A balance of powder

Homemade chile powder, so rich, red and flavorful, is an ingredient I cannot live without. I use it with so many things, including my salsa, my eggs, my beans, my steaks, my tacos, my enchilada sauce and, of course, my chili. I’ve said this before, homemade chile powder is far superior to any store-bought brand, and it’s not that difficult to make. I reckon the biggest challenge to making homemade chile powder is finding the right kind of chiles. But even if your usual market doesn’t have these, I bet there is a Latino population somewhere in your area where you can find a Mexican grocer. Or you could order online from places such as MexGrocer, Penzeys or Amazon.

The cool thing about making your own chile powder is you are in control of the flavor–it can be as hot or mild as you want it to be. I will provide you with my general recipe, but feel free to experiment, that’s part of the fun! Another thing to keep in mind is that there are two kinds of chile powder–chile powder with other spices and pure chile powder that’s nothing but ground chiles. The latter yields an explosive chile blast, which I find ideal when making chili. But for everyday sprinkling, I prefer the all-in-one chile powder blended with garlic, cumin and oregano.

Here’s what I do. I start with an assortment of dried chiles, usually 3 anchos, 3 chipotles and 3 guajillos. I cut off the stems, slit them open, and take out the seeds (I find shaking them over the sink is the easiest method as the seeds can fly everywhere). I then lay them flat in a foil-lined pan and them roast them in the oven at 300 degrees for 5 minutes. Alternatively, you can roast them in an ungreased cast-iron skillet until they blister, about 5 minutes. Take the roasted chiles, crumble them into a bowl and then grind them in a spice grinder or blender.

If I want to make a chile powder mix, I roast a couple of tablespoons of cumin seeds with the chiles, and then grind the seed/pepper mix with a couple of tablespoons of garlic powder and a tablespoon of oregano (Mexican oregano if you can find it).

When roasting the chiles, there will be some searing smoke. Note that this is potent stuff that can burn your eyes and lungs a bit, so be careful. Also, you might want to wear gloves when touching the chiles as the oils are fiery.

Store your powder in an airtight container, and it should keep for a month.

Do you make your own chile powder? What combination of chiles do you use?

  1. Lovely picture — I can almost taste the richness and the heat.

    I’ve done this before, but just with whatever kind of chiles I’ve had in my garden, never with a blend. A woman who comes to our farmers market (who calls herself “the chilewoman”) has all kinds of dried chiles at this time of year. I’ll get some and experiment. Fun! Thanks.

  2. this is so interesting, i’ve never made it myself before, and am now filled with a compelling need to do so, especially with chili weather beckoning.

    question: when you roast the chiles, are they dry enough to powder afterwards? that’s where my confusion lies… i am imagining roasting my chiles and ending up with some sort of chile paste (which wouldn’t be so darn bad!). do they dry out? please advise so i can give this a crack! i can’t wait!

  3. Christine, I envy your garden!

    Melissa, dried chiles just become more dry and crumbly when roasted. Give it a try!

  4. Thanks for your entry to DMBLGIT – have a look at all the entries here.

    This I am going to try! I planted a chilli last weekend so at the end of summer they shall become powder!

  5. Anonymous

    I am a Texan – ’nuff said. 😉

    My husband does not like anything spicy. He is even unhappy if a food is seasoned with black pepper. Is there anything that can be done to make a chili recipe (or enchiladas or salsa or anything else calling for chiles, for that matter) suitable for his tastes, and those of small children also? I was happily eating hot sauce at age three – but I guess not everyone is that way.

  6. Anonymous

    For the person that is asking how they can control heat level. Yes it is possible. Take fresh chilies and cut out the seeds/and attached membrane (where most of the heat is) and after that dry them in a food dehydrator.

    With that said i found making chili powder with fresh chilies has one bad point..HEAT. Every batch i seem to make had a seperate heat level. Commercial chili powder is just very constitant. I am not saying at all that you should not make it im just pointing this out.

  7. Anonymous

    Found your article while surfing. I’m gonna give it at try! Thanks!

  8. Anonymous

    Another mail-order spice source (if you don’t live or visit Chicago) is The Spice House. I think they there is some family relation to Penzeys even, but I’ve always chosen Spice House over Penzeys because their web site is magnitudes superior over P’s, and their product is just as good.

    Another suggestion is to get a “Krups Fast Touch Coffee Grinder” (Amazon has them for $17.99) and keep it just for spice grinding since you might end up with some funky tasty coffee if there’s residue lingering in it. Whole fresh spices are definitely superior, so buy whole dried chilis, cumin, etc., toast and grind as you’re prepping a meal. I have three mortar and pestles and use them several times a week, but some things are better done with electricity.

  9. Anonymous

    Hi, we cant get the different chiles whole here in Norway. If i were to mix the three chiles, Anchos, Chipotle, guajillos together by powder. How much do i need of each to make the chile blend you discribe? Love your blog. Brings back memories from when i used to live in Houston.

  10. Anne–You can experiment and do what tastes good to you–that's the fun of chile powder!

  11. Would they dehydrate better? I do my garlic, onions, and all types peppers this way. Once this is finished I place them in a blender till powdered. WARNING! DO NOT INHALE/SNIFF WHEN OPENING LID ON PEPPERS!!!!
    I then sift this to get out large chunks. Store in zip lock bags in Freezer.

  12. 2 ancho chiles
    1 guajillo chile
    1 New Mexico chile
    2 arbol chiles
    Prep method is via skillet for 5 minutes. Then to a coffee grinder used for spices only.

    I use this in my pork rub and in my BBQ sauce recipe.

    I also use it for brisket, though I don't use a rub per se. True Texas brisket is just salt and pepper. I fudge a bit; I use salt, pepper, thyme (for high notes) and this chile powder. And I use pecan as a smoke wood. Less "in your face" than hickory or mesquite

  13. My Mom makes what she calls powdered fire. My Dad loves it, but if there are children in the house it could be labelled dangerous. Mom grows jalapenos, dries them and them powders them. My dad adds it at the table and then proceeds turn red as he enjoys them.

  14. What a great blog and an awesome post! I never even thought to try to make my own chili powder. I am very excited! And that Texas red recipe? I am just dying to make it! Thanks so much! It's the best recipe I've seen online by far!

  15. I usually use arbols instead of chipotles. I need to try those next time. I also add some smoked paprika along with the garlic powder and Mexican oregano.

  16. Anonymous

    Hey Homesick T,
    I just love your blog. The wife & I made your Texas red recipe tonight, and I'm really impressed. I was turned on to making my own chili powder a couple of years ago, and I've narrowed it down to what I like. I use 3 Anchos, 2 or 3 pasillas, and 2 or 3 morita chilies. A morita is the exact same thing as a chipotle (a dried & smoked jalapeno) but it just isn't smoked as long. It has the same look as an ancho, unlike a chipotle that has that rolled-in-the-dirt look because of the smoking time (nothing against chipotles) I actually think that most "chipotles in adobo" are morita chilies. If you've seen an honest to god dry chipotle, you know what I'm talking about. Again I can't say enough about how happy I was with your Texas Red recipe, thanks!!!

  17. My last batch of Chili Powder was made with Hatch chiles that I bought on the way back from Tucson last fall. The other ingredients were: toasted cumin seeds, Mexican oregano, garlic powder and a bit of coriander. The dried chiles were bright red and the chili powder is too. The flavor is good and the heat level is moderate, but not bitey. You just get a warm feeling as you eat.

  18. I have several different ground dried chiles (ancho, chipolte, new mexico, etc. Also, cumin powder. Is there a way to roast these since they're already ground?

  19. Jan–The ground chiles are already roasted so you can just stir them together.

  20. Desert resident here. Love this website and your pages on different pots of beans have been referenced, bookmarked, and used by me for years.

    OK–mex oregano, toasted comino seeds are for sure. I’m always in mad love with the guajillo–best tasting pepper ever, But not hot, I need hot. “They” say chili powder also needs ancho but anchos bore me. In fact I’ve stopped using them. For heat arbols fill the gap but they are blatant. A single chipotle or morita will give me the smoke flavor if I feel like it. Also want a heat punch? Find dried puya peppers. Now what about a mild/tasty complement to guajillo? Dried anaheims (what they call california) never did anything for me. But lately….dried New Mex reds. A staple in most stores. Using more of this lately in sauces. I’ve deserted the humble ancho and not worse for it.
    4 guajillo
    4 new mex
    8 or 9 arbols
    comino seeds and mex oregano
    –at this point you have the heat covered. if you want a smoky taste throw a dried chipotle in. back off on the arbol count–it’s up to you
    **optional: tiny bit of cinammon stick
    **optional: toasted coriander seeds. i’ve never used enough to make a dramatic difference. it basically is cilantro seed and tastes like it.
    **optional: pinch of unsweetened cocoa

    all through a thrift store coffee grinder.

    I’ve tried all variations. Lately I have not used the asterisked items. Just the basics.

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