How to cook chillies?

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Do you know what happens to your body when you eat chillies?

Spiciness isn’t a flavour, not like sweet or sour – it’s just the result of the activation of pain receptors in the body. The chemical that causes the spiciness in chilli peppers is capsaicin, which is what creates the burning sensation when eaten.

Your body actually views capsaicin as an offensive substance which needs to be immediately flushed out. Capsaicin latches on to pain receptors in the nose, mouth, and skin, which are normally only activated in the presence of heat. It irritates the mucous membranes in the nose, causing them to be inflamed.

Nutritionist Melissa Calendar explains “capsaicin irritates your mucus membranes, especially the ones in your nose, so as a defence mechanism they produce more mucus, causing your nose to run so the extra amounts of mucous are actually a defense mechanism to try and keep out the unwanted substance.”

The sensation produced by the capsaicin is the same sensation that heat would cause, which explains the burn. The capsaicin tricks the nerves and sends messages to your brain. This signal turns the nerve cell on to allow it to trigger other nerve cells that will carry the message to the brain that it has to respond to this dangerous temperature – hence the sweating that often accompanies a spicy meal – this is the body’s reaction to try and cool itself down.

So why the red face and hands? The redness on your hands and face is another sign of your body attempting to cool off. Capillaries below the skin dilate in response to the “heat,” and blood rushes through them to move heat to the surface of your body, where it can more easily radiate away.

Going back to our guinea pig, we can see the effect of this:

Before After

Notice how in these before and after shots, his hands have gone yellow which shows that the body is attempting to cool itself down. In reality, our guinea pig’s hands were very sweaty!

As the capsaicin makes its way down your throat, you might also experience heartburn. But don’t reach for the Gaviscon straight away! Usually, it’s not a genuine episode of heartburn, which is typically caused by acid reflux, but the capsaicin binding to the TRPV1 receptors in the esophagus, which prompts a burning sensation similar to heartburn.

Do you also suffer from painful cramps after a chilli eating session? This is another defense mechanism to clear out the “heat-causing” contents in the intestine by moving them as quickly as possible towards the colon. Glands along the gut wall also may secrete more fluids, which can sometimes lead to the most unpleasant outcome of chili consumption: diarrhea. Not nice.

So why do so many of us like to eat something which tricks our brain into thinking our tongue is on fire?! Scientists believe it’s because it activates areas of the brain related to both pleasure and pain. The relief felt after the initial sensation of spice-induced pain actually leads to pleasure.

Vegan food expert Pamela Elizabeth, the restaurateur behind Blossom and Blossom Du Jour restaurants says one of the most interesting things about spicy food is that “it can heat up your body when it’s cold out and, surprisingly, can cool your body off when you are hot. Eating spicy food makes you sweat and sweating actually helps your body temperature regulate itself. So while it may seem strange, definitely put more heat on your food when the heat is on.”

13 Surprising Health Benefits of Chili Pepper You Absolutely Need to Know

Health benefits of Chili pepper includes improves digestive health and metabolism, alleviates migraines, may reduce risks of cancer, fights fungal infections, colds, and the flu, provides joint pain relief, fights inflammation, supports cardiovascular health, may improve cognitive functions, may improve longevity, promotes red blood cell growth, improve ocular health and keeps your hair and skin healthy and more.

Chili peppers are popular for their ability to improve the taste of any meal with their hot flavor. However, chili peppers are more than just a little bit of heat. Chili peppers are mainly used as a spice and this can be cooked or powdered and dried.

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The most valuable characteristic of chili peppers is the compound capsaicin. Capsaicin is the primary compound in chili peppers that gives the peppers their distinct taste and a number of health benefits. Today, we will explore 13 of those amazing health benefits of chili peppers.

13 Amazing Health Benefits of Chili Pepper

1. Improves Digestive Health and Metabolism

One of the biggest advantages of capsaicin is its contribution to gut health and weight loss. Contrary to popular belief, chili peppers can actually be an anti-irritant to your stomach and a great way to treat stomach ulcers.

Secondly, chili peppers, especially in its powder form, is rich in antioxidants and other compounds that can soothe other digestive issues, like upset stomachs, intestinal gas, diarrhea, and cramps. Peppers are able to accomplish this because they stimulate gastric juices and work against the acidity in your digestive tract.

Thirdly, chili peppers can accelerate your metabolism. By speeding up your metabolism, you curb your cravings and improve the rate at which you burn fat. In general, it is thought that the consumption of chili peppers along with other healthy lifestyle practices can improve weight loss.

2. Alleviates Migraines

Capsaicin from chili peppers has also shown potential in treating headaches and migraines. According to a study by the American Academy of Neurology Annual Meeting in Philadelphia, 18 patients with headache diagnoses were treated with an intranasal capsaicin.

As a result, 13 patients had full relief. Majority of the other patients experienced some relief, and only one patient had no relief. The researchers found that the capsaicin desensitizes the trigeminal nerve and decreases the CGRP–both of which are responsible for creating migraine pain.

3. May Reduce Risks of Cancer

Chili peppers also present a potential natural remedy for fighting cancer. According to the American Association for Cancer Research, the capsaicin and antioxidants in chili peppers can kill cancer cells in leukemia and prostate cancer. This is largely due to the high antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of chili peppers.

For example, in the case of prostate cancer, capsaicin reduces the growth of prostate cancer cells by triggering a depletion of the primary types of cancer cell lines. Similar effects can be found in breast, pancreatic and bladder cancer.

4. Fights Fungal Infections, Colds, and the Flu

The characteristic red color of chili peppers is an indication that it is rich in beta-carotene or pro-vitamin A. Vitamin A is key in maintaining a healthy respiratory, intestinal, and urinary system. Also, vitamin A and vitamin C in the chili peppers are vital in building up your immunity against infections and illnesses.

If you suffer from congestion or allergies, a capsaicin nasal spray can help relieve your symptoms. Moreover, capsaicin has a number of antibacterial properties that can fight chronic sinus infections.

If you are suffering from a high fever, hot chili peppers can not only relieve the pain, but they can also stimulate the immune system to fight off the virus.

Chili peppers can also be used for their anti-fungal properties. Specifically, it can kill food pathogens, bacteria like H. pylori and cure a number of inflammatory bowel diseases.

5. Provides Joint Pain Relief

In addition to being a natural source of pain relief for headaches and migraines, chili peppers can be used to reduce joint pain. Essentially, you can apply the chili pepper to the skin to reduce the presence of chemical P. Chemical P is the compound responsible for transmitting pain messages to the brain.

Capsaicin binds with pain receptors and induces a burning sensation that may desensitize your pain receptors over time. In this way, capsaicin acts as a pain reliever. Typically, it can be used to treat shingles, joint pain, and HIV neuropathy.

6. Fights Inflammation

Another one of capsaicin’s valuable characteristics is that it inhibits substance P, which is a neuropeptide that is responsible for inflammatory processes. As such, capsaicin is thought to be a potential treatment for a number of sensory nerve disorders, such as arthritis pain, diabetic neuropathy, and psoriasis.

An animal study found that animals who were treated with a substance that caused inflammatory arthritis responded well to a diet high in capsaicin. Thanks to the diet, the animals experienced a delayed development of arthritis and a significant decrease in inflammation throughout their bodies.

7. Supports Cardiovascular Health

Chili peppers can also be a great, natural way to support your cardiovascular system and prevent heart disease. Chili peppers are high in potassium, which is a mineral with a number of functions in the human body.

Potassium combined with folate can reduce your chances of developing heart disease. Moreover, potassium can help relax your blood vessels, which makes blood flow much easier on your body.

Chili peppers also contain riboflavin and niacin. The latter is responsible for maintaining healthy cholesterol levels and in turn, lower the risk for heart disease. Chili peppers can also protect fats in your blood against free radicals.

For example, one study found that eating fresh chili increased the resistance of blood fats to oxidation, which is free radical damage to your triglycerides and cholesterol levels.

8. Decrease Risks of Type 2 Diabetes

In addition to maintaining your heart health, chili peppers can reduce the risk of developing high blood levels of insulin, which is a common symptom of Type 2 Diabetes.

According to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, a number of Australian scientists discovered that a meal containing chili pepper can result in the right amount of insulin to reduce blood sugar levels.

This is a particularly useful fact for individuals with high BMIs or those who suffer from obesity. Lastly, remember that chili peppers are high in antioxidants, cartenoids, and vitamin C. These contribute greatly to insulin regulation as well.

9. May Improve Cognitive Functions

One of the key ways of maintaining a strong cognitive performance is a proper amount of oxygen and iron. Fortunately, chili peppers are rich in iron. This leads to an increase in the blood flow and hemoglobin production in your brain.

In turn, chili peppers can help improve your cognitive performance. Additionally, they can also decrease your chances of developing cognitive disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s.

10. May Improve Longevity

A study conducted by the Chinese Academy of Medical Sciences discovered that people who consume spicy food have a better chance of having a longer life. In other words, common spices have the potential to increase a person’s chance to live a longer, healthy life.

Over the course of seven years, the researchers found that individuals who ate spicy foods three to seven times a week has a smaller chance of experiencing cancer, heart disease, and respiratory illnesses.

This can be credited to capsaicin’s ability to reduce inflammation, clear the respiratory tract, and overall reduce the development of lifelong diseases.

11. Promotes Red Blood Cell Growth

In addition to maintaining heart health, chili peppers can also help with new blood cell formation. This is due to the fact that chili peppers are rich in copper and iron. As such, they are able to treat symptoms of anemia and fatigue.

Additionally, chili peppers also contain folic acid, which is key to fighting anemia and producing healthy red blood cells. This is particularly valuable for pregnant women because a deficiency in folic acid could mean birth defects in newborn babies.

12. Improve Ocular Health

Like we mentioned before, the vitamin A in chili peppers is important to building a strong immune system. However, it is also important in keeping your eyesight healthy and strong.

It is known for preventing night blindness and ocular degeneration. One tablespoon of chili pepper in your diet contains 9% of your daily recommended need of vitamin A.

13. Keeps Your Hair and Skin Healthy

The vitamin C in chili peppers does not just strengthen your immune system. It also creates and maintains collagen, which is a key protein found in healthy hair and skin. Specifically, cayenne pepper is a great natural ingredient that can add some spice to a beauty routine.

Cayenne pepper can be mixed into a face mask to deal with skin inflammation. It can also treat wrinkles, acne scars, and dark spots. Cayenne pepper is able to do this because it essentially stimulates blood flow which leads to flawless skin.

Mixed with olive oil, cayenne pepper can also make a great hair mask to bring some luster and shine to your hair.

Conclusion

All that being said, the next time you put together a meal, consider adding a dash of spice. As you can see, with chili peppers, a little can go a long way. So, a slight burn on your tongue or a teary eye might be worth its amazing health benefits.

If you are looking for a natural way to deal with some of your health issues, chili peppers are the way to go. We hope this was helpful to you. Let us know if you have questions.

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Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no ‘Planet B’ in this whole universe.

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A hot topic: Are spicy foods healthy or dangerous?

I’ve met too many people who swear that eating spicy foods is dangerous. Patients often tell me they’ve giving up spicy foods to get healthy. When my wife and I let our kids eat something spicy, my in-laws shake their heads at us. However, last time I checked, having a little Tabasco sauce won’t ruin your life.

Nonetheless, there’s some confusion about whether spicy foods are healthy or dangerous. In this post, I want to shed some evidence-based light on eating spicy foods to separate fact from fiction.

Are spicy foods healthy? Of course they are!

Capsaicinoids, which include the compound capsaicin, are the chemical components of peppers that create their spicy taste. Research over the past couple of decades has demonstrated that capsaicinoids — and thus, spicy foods — also possess several health benefits.

Eating spicy foods may help you live longer

According to an extensive population-based study published in BMJ in 2015, “Compared with those who ate spicy foods less than once a week, those who consumed spicy foods 6 or 7 days a week showed a 14 percent relative risk reduction in total mortality.” The association between spicy food consumption and total mortality “was stronger in those who did not consume alcohol than those who did.”

It’s ok to eat your spicy foods, but cut down on the margaritas with your spicy tacos.

Spicy foods don’t cause ulcers—they may actually help ulcers

As a gastroenterologist, I diagnose people with ulcers all the time. When I tell someone they have an ulcer after a procedure, almost everyone is quick to blame spicy foods. People frequently ignore the fact they are taking ibuprofen ‘around the clock’ or that they may have a bacteria called H. Pylori (one of the world’s most common causes of ulcers).

Contrary to popular belief, multiple studies show that capsaicin actually inhibits acid production in the stomach. As a matter of fact, capsaicin has been considered as a medication for preventing ulcer development in people who take non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs.

If you’re worried about an ulcer, go see your friendly neighborhood gastrointestinal (GI) doc (you can look me up if you’re in Chicago). Most importantly, when seeing your doc, make sure you have a conversation about any anti-inflammatory meds you’re using.

Spicy foods don’t cause hemorrhoids, but they may irritate anal fissures

In 2006, in a study published in Diseases of the Colon and Rectum, researchers randomly assigned people with large hemorrhoids to taking a placebo capsule or a capsule of red hot chili powder. The participants had to rate the effects of the pills on their hemorrhoid symptoms. The study found that the spicy capsules had no effect on hemorrhoid symptoms.

The story is a little different for people with small tears in the anus called anal fissures. Anal fissures are extremely painful — ’make a grown adult cry’ painful. A study in 2008 demonstrated that spicy foods aggravate symptoms associated with anal fissures. In the study, patients were randomly given a week of placebo and a week of chili pepper capsules. They had to keep track of anal fissure symptoms over the study period. Eighty-one percent of the participants felt better on the placebo.

Spicy foods may help with weight loss

C’mon, hot sauce can help you lose weight? It can, according to a meta-analysis of 90 different studies that looked at the role of capsaicin in weight management. The analysis found spicy foods reduce appetite and that they increase energy expenditure.

Are spicy foods dangerous? It depends on how spicy. You’ve heard of pepper spray, right?

Not too long ago, I saw a show on YouTube called Hot Ones. The simplicity of the show is what makes it beautiful — it’s just a host interviewing celebrities while eating super spicy hot sauces. Some of the hot sauces are more than 100 times hotter than Tabasco sauce. I guess I was a victim of ‘toxic masculinity’ because my testosterone levels made me try one of the hottest sauces on the show. It was one of those sauces that comes with a warning label. On the show, they dabbed a wing in one drop of the sauce. I foolishly poured a small amount on an organic tortilla chip (it was more than a dab).

The first bite was cool. I felt some heat with the second bite. My tongue died with the third bite. It felt like I was a vampire who just took a bite out of the devil. It felt like I was gargling with lava. After 10 seconds of tongue melting pain, I truly think I passed out and started hallucinating. After guzzling a gallon of milk, eating a loaf of bread, and going to my prayer closet, I decided to look up the dangers of ridiculously spicy foods.

A case of esophageal perforation after eating ghost peppers

The hot sauce I ate was ghost pepper based. When I started my search for dangers of super spicy foods, the first article I came across was from The Journal of Emergency Medicine. It was about a guy who ate ghost peppers as part of a contest. He started vomiting violently (I’ve been there). He eventually vomited so hard that he ruptured his esophagus.

Granted, the rupture was likely due to the vomiting, not from direct effects of the spicy peppers. But, the crazy hot peppers definitely triggered the vomiting.

Okay, Doc, you said spicy foods don’t cause ulcers, but I swear I have belly pain every time I eat spicy foods. What’s up with that?

Although spicy foods don’t cause ulcers, they can trigger abdominal pain in some people. One study specifically highlighted that frequent consumption of spicy foods can trigger upper gastrointestinal symptoms in some people with dyspepsia (or, indigestion). For people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), spicy foods can also trigger symptoms.

Another study showed that “those consuming spicy foods greater than or equal to 10 times per week were 92 percent more likely to have IBS compared with those who never consumed spicy foods.” When the researchers tried to analyze this finding based on gender,they found that spicy foods were not associated with irritable bowel symptoms in men.

In people with inflammatory bowel disease (or, IBD — Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis), spicy foods can also trigger some symptoms.

Dr. Ed, what’s the bottom line?

  • Spicy foods are healthy.
  • Spicy foods don’t cause ulcers, but be careful if you have irritable bowel syndrome, dyspepsia, or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). Basically, if spicy foods give you belly pain, think before you eat.
  • Spicy foods don’t cause hemorrhoids, but you may feel the burn if you have anal fissures.
  • Don’t get spicy foods in your eyes.
  • Use gloves if handling super hot peppers.
  • Regarding ridiculously spicy foods with warning labels, eat them at your own risk. Fellas, that ghost pepper sauce almost burned off my chest hairs from the inside—respect it.

There are many different chillies, varying in appearance and potency. Colour can depend on ripeness as well as variety. Avoid those that feel soft or have brown patches.

Milder chilli peppers include jalapeño, along with less common varieties like Hungarian wax pepper and Santa Fe. They are often pickled and have a gentle, sometimes sweet, spicy flavour.

Medium hot peppers, such as cayenne and serrano, are standard ‘red chillies’ sold in supermarkets. They have a fresh astringent heat that’s not too overpowering.

Hot chillis, such as bird’s eye, Scotch bonnet and habenero, are very potent and should be used sparingly.

1. To prepare a chilli, slice the stem off the top with a sharp knife. Cut in half lengthways. Scrape away all the seeds and light-coloured membrane from each half, using a knife. The volatile oils in chilli can cause skin irritation. Take care to avoid touching your eyes and wash hands immediately after preparing.

2. Cut into fine strips by slicing widthways across chilli with a large, sharp knife.

3. To finely dice, slice lengthways into long, thin strips. Bunch strips together and finely slice across them widthways.

Use your skills to make these Triple-Tested recipes:
Cheat’s chilli recipe
Chilli bolognese recipe
10 of the Best curry recipes

Oak chopping board, Lakeland. Professional ‘S’ vegetable knife, ProChef’s knife, Zwilling J.A. Henckels.

Chili is used in Asian cooking more than any western cuisines. I cut, dice, mince and blend them daily, and below is the collective experience I want to share with you.

There are three types of chili regularly used for cooking in Asia (where I live)- the red chili, green chili, and the bird’s eye chili.

Red chili is the most popular one among the three. It is used in all kinds of curry dishes, making the curry paste, chili paste, sambal and as a garnish. Green chili has a more precise use. It is for Thai green curry, making biryani rice, marinating meat for butter chicken and tandoori. The Chinese like to cut it into small rings and marinate it with vinegar as a condiment.

Bird’s eye chili is the hottest among the three. It is about four to five centimeters long, come with both red and green species. You can use the uncut bird’s eye chili in Tomyam soup, chop it for Thai basil chicken, Kampong fried rice, or small pieces as a condiment.

Hold the tip and remove the seeds with a spoon.

How To Remove The Seed Without Irritates Your Hands

  • Remove the stem. The best way is to use a sharp knife.
  • Slice it lengthwise. You can either cut it open or into two pieces. (I prefer to slice it into two halves.)
  • Scrape off the seeds and the pith. You can do this with the edge of the knife or a metal spoon. (I use the round measuring spoon).

In practice, you might not want to remove all the seeds, as you want to retain some heat. The seeds are not the hottest part. The pith that attached to the seeds is. Unless you have a specific reason, e.g. use it as a garnish, you might consider just leave the seeds intact.

Do you realize that the second bite is always hotter than the first? Some people believe that pith produces more heat than the seeds. The inner part closest to the stem is the hottest, as the concentration of the component capsaicin is the highest. Capsaicin is the component that irritates your skin and makes you feel burning.

It is easier to cut with the skin side down.

How to cut, dice and mince chili

  • Cut off the stem. The best way is to use a sharp knife.
  • Slice it lengthwise. You can either cut it open or into two pieces. (I prefer to slice it into two halves.)
  • Remove the seeds. You can reduce the heat of the chili by removing the seeds. Just follow the steps as in the previous section.
  • Cut into strips. Place the chili skin side down on a clean, flat chopping board.
  • Cut it lengthwise into thin strips.
  • Cut into dices. Turn it 90 degrees. Diced crosswise with the knife to the desired size.
  • Mince the chili. If you want to mince the chili, group the diced chili together, rock the knife back and forth, with one hand holding the handle and the other placing on the back of the knife. Mince to the desired fineness.

From my experience, it is easy to cut with its skin side down. It is also simpler to cut by using a good chopping board with a flat surface.

You can use a chef knife or paring knife to cut the chili. I have used different types of knives, and they are all working well. However, the knife must be sharp enough to slice through the skin.

How to cut the chili into rings

Making rings is the easiest way among all the methods.

  • Slice crosswise. Place the chili on a chopping board and slice it into rings starting from the tip with a sharp knife.
  • Remove seeds. Shake off the seeds on the chopping board and pick up only the rings.

Kitchen shears and scissors are more efficient for cutting bird’s eye chilies than a knife. Hold the stem, start cutting from the tip (opposite side of the stem) above a bowl. The small rings will drop into the bowl. Shake the chili rings in the bowl to detach the seed. Pick up the rings and discard the seeds.

The first plant in the world farmed domestically is believed to be chili peppers. Archaeologists have found 6000 years old chili in Peru and Mexico.

Cut bird’s eye chili with a pair of scissors.

The best way to minimize the irritation caused by chilies

Some people are sensitive to capsaicin, the organic component that causes the tingly burning sensation on the skin. You can wear a pair of gloves when you work on it, but it is quite clumsy in practice.

The heat comes from the capsaicin, which is concentrated at the pith and to a lesser extent, the seeds. It will not irritate your skin as long as you do not touch the inner part of the chili.

I cut plenty of chilies whenever cooking curry. The following steps work every time, and I never use gloves.

Step by step guide:

  • Use old newspaper. Place a piece of old newspaper underneath the chopping board. The paper must be much larger than the chopping board.
  • Do not touch the inner part. hold the chili when you cut off the stem. Slice it into halves.
    Once it is cut open, be careful not to touch the seeds and the pith. Hold the tip (there is no seeds and pith at this part) and scrape off the pith and seeds with a spoon. Put the deseeded chilies aside.
  • Clean the board and knife- Use the blade of the knife to push all the seeds and pith onto the old newspaper.
    -Clean the knife with the old newspaper.
    – Once you have done, remove the chopping board from the table. –
    – Throw away the old newspaper along with the stems and seeds.
    – Drop the used chopping board and knife into the dishwasher or clean under running water.
  • Wash your hands immediately with dishwasher or alcohol. (See below)

You do not need a pair of glove anymore after some practice. I have done that numerous times, and so you can.

While capsaicin can be a fiercely irritable compound to human, birds are completely immune to it. That is why birds are primarily responsible for spreading the wild chili to different parts of the world, by consuming it and excreting the seeds.

Chili flower as a garnish.

How to make chili flowers

Chili flower is an attractive garnish in Asian cuisine. Follow the following steps to make some to add a decorative touch to your meal.

All you need are a piece of fresh chili, a bowl of ice water and a pair of pointy scissors.

  • To make the fower– Cut off the tip, about half centimeter length.
    – Snip it lengthwise and stop short about 1 centimeter from the stem.
    – Repeat the process by cutting lengthwise to create a few more strips of equal length.
    – Remove the seeds and pith with a spoon.
  • Soak it for 20 minutes. Soak the chili in ice water for about twenty minutes. The strips will curl outwards slowly in the ice water to form the ‘petals’ of the flower.
  • Use it as a garnish. Remove it from the water if you want to use it immediately. Otherwise, it can be kept up to one day in the ice water for later use.

What if you accidentally touch the seeds and pith, producing furious heat on your hands?

The burning sensation is due to the presence of capsaicin, which is an alkaline oil. It binds to the pain receptors of the skin, which resulting the feeling of irritation,

Therefore, any methods that can neutralize the alkali oil and has oil dissolving property will work well to remove the irritant.

Here are two methods to reduce the irritation:

  • Use rubbing alcohol. Chili oil is more soluble in alcohol than water. Clean your hand with alcohol help to remove the oil. You can get alcohol or alcohol swabs at any pharmacies.
  • Wash with dishwashing liquid, not hand soap. Dishwashing liquid has a much better oil dissolving properties than ordinary soup. Therefore, it is more effective to get rid of the oil.

How to store fresh chilies

Chilies can stay fresh at room temperature for just a few days. However, it will stay fresh in the refrigerator up to two weeks.

Wrap it in paper towels or old newspapers. Place it in a plastic bag or a container with a cover.

Do not freeze the fresh chilies as the texture will change after freezing. The frozen chilies will become mushy after defrost.

Cooking with dried Mexican chillies requires a specific technique. While a fresh bird’s eye chilli can be finely chopped and chucked in a pan, a wrinkled ancho or a leathery guajillo should be cooked the traditional Mexican way. The process takes a little longer, but you’ll reap the rewards – chilli sauces made from scratch are worlds apart from store-bought varieties, perfect for authentic enchiladas and moles. If you haven’t cooked with them before, start with our step-by-step guide to how to cook with dried Mexican chillies below.

At Sous Chef we stock ten different varieties of dried Mexican chillies. Perhaps the most commonly used combination is ancho and guajillo. Each other variety has its own distinguishing characteristic though – from the chilli de arbol’s wicked hotness to the mulato’s fruitier notes. The same cooking method applies to all the dried Mexican chillies, so once you’ve mastered a basic chilli paste, start experimenting by adding and taking away different chillies – and before you know it you’ll be tinkering your way toward a thirty-ingredient mole.

Step-by-step: How to cook with dried chillies

Step 1 – Preparing the chillies

Pull the stem off the top of the chilli. Use your hands or a paring knife to split the chilli open, spatchcock-style. Collect the seeds and put them to one side. You might want to add these to the sauce later, to give it an extra kick. You might prefer to wear gloves during this step – if not, make sure you don’t touch your eyes. It will burn.

Step 2 – Toasting the chillies

Traditionally, toasting is done on a heavy, cast iron skillet – but a frying pan will work, and it can even be done on charcoal if you happen to have a barbecue on the go.

Pressing a chilli against a dry pan until it blisters is a counter-intuitive process for a European cook. Traditionally, recipes start with oil or butter in a pan – so forcing out extra flavour by blistering the chillies directly against a hot surface may feel like a brutal technique.

The toasting process intensifies the flavour though, and introduces rich, caramelised notes to a dish.

Step-by-step

  • Heat a stainless steel or cast-iron skillet on the hob.
  • Divide your dried chillies into a few batches, to toast individually. That helps control the heat better.
  • Use a wooden spatula to press the chilli flesh down onto the dry heat, so that it starts to blister and turn a darker colour. This should take between 35-45 seconds.
  • For more bitter notes, suitable for some recipes, go a step further and toast the chillies until blackened – for 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Blacken the seeds separately. You can add these later for extra heat if needed.

Step 3 – Soaking the chillies

Once the chillies have all been toasted, pour over boiling water. This rehydrates them – and the flesh will become moist and supple.

Some writers suggest that it’s important not to soak the chillies in a too large volume of boiling water, as it will leach out too much flavour, and also recommend gentle simmering for 15-20 minutes. We prefer the easier route below.

Step-by-step to soak chillies

  • Pour water from a freshly boiled kettle over the chillies, and leave in a bowl to soak for at least 5 minutes – they are not in hot water for too long such that they loose flavour, and the soaking water can always be added to the sauce or stew later.
  • Chillies float, so rest a plate or mug over them to keep them submerged.

Step 4 – Blending the chillies

This is the point that the sauce starts to take shape, and some decisions need to be made.

Which ingredients should be blend with the chillies?

  • A traditional chilli paste will might use blackened onions and garlic, along with a selection of other seasonings such as Mexican cumin and oregano. Alternatively just use the soaked chillies alone for a simpler flavour.
  • Use a blender to turn the ingredients into a thick paste – adding a little oil or the soaking water to help the mixture keep together.
  • Taste the blended mixture, if you want it slightly hotter add a teaspoon of blackened chilli seeds at a time, and blend again.

What is the correct consistency?

  • To create a chilli sauce with pouring consistency, blend the chillies together with fresh or tinned tomatillos, tomatoes, or even a little stock or oil.
  • If the chilli paste is being used as a marinade, then it’s best to keep it in its richest, most intense form while it flavours the meat – as in the Mexican birria recipe. It can then be thinned out at a later stage in the recipe.

What should the texture be?

  • Some people will strain the sauce through a sieve to make it perfectly smooth.
  • Others will leave the sauce in a more rustic and textured form – there’s no right or wrong, just personal preference.

Step 5 – Cooking the paste (optional)

As with a tomato sauce, the process of slow-cooking a chilli sauce or paste will enrich and deepen the flavour. Pour a little oil into the bottom of a deep frying pan, and then add the paste. Heat to just below a simmer, and keep an eye on it – stirring occasionally – for 20 minutes or so. By the end of cooking, the colours deepen, and the hard edges of the paste will mellow to a full-flavoured rounded sauce.

Two chilli recipe ideas, to get started

1. Simple all-purpose three chilli paste

An all-purpose chilli paste to keep on hand to add richness and spice to almost any dish: add a couple of tablespoons to a chilli con carne, add a teaspoon to a fresh zingy tomato salsa, or add a little salt and use to marinade a pork shoulder before slow-roasting. For approx 200g of chilli paste, use 4 (approx 30g) of each chilli – 90g of dried chillies in total.

Ingredients:

  • 4 ancho chillies,
  • 4 guajillo chillies,
  • 4 pasilla chillies

Method:

  1. Prepare chillies as in steps 1 to 5 above.
  2. Add a teaspoon of sugar to the paste.
  3. Store in an airtight jar in the fridge covered in a little oil.

2. Salsa de chile de Arbol

Recommended to us by our chilli supplier, this is the perfect accompaniment to tacos. Plus it can be made straight from the store cupboard in 10 mins.

Ingredients:

  • 3 chile de arbol,
  • 3 cloves garlic (unpeeled),
  • 10 tomatillos (half a can)

Method:

  1. Prepare chillies using steps 1-4 above. They are small and tender so only need soaking for 5 mins.
  2. Whilst the chillies soak, strain the tomatillos, and blacken for around 5 mins in a hot skillet.
  3. Remove to a blender, and then blacken the garlic cloves. Peel the garlic, and blend together the peeled garlic, soaked chillies, and tomatillos.
  4. Serve with tacos, or even for dipping tortilla chips.

Browse more Mexican recipes here, or if you’re keen to get cracking with Mexican food, perhaps pick up our Mexican Cookbook & Ingredients set.

How to Cook Chili Peppers

The subject of chili peppers can be very confusing for beginning and experienced cooks alike. There are more than 100 varieties of chilies in Mexico, each with its own unique characteristics. They are used both fresh and dried, and either type can be whole or ground. The same chili can even be found under different names depending upon its region of origin. Chilies range in degree of heat from very mild to incendiary, and the heat can vary within a variety.

Try It!

Here are a few Mexican recipes from our collection:

Due to increasing interest in Mexican foods, chili peppers that were once available only in Mexican grocery stores are now readily available in gourmet food stores and many local supermarkets. Not all chilies are available in all areas at all times.

Below are descriptions of the most common varieties and individual chili traits. This way, you’ll be able to substitute one chili for another. The character of the dish may change slightly, but it will still be delicious and enjoyable.

A Note of Caution
The heat of chili peppers comes from the seeds, the veins (the thin inner membranes to which the seeds are attached), and in the parts nearest the veins. For milder dishes, the veins and seeds are removed and discarded. The oils from the seeds and veins can be very irritating to the skin and can cause painful burning of the hands, eyes, and lips. Do not touch your face while handling chilies. Wash your hands well in warm soapy water after handling. Wear rubber gloves if your skin is especially sensitive or if you are handling a number of chili peppers.
Fresh Chilies
Fresh chili peppers will keep for several weeks refrigerated in a plastic bag lined with paper towels. The towels absorb any moisture. When purchasing fresh chilies, select those that have firm, unblemished skin.


From top to bottom: Anaheim, Jalapeño, Poblano, and Serrano chilies. See more spice pictures.

Anaheim (also called California Green Chili)
A light green chili that has a mild flavor with a slight bite. They are 4 to 6 inches long, about 11/2 inches wide and have a rounded tip. Anaheims are also sold canned. For a spicier flavor, poblano chilies can be substituted.
Jalapeño
A small, dark green chili, 2 to 3 inches long and about 3/4 inches wide with a blunt or slightly tapered end. Their flavor varies from hot to very hot. They are also sold canned or pickled. Serranos or other small, hot, fresh chili peppers can be substituted.
Poblano
A very dark green, very large triangular-shaped chili with a pointed end. Poblanos are usually 31/2 to 5 inches long. Their flavor ranges from mild to quite hot. For a milder flavor, Anaheims can be substituted.
Serrano
A medium green, very small chili with a very hot flavor. It usually ranges from 1 to 11/2 inches in length and is about 3/8 inch wide with a pointed end. Serranos are also available pickled. Jalapeños or any other small, hot, fresh chilies can be substituted.
Dried Chilies
Dried red (ripe) chilies are usually sold in cellophane packages of various weights. They will keep indefinitely if stored in a tightly covered container in a cool, dark, and dry place.


From top to bottom: Pasilla, Pequin,
Mulato, De arbol, and Ancho chilies.

Ancho
A fairly large, triangular-shaped chili, slightly smaller than the mulatto chili. It has wrinkled, medium to dark reddish-brown skin. Anchos are full flavored, ranging from mild to medium-hot.
Chipotle
A smoked and dried jalapeño chili. It has wrinkled, medium-brown skin and a rich, smoky, very hot flavor. Chipotles are also commonly available canned in adobo sauce.
De arbol
A very small, slender, almost needle-shaped chili with smooth, bright red skin and a very hot flavor.
Mulato
A triangular-shaped, large chili that has wrinkled, blackish-brown skin. Its flavor is rich, pungent, and medium-hot.
Pasilla
A long, slender, medium-sized chili with wrinkled, blackish-brown skin. It has a pungent flavor, ranging from mild to quite hot. (Pasillas are sometimes called negro chilies.)

Pequin (also spelled piquin)
A very tiny chili shaped like an oval bead. It has a slightly wrinkled, orange-red skin. Use pequin chilies with caution as their flavor is very, very hot. (These are sometimes labeled tepin chilies.)

Cutting chili peppers is a skill you must learn if you want to add a little spice to your cooking. Find out more in the next section.

Not what you’re looking for? Try these:

  • How to Cook Tortillas and Beans: Tortillas and beans are staples of Mexican cuisine. Learn how to prepare them properly in this article.
  • Mexican Recipes: From enchiladas to tortilla soup, the delicious ideas on our Mexican Recipes page are sure to be a hit at your next fiesta.
  • Cooking: Learn the ins and outs of some basic cooking techniques in this helpful article.

When the summer farmers’ market stalls are exploding with fresh chiles in every size, shape, and color, that canister of red pepper flakes in your pantry suddenly starts to look, well, a little sad. At a loss for what to do with all those gorgeous peppers? These techniques and recipes tease out all the nuanced flavors fresh chiles offer. It’s about to be 🔥.

Marcus Nilsson1. A Little Spice Is Always Nice

All things being equal, we’ll readily admit that it’s fun to burn out on nuclear wings at the bar or to sweat over an incendiary bowl of mapo dofu once in a while. The key to cooking with chiles, however, is to think of their heat not as a dare but as another essential building block of flavor, right alongside salt, acid, and fat. Rather than overpowering a dish, a perfectly calibrated prickle of spice enhances the other elements and wakes up the palate.

Get the Recipe: Soba with Green Chile Pesto Marcus Nilsson2. …But to Coax Out More Flavor, Subdue the Heat

There’s so much hiding behind the fire—bright fruitiness, delicate floral notes, earthiness and funk—and prepping chiles in ways that tame their heat is the secret to unlocking their true potential. Once the peppers have been mellowed out, you can pack more of them into a dish. Here are three ways to do it:

Seed
The spongy white membrane with seeds attached is where most of the chile’s heat is concentrated. Slicing the peppers in half and scraping out those parts will calm down the intensity of the chile considerably.

Chilli recipes

Chillies are available fresh, dried (whole, as flakes or ground into chilli powder), preserved in oil (where the heat from the chilli will infuse the oil) or made into condiments such as Tabasco. Fresh chillies sold in packets in supermarkets usually have a heat scale on them as a guide. When shopping for more interesting chilli varieties, farmers’ markets and ethnic stores are the best hunting grounds. Look for a smooth, glossy skin that is deep in colour and firm to the touch. Discard any chillies with shrivelled skin, brown marks or watery bruises.

Some of the most common chilli varieties are:

Poblano – mildly hot, dried chilli used in the Mexican mole poblano sauce

Mulato Isleño – mildly hot chilli with a deep, sweet flavour

Ortega – elongated mildly hot New Mexican chilli, ideal for use in stews and salsas

Chipotle – mild, dried smoked chilli commonly used in Mexican cooking and commercially produced chilli sauces

Pasillas – long, very dark brown chillies, usually sold dried, then ground and added to sauces

Jalapeños – fiery chillies, used either fresh or pickled; can be dried and smoked to make chipotles towards the end of the growing season

Tabasco – hot chillies with a distinctive flavour that comes from a fermentation process in which the chillies are combined with vinegar and salt

Bird’s-eye – tiny but powerful green and red chillies, especially common in Thai and South-east Asian cooking

Habañero – lantern-shaped, blow-your-head-off hot chilli, usually orange, with a slightly fruity flavour

Scotch Bonnet – lantern-shaped red-hot chilli related to the habañero, usually yellow, green or red in colour