Ancho Peppers Quality

Is there any way to tell the quality, i.e. flavor/heat of an ancho pepper before going to all the trouble of making mole sauce from scratch? My recipe takes a long time and I never know if it was worth it until I am finished and get to taste it. I don't want an easier or faster recipe, just how to judge an ancho. thanks, m

  • Posted by: Michelle
  • February 23, 2018


Smaug February 25, 2018
By la by- Ancho peppers are marketed in some areas as Pasilla peppers, something to look out for; an Ancho should be about 2- 2 1/2 wide at the stem end, while true Pasillas are about 1"; Pasilla peppers are most often (in my area anyway) sold as Chile Negro. They're probably the best sub for Anchos, at least as far as flavor profile.
Nancy February 24, 2018
Anchos are generally mild/low heat.
Are you getting different heat levels in the peppers you buy, or some that taste off, stale, not quite right?
If you want less or more heat, look at the Scoville scale and pick another pepper (sorry, tongue twister).
If you want better tasting or better quality, buy where there is known quality and rapid turnover (bricks-and-mortar or online).
Michelle February 24, 2018
Thanks everyone, I appreciate your input. I live in Victoria, British Columbia, Canada and I spent most of a day a couple of weeks ago searching for dried Ancho peppers. I finally settled on a place that had them but where I wasn't comfortable buying any. And, the mole wasn't very good...

In the last 20 years I have made my mole recipe (derived from Rick Bayless's) several times. It had progressed from a chicken enchilada recipe published in Bon Appetit that was quick and easy and used Ancho Chili powder. It was so promising that I looked for a more authentic version. The first time I tasted Rick's, my tongue danced. I was hooked. Since then, the tongue dancing has only happened a very few times. I know it has to do with the quality of the Anchos. Unfortunately, I don't have access to quality and rapid turnover. Does anyone know of a good online source?
Nancy February 24, 2018
Michelle-you don't have to reinvent the wheel on sources. Search here in Hotline using words like "spice merchant." There are many good US ones that ship into Canada *e.g., Spice House and Kalustyans). And little or no restrictions on delicery by Canada Customs.
Smaug February 23, 2018
The main problem you run into with dried chiles is age- they should still be quite pliable and a little soft. With some experience you can judge heat of peppers by the smell, but Anchos are generally so mild that it's hard to differentiate. You can try biting into a piece, but note that any heat you get that way will be greatly attenuated in a finished dish. If you're very sensitive to capsaicin, good idea to have a piece of bread or something of the like to chew on- water won't help if it's too hot for you.
702551 February 23, 2018
Assuming the recipe requires reconstituting the dried chiles in water, I would simply taste the liquid and/or sample some of the peppers before adding to the recipe.

You may also want to make careful notes of the chile vendor as it would be wise to assume that there will be varying levels of quality between different providers.

If you want ultimate control, grow your own chiles and dry them yourself.

Best of luck.
dinner A. February 23, 2018
Tasting the soaked chile itself seems like a good strategy. I wouldn't judge chiles by the flavor of the soaking liquid though -- I think regardless of the quality it doesn't taste great. The cookbook of Mexican sauces I have (Truly Mexican, an excellent cookbook btw) actually instructs you to discard the soaking liquid and use fresh water in the final sauce.
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