Dried chilis have been a staple in Latin American and Spanish kitchens for centuries. The small, unassuming vegetable can spice up any dish with either a soft kick or a massive punch, depending on how heavy-handed you are.
If you’re learning to work with chili powder or flakes, there are a few helpful tips and tricks that can aid you in getting the most out of your peppers.
The first step in using dried chili flakes or powder is to clean and prepare your peppers. Although they’re dried, you’ll want to choose a chili pepper with some flexibility. The perfect dried chili should have more of a raisin texture.
Wipe your chilis with a damp cloth and remove the seeds. Then, toss them in a dehydrator to remove the remaining moisture. From there, you can chop or blend your chilis into flakes and powder.
Choosing whether to use chili powder or flakes will depend on the meal you are cooking, the intensity of spiciness you want, and when in the process you'll add it to the dish. Chili powder is great to use while cooking for added heat and flavor. If you want to add chilies to an already-prepared meal, like pizza or spaghetti, you’ll want to use chili flakes.
One thing to remember is that most store-bought chili powder has added ingredients like paprika and cumin.
The time to add your chili powder or flakes to your meal depends on the type of flavor profile you are trying to achieve. Adding chili powder at the beginning of your cooking time will turn your dish into a spicy meal.
If you’re trying to achieve a flavor that isn’t overly spicy but still has a slight punch, you’ll want to add your chili peppers toward the end of cooking. Of course, this process will vary depending on your recipe.
Rehydrating dried chili peppers in soups and stocks will create complex flavor profiles. Adding dried chiles to broth aids flavor infusion, enhancing the taste of many recipes. While you might assume this approach would make your stock overly fiery, rehydrated chilies have a sweeter flavor than fresh chilies.
If you prefer more heat, roast the chilies before adding them to your meal. Popular soups where chiles work well are potato, pinto bean, and Mexican tortilla.
Make your own chili oil with any spare chili flakes you have in your home. This popular Asian condiment is quite easy to prepare. Although there are other ways to manufacture chili oil, the simplest method is to simply sauté equal amounts of chili flakes and garlic in neutral oil.
The outcome is a hot, savory oil that tastes great on bread, noodles, and vegetables, and even in desserts!
Mixing dried chilies, flakes, and powder to create hot sauce is a great way to use your chilies and come out with a condiment that perfectly matches your spice preferences. Nicely-bottled homemade sauces can also make great gifts for friends and family who share your love of spice.
Once your hot sauce has been made, store it in the refrigerator for up to 30 days or in the freezer for six months.
One exciting way to use dried chili flakes and powder is to add them to desserts. It may sound strange, but adding savory spices to desserts can bring out a whole new level of flavor.
For example, adding chili powder to dark chocolate makes it richer. Add chili flakes to toffee for a smoky and sweet angle, or add the perfect edge to any pineapple-based treat. For those who love trying new things in the kitchen, why not give candied peppers with whole chilies a try?
Fermenting foods is a centuries-old practice that involves adding nutrient-rich prebiotics and probiotics—essential to gut and heart health—to shelf-stable food. Add dried chilies to foods like kimchi, sauerkraut, salsa, and miso to punch up the flavor while also amping up your nutrition.
Not only are fermented foods good for your health, but you can store them for years on the shelf. Experiment with different combinations to create your ideal recipe.
Chili paste is a great option if you have a lot of dried chilies and flakes on hand. This spreadable paste can be used to make traditional Spanish and Latin American dishes, like chili con carne.
Choose mild to medium-spicy peppers, since if your paste is too spicy, it will mask all the other flavors. Add a dash of chili paste to soups, noodles, and scrambled eggs for a smokey, rich flavor profile.
If you have a lot of fresh chilies on hand, create homemade powder or flakes. Start by dehydrating your chilies at 185 degrees for eight to ten hours. You can do this in an oven or dehydrator, or hang your chiles in a dry place for three weeks.
Once completely dehydrated, toss them into a food processor and blend until you reach your desired consistency. Pulverize to achieve a fine powder, or grind a little less to make flakes.