If you enjoy Mexican food, you’re probably a big fan of chilaca peppers and pepper in general.
They’re a crucial ingredient in Mexican cuisine, coming in all different shapes, sizes, and flavors to bring unique tastes to sauces and seasonings. You can find at least one variety of chile in almost every traditional Mexican recipe.
But did you know that every type of chile has two different names and flavor profiles?
The composition of the pepper changes so much when you dry it out that it’s necessary to differentiate between the two. Dried jalapenos are called chipotles. Dried poblanos are anchos, and so on.
The Chilaca pepper is a Mexican green chile that is a staple in many households. When dried, it’s called a Pasilla or little raisin.
Keep reading to learn more about this tasty green chile and how to grow some for yourself!
Characteristics of the Chilaca Pepper
Chilaca peppers are very dark green in color, sometimes even appearing black, earning it the name chile negro. They are curved like jalapenos or serranos and are typically six to ten inches in length.
The Chilaca pepper plant itself is typical of similar pepper plants, usually growing over two feet tall with long, green leaves.
The Chilaca pepper is mildly hot and slightly sweet, falling between 1,000 and 2,500 on the Scoville Scale. This isn’t a lot of heat for people who love hot peppers. But incorporating Chilacas in your meals will certainly bring some noticeable spice to your dish.
When dried, Chilacas, now called Pasillas, has a unique smokey flavor that is a key ingredient of mole, a traditional sauce in Mexican cuisine that features a mix of dried chiles, fruits, and spices.
Eating your Chilaca Peppers
Aside from clearing your sinuses, chiles and other varieties of hot peppers have some great health benefits.
In heating up your internal temperature, eating hot chilies speeds up your metabolic process and utilizes energy. This can lead to better overall metabolic health!
Many hot peppers include a chemical called capsaicin, which is thought to impact your health positively.
Capsaicin has anti-microbial properties and can aid in combatting congestion caused by allergies or the common cold. And contrary to what you might think, peppers containing capsaicin can act as an anti-inflammatory aid.
Hot peppers are also packed with vitamins, including A, B, C, and E!
Drying Tips and Tricks
To turn your Chilacas into Pasillas, you need to dry out your peppers.
The first step in this process is washing your peppers thoroughly, making sure there’s no dirt. Next, pat them dry and remove all the water from the outside of the peppers.
From here, there are a few ways to go. If you’re patient, you can store your chiles on a rack or string them up in a well-ventilated room, spaced out well, and wait for the process to occur naturally.
For this method, you’ll want to leave the chiles whole and ensure they get plenty of suns!
However, if you’re eager to dig into your Pasillas, you can also oven-dry your Chilaca peppers.
To do this, you need to cut the peppers lengthwise after you’ve patted them dry. Spread out your peppers on a baking sheet and cook them at low heat for a few hours.
You’ll have to keep an eye out, turning the halved peppers every so often until they appear wrinkled, dry, and black in color.
The last and easiest method is to use a food dehydrator. This gadget does all the drying for you – all you need to do is slice the peppers up and let the dehydrator work its magic.
Once you have your peppers dry, you can crush them into powder or flakes and use them as desired!
We can’t talk about Chilaca pepper dishes without sharing a recipe for mole. Don’t be scared by the ingredients list for this authentic mole recipe – that’s what gives the sauce its signature, complex flavor!
If you want to eat your Chilaca peppers fresh, they go great in salsa. The sweet, mild heat is an excellent compliment to the refreshing tomatoes. Check out our recipe for a delicious and easy tomato salsa!
Fresh Chilacas are also great to grill and serve alongside meat, seafood, or other grilled vegetables!
Growing Your Own Chilaca Peppers at Home
Planting and Care
To grow Chilaca peppers at home, you can sow them in either direction, in fertile soil or in a large pot indoors. If you’ve grown other varieties of peppers before, you’ll find the growing process for Chilaca peppers is much the same.
Their planting season is early spring, so if there’s still a risk of chilly nights or a cold snap, you can start the seeds inside and let them germinate for two or three weeks before moving them to a pot or soil after the last frost.
They do not tolerate the cold and need full sun to thrive, so make sure their soil stays warm and that you plant them in a spot that gets lots of direct light.
Aphids are the most harmful pests that will snack on your pepper plants, but you can easily combat them with some neem oil.
In roughly 85 days, your peppers will have reached maturity and are ready to harvest!
Hot peppers like Chilacas do great in gardens with lots of variety.
Some plants that grow particularly well alongside hot peppers are basil, cosmos, zinnias, garlic, peas, broccoli, and carrots.
While the young plants can be hard to find, Chilaca pepper seeds like these from True Leaf Market are commonly found at most garden shops, in-store or online, if you’re eager to start your own pepper crop.
If you want to pick up some ready-to-eat Chilacas, it might be tough to find specific varieties of hot peppers in your typical grocery store. But if you have a Hispanic or Mexican grocer in your area, they’ll surely have a good supply of both fresh Chilacas and dried Pasillas.
Ready to Grow Your Own Chilaca Peppers?
If you want to see the magic transformation from fresh to dried chiles for yourself, try your hand at some sweet and spicy Mexican Chilaca peppers this season! To learn more about caring for your peppers, check out our post all about pepper plants.