raisiny essence floating around the top notes, but the Chipotle Meco primarily dives deep. It is smoky. Earthy. A little bit grassy. And it holds its ground against other strong flavors.
What’s a good substitute for Chipotle Morita chiles?
Chipotle Morita have a multifaceted flavor profile, so if you need some and don’t have any handy, try Guajillo Chiles for the fruitiness with a little Smoked Sweet Paprika for the smoky depth. Cascabel Chiles have a bold, nutty flavor with some smoke, so try that with a touch of De Arbol Chiles to bring the heat, or blend the savory cherry-chocolate of Ancho Chiles with a touch of De Arbol or Japones Chiles.
How to use Chipotle chiles
Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Our Chipotle Applewood Rub on pork roast creates a spicy and succulent midweek meal that’s luxuriously rich and delightfully hands-off.
Chipotle Adobo Sauce
Orange Chipotle Grilled Chicken
Sour Cream Chicken Enchilada Casserole
How do you use Chipotle Adobo Sauce?
Chipotle Adobo Sauce is a super-simple sauce with a myriad of uses. Stir Chipotle Adobo Sauce with fresh onions and cilantro for an easy salsa. Blend with mayonnaise or Greek yogurt for an easy dip or spread. Drizzle over steak fajitas. It brings lively contrast when stirred into mashed sweet potatoes. Simmer into black bean soup or your favorite chili for a flavor boost. It’s a great finishing glaze for your smoked ribs and mixes easily with ketchup for a spicy topper for your burgers. All you need for this sauce is a food processor or blender, a heat-proof bowl, and something to boil water in. The sky is the limit with this hearty, sassy sauce.
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