photo by: gourmetsleuth.com
[Chee-POT-tleh] peppers are smoked jalapeno chili peppers and are also known as chili ahumado.
These chilies are usually a dull tan to coffee color and measure approximately 2 to 4 inches in length and about an inch wide. As much as one fifth of the Mexican jalapeno crop is processed into chipotles
Article by: Barbara Bowman
Chipotles date back to region that is now northern Mexico City, prior to the Aztec civilization. It is conjectured that the Aztecs smoked the chilies because the thick, fleshy, jalapeno was difficult to dry and prone to rot. The Aztecs used the same "smoke drying" process for the chilies as they used for drying meats. This smoking allowed the chilies to be stored for a substantial period of time.
Today Chipotles are used widely throughout Mexico as well as in the United States. Quite popular in the South Western U.S. and California; Chipotles have found their way into the cuisine of many celebrity chefs from Hawaii to Manhattan.
Smoked Whole Chilies
Chile ahumado pictured at the top of this page
, (also referred to as "tipico" and "chile meco" - is greyish tan in color with a very rich smoky flavor. It is said to resemble a "cigar butt" in shape. This "authentic" preferred Chipotle.Morita
, pictured below
, means "little blackberry" in Spanish. The chili is dark reddish purple. This is the variety most often found in the United States. While it is quite flavorful it is not smoked as long as the ahumado and therefore not of the same high quality and cheaper to produce. Many of the varieties sold as "tipico" in the U.S. are actually the inferior "morita". It's important to note that although the Morita is considered "inferior" compared to the much less common ahumado, or tipico, it is still a delicious and useful product.
Typically the Chipotle is used to flavor soups, salsas, stews, sauces, and even an occasional dessert. See our recipe selection for many examples of ways to use the pepper.
Most of the natural 'heat' of the jalapeno is retained in the drying process. Typically it is about 5,000 to 10,000 Scoville Units. This is considered a "medium" heat in comparison to other chilies.
How to Buy
Chipotles are available dried whole, powdered, canned in "adobo sauce" or pickled. See the where to buy section for purchasing information.
A few spice companies offer a chipotle powder. This is simply the dried whole chili, ground up into a fine powder. Use as you would any chili powder for a spicy, smoky flavor.
Chipotle en Adobo Sauce
Normally packed in cans with a sauce made of spices, vinegar, tomato sauce and sometimes other chilies. You can use the chilies, the sauce, or both in recipes.
Chipotle Chili Salt
The salt is a combination chipotle chili powder and table salt. Use on meats or vegetables for a light smoky flavor.
Chipotle Chili Paste
Chilies are dehydrated and blended into a paste. Use the chili paste for a meat rub or to flavor dressings or sauces.
It is possible to smoke your own chilies using your home smoker. Frequently the quality is not quite as good as the commercial variety. If you are an accomplished "home smoker" and you'd like to give it a try, here is a link to instructions. GourmetSleuth, Home Smoked Chiles
Chili Heat Scale - GourmetSleuth, list of chili peppers, including photographs, and their relative and Scovile heat rating.
How To Roast Chili Peppers - GourmetSleuth, simple instructions for roasting chilies or tomatillos.
Firery Foods - Excellent in-depth article about the chipotle chili and other varieties of smoked chilies. One of the references for this article.