Chile Arbol

de arbol chiles
photo credit: gourmetsleuth


This pretty red chile is a long, pointed chile and grows from 2 to 3 inches in length. The stems are long and fine. This is a chile whose flavor you will remember, along with the searing heat. Arbol is related to the cayenne chile. The arbol chile is primarily used ground in sauces and you may see it referred to in soup and stew recipes. In Veracruz the whole chiles are fried and added to black beans. The spicy chile is also ground and added to fruits or vegetables like jicama or cucumbers (Diana Kennedy, My Mexican Kitchen).

How To Buy

Arbol chiles are commonly found whole, dried with stems, whole dried without stems and ground.  As with any chile you'll get the best flavor by toasting whole chiles then grinding them.  That being said the flavor from the commercially ground product is quite good and is a real time saver. 

Make sure to purchase pure chile powder with no preservatives or additives.

Featured Recipe: Salsa Arbol

This hot salsa is great over tacos.  Recipe by La Cienaga, Chicago, IL


  • arbol chiles4 small ripe tomatoes, Italian style are fleshy and good for sauce
  • 2 tablespoons oil, separated 
  • 2 cups de Arbol chiles, stems removed (leave seeds and veins)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 4 guajillo chiles, stems removed (leave seeds and veins)
  • 6 tomatillos 
  • 1/2 teaspoon chicken bouillon powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1/4 teaspoon Mexican oregano 
  • Salt to taste


Place tomatoes in a small saucepan with enough water to cover and bring to a boil.

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a heavy skillet and stir-fry chlies for 1-2 minutes to bring out the flavor. Don't allow the chiles to burn. Remove chiles with a slotted spoon and place on paper toweling to drain.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and add the guajillo chiles and garlic and stir-fry for 3- minutes. The garlic should be lightly browned but not too dark or it will be bitter. Remove chiles and garlic with a slotted spoon and place on paper toweling to drain.

Place tomatillos in the pan, swirling them around to fry until the skin is blistered and the tomatillos are cooked through. Remove from pan and place in a small bowl and allow to cool.

Remove cooked tomatoes and place in a bowl and allow to cool. Reserve the cooking liquid.

Place all the ingredients including tomatoes, tomatillos, chiles, and spices in a blender jar along with 2-3 cups of the tomato cooking liquid and blend until smooth.


  • Arbol chiles are sold with and without stems.   Given the chiles are small it is a handy time saver to purchase the stemmed variety.
  • Chile de arbol is very hot.  When adding this chile to a recipe you should add a little at at time and taste to insure the heat is at the level you prefer.

Barbara Bowman graduated with degree in Foods and Nutrition from San Jose State University. As CEO of she spends most waking hours writing, cooking, eating, gardening and traveling.