Chipotle Peppers

chipotle chiles
photo credit: gourmetsleuth


There are two common varieties of chipotle chilies. The favorite is the meco, or ahumado chipotle which are usually a dull tan to coffee color and measure approximately 2 to 4 inches in length and about an inch wide. The other, and typically less expensive version is the smaller, red chipotle called chipotle morita. As much as one fifth of the Mexican jalapeno crop is processed into chipotles

Chipotle Pepper History

Chipotle peppers 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 chileMorita, 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.

Uses and Product Types

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. 

Heat Scale 
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. 

Uses For Chipotles

Chipotles are available dried whole, powdered, canned in "adobo sauce" or pickled. See the where to buy section for purchasing information. 

Chipotle Powder 
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. You can purchase them online at Goya Chipotle Peppers in Adobo Sauce

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. 

Smoking Your Own Chiles

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 Chipotle Chiles.

More Chipotle Recipes

Simple Chipotle BBQ Sauce - You can whip this Simple Chipotle BBQ Sauce recipe together in just 15 minutes, start to finish with ingredients you probably have in your pantry. Makes about 3 3/4 cups of sauce. Use on chicken, beef or pork.

Spicy Chipotle Beef (Puntas al chipotle) - This recipe combines boneless beef, onions, chipotle in adobo chiles and worcestershire sauce. Serve with warmed corn tortillas and a salad.

Chipotle Fajitas - Steak is marinated for 30 minutes, sauteed with onion and bell peppers and served with avocado, sour cream and salsa.

Nutrition Information For Chipotle Peppers

Serving Size
1 cup
Calories from Fat
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 2g
Saturated Fat 0g
Cholesterol 0mg
Sodium 34mg
Total Carbohydrate 26g
Dietary Fiber 11g
Sugars 15g
Protein 4g
Vitamin A  0% Vitamin C  0%
Calcium  0% Iron  0%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Where To Buy

Buy Chile Plants - Want to grow your own jalapeno plants? The best source on the web for chile plant seedlings.

chipotle chile mora - ahumado

Other References

Chili Heat Scale- GourmetSleuth, list of chile peppers, including photographs, and their relative and Scovile heat rating.

How To Roast Chile Peppers - GourmetSleuth, simple instructions for roasting chilies or tomatillos.

Firery Foods -  Excellent in-depth article about the chipotle chile and other varieties of smoked chilies. One of the references for this article.

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.