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Homemade Ancho Chile Powder is easy and inexpensive when you make it at home – just one ingredient! Add it to soups, salad dressings, and marinades for a smoky, spicy heat.
The problem with Ancho Chile Powder is not its versatility nor its robust flavor. It’s the COST. It’s usually several dollars for a jar, or even more, and I’m guessing you only shell out that kind of money for saffron. And probably not even for saffron.
So the punchline of all this is, homemade Ancho Chile Powder is SO EASY to make, and dirt cheap. So let’s get right to it.
What are Ancho Chiles?
Ancho chiles are ripened poblano peppers that have been dried. They have a smoky flavor that is common in Mexican and Southwestern cooking. Their flavor is mild (1,000 – 2,000 Scoville heat units). Their skins are wrinkly and look a little bit like giant raisins with a stem.
Poblanos at the store are green because they are harvested before they are ripened. When the poblanos ripen, they turn red. Those red poblanos are then dried to make ancho chiles.
What is the difference between peppers and chiles?
They are the same thing; it’s really just a matter of naming conventions.
“Chile” is the Spanish word for capsicums such as jalapeños, serranos, habañeros, poblanos, and so on.
Americans sometimes spell it “chili” but now we are moving towards “chile” because “chili” is the stew with the meat.
We sometimes say “pepper” in the United States because when Columbus arrived, he thought chiles were “peppers” (as in spicy black pepper, a member of the Piper genus). He was wrong. We always use the word “pepper” for non-spicy peppers such as bell peppers.
What is the difference between chili powder and ancho chile powder?
Chili powder is a blend made from various ground spices including, but not limited to, ground chiles, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, and/or cayenne pepper.
Ancho chile powder is just one specific chile, dried poblanos, that have been ground up. It is slightly spicier than regular chili powder.
Note: If you shop at an international food market and buy “chili powder,” sometimes this is just straight-up ground dried red chiles (cayenne pepper), not the Americanized chili powder blend you’re thinking of. You should be able to tell by the color of the powder.
What is a substitute for Ancho chile powder?
You can substitute regular chili powder plus a small amount of crushed red pepper for heat.
1 teaspoon ancho chile powder = 1 teaspoon regular chili powder + ⅛ to ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- First, remove the stem and seeds from each dried ancho chile.
- Then, tear the ancho chiles into pieces. Add to a spice grinder.
- Blend the chiles until finely ground. Sift chile powder if desired (and re-grind any large pieces that don’t sift).
I typically buy the chiles in 2 ounce packages, and depending on the size of the chiles, each package contains 2 to 4 chiles. 1 (2 ounce) package of dried Ancho Chiles will yield about ¼ cup ancho chile powder.
What should I use to grind ancho chiles?
I like to use an electric spice grinder, but a small food processor or a high-quality blender should also be able to handle the job.
Where to Find Dried Ancho Chiles
Ancho dried chiles are always in stock at my local International foods markets and Mexican grocery stores. Sometimes I find them at regular groceries stores too or even Walmart. They usually sell for around $2 or less for a 2-ounce package. You can also buy them online, although I understand that spending $8 on dried ancho chiles isn’t much better than spending $6 on a bag of Ancho Chile Powder. Even if it’s a good value, it’s still a lot of money. So, try to find them locally.
Put your Ancho Chile Powder to work:
- Make a slew of Chipotle copycat recipes such as Chipotle Chicken, Chipotle Steak, Chipotle Barbacoa, or Chipotle Sofritas
- Use it in your next chili recipe: Beef Chili, Turkey Chili, Venison Chili, Chili Con Carne
- Add it to your next Homemade Chili Seasoning or taco seasoning
- Stir ancho chile powder into sour cream or mayonnaise for sandwiches and soups
- Make a dry rub for grilled pork chops or smoked chicken
Homemade Ancho Chile Powder
- 2 ounces dried Ancho Chiles
- Open the chile peppers by pulling them apart with your hands or cutting with a knife (wearing gloves is recommended). Carefully pull out and discard the stem. Shake or scrape out all seeds. Repeat with remaining chilies.
- Tear cleaned chile pieces into 1” or 2” pieces. Place in an electric grinder or small food processor and process in batches until finely ground.
- Store covered in an airtight container.
Meggan Hill is the Executive Chef and CEO of Culinary Hill, a popular digital publication in the food space. She loves to combine her Midwestern food memories with her culinary school education to create her own delicious take on modern family fare. Millions of readers visit Culinary Hill each month for meticulously-tested recipes as well as skills and tricks for ingredient prep, cooking ahead, menu planning, and entertaining. She graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the iCUE Culinary Arts program at College of the Canyons.