Chipotle is not just the name of a wildly popular fast-casual restaurant. Chipotle pepper also happens to be a type of chile that is wildly popular in many cuisines all over the world.
Chipolte pepper is actually made from jalapeno peppers. Surprised? I thought so. But that’s not it. The world “chipotle” comes from the Nahuatl word ‘chilpoctli’ which means “smoked chile.”
I know what you are thinking. Jalapeno peppers are green and this powder is red. What happened along the way? Allow me to explain. The green jalapeno peppers we all love to eat are actually the unripe version. When ripened, they turn a fiery red.
It is at this stage that they are smoked to help get rid of some moisture but most importantly to impart that deep flavor and then they are dried. That gives you the chipotle pepper. The dried chilies are then ground to make chipotle powder.
In terms of flavor, you obviously have a deep smokiness that really rounds out dishes in a beautiful way, but you also have something that is earthy, mildly spicy, and pungent.
To put it bluntly, the chipotle pepper is an ingredient that makes a splash in any dish you add it to.
Here are some amazing recipes using chipotle powder:
- Chicken Tortilla Soup
- Chipotle Ranch Dressing
- Chipotle Chicken Rice Bowls
- Red Beef Chili
- Chipotle Lime Buttered Shrimp
What can I use instead of chipotle pepper?
If you can’t get your hands-on ground chipotle pepper, smoked paprika will be your best bet. Remember that the two vary in terms of heat levels so taste early and taste often. You can always add more but it’s hard to add back in.
A friend gave me this tip: For chipotle in adobo sauce, try canned cubed tomatoes and paprika. This will give you the smoky heat you need and something similar to the same texture the recipe is looking for.
How do you use chipotle pepper?
Often these dried and smoked peppers are ground and included in TexMex or Mexican dishes. Whole ones are sold canned in something called adobo sauce which is equally rich, flavorful, smoky, and a bit spicy.
If you are using the whole dried ones, you might be asked to reconstitute them. This means soaking them in hot water which allows them to rehydrate. These can then be chopped, pureed, etc. and used however you see fit.
What flavors go well with chipotle pepper?
Because of the deep smoke and complexity of chipotle, it is often best paired with things that help to round it out. Think a touch of sweetness, lime juice, cilantro, garlic, and more.
How spicy is chipotle pepper?
A chipotle pepper is as hot as a jalapeno pepper. Think of it in the same way and you (and your guests should be in good shape. The Scoville Scale rates it anywhere from 2,500-8,000 heat units. To put this in perspective, a bell pepper has 0 units and the cayenne pepper has anywhere from 30,000-50,000.