Some like it hot. Some like it sweet. No matter the preference, chiles play an integral role in the many cuisines all around the world. And while there are the chile-heads who are all about pushing their Scoville unit limits, chiles and peppers are so much more than just about heat. Their flavor profiles can range from not only hot but also citrusy, acidic and much more. And with hundreds of different varieties to choose from, how do you even familiarize yourself with which ones to use? Which chiles work best in a sauce versus a stir-fry? After all, it’s very easy to mistake a Serrano chile for a Jalapeño chile until it’s too late. To begin our journey into the wonderful world of chiles, let’s take a look at some of the most popular varieties you can find available today. For even more useful information, The Great Pepper Cookbook is a wonderful resource for discovering even more about them.
Caution, this one is hot! You may know Bhut Jolokia Chiles by its other infamous name: ghost chiles. A chile pepper so hot that it scores 1 million Scoville heat units compared to the more mild Jalapeño’s range of 7,000 to 11,000 units, this one needs to be handled rubber gloves and some serious care. Tasting the pepper can be deceiving as it has a sweet flavor upon first bite with a fiery sensation intensifying within minutes. However, for the daring, this chile can be sampled or used in recipes very sparingly.
For those who still want a good heat without the wallop of the Bhut Jolokia chiles, Cayenne Chiles are much easier to incorporate into recipes. They’re still considered quite hot, ranging on the upper half of the heat index scale. Popularly used in many cuisines such as Korean and Sichuan, Cayenne Chiles are used both fresh and in powdered form, which you may commonly recognize as chili powder. To prepare it fresh, remove the seeds to lessen the spiciness and them chop them up to add to an assortment of recipes.
Don’t be fooled by its adorable lantern shape. Habanero Chiles bring on the heat! Considered one of the hottest chiles in the world, Habenero chiles are 30 to 50 times hotter than Jalapeno chiles. Some may embrace its intense heat but others may want to take caution when enjoying this particular chile. Trust us when we say that a little bit goes a long way. Its distinct citrusy flavor mixes particular well with tomatoes and other sweet fruits such as mangoes. Best used within sauces and spicy foods rather than eaten raw, Haberno chiles are a great gateway pepper for chile-heads.
A highly anticipated seasonal chile, Hatch Chiles are only available through the months of August and September and go as quickly as they arrive. A Southwestern favorite, Hatch Chiles are unlike any other chile out there and are grown in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico. Their meaty flesh and mild to medium heat makes them such a standout ingredient that people venture out to grocery stores during Hatch Chile Roasts to buy them by the pound. For more information on this popular chile, check out our Hatch Chile Cookbook.
If you’ve ever eaten Spanish-style tapas, you may recognize Padron Chiles. Petite in size and thin-skinned, these peppers are traditional to the Galica region in Spain and often served as a small plate appetizer. When it comes to heat, not all padron chiles are created equal. Most of them are mild but you may encounter one wildly hot one in a batch. All you need to enjoy them is a hot pan, olive oil and sea salt. For another tasty starter, they can also be stuffed with cheese and roasted in the oven.
Say hello to one of the trendiest peppers these days: Shishito Peppers! Chefs and home cooks are flocking to this small, elegant peppers for their incredible flavor and texture. They’re sweet, crunchy and mellow in heat except for a few spicy ones in a batch. Traditionally served in Japanese cuisine tossed with sesame oil and soy sauce, these peppers taste incredible when roasted to bring out their smokey, earthy flavors. Serve them as an appetizer or as a side dish alongside roasted meats.
Incorporating more chiles into your recipe repertoire is an adventurous task worth pushing beyond your cooking comfort zone. From the mild Shishitos to the scorching hot Bhut Jolokias, chiles can be addicting once you discover the ones that satisfy your taste buds. Although we have plenty of chile-based recipes on our website, here are our top 10 favorites.
Bhut Jolokia Salsa
Anaheim and Cayenne Pepper Dressing
Fresh Habanero Tomato Salsa
Habanero Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Baby DYPs® w/Hatch Chile Vinaigrette
Hatch Chile Grilled Quesadilla
Hatch Chile Roasted Pork Tenderloin
Padron Chile Pasta Alfredo w/Crab
Grilled Shishito Peppers
Stuffed Shishito Peppers
What are your favorite chiles? Share with us your favorite chile-based recipes!