Chile Ancho: One of the 3 Dried Chiles Essential to Mexican Cuisine

Wondering how to use chile Ancho in recipes? The Ancho — part of the “Holy Trinity” of dried Mexican chiles — is a staple in mole sauce, salsas, stews, birria, and countless other dishes. Here’s what you need to know about this delicious chile and how to grow Poblano peppers (the fresh version of the Ancho). We’ll cover flavor profile, heat, how to rehydrate Ancho peppers, substitutes, and more.

chile ancho peppers

CHILE ANCHO FACTS:

Common Names:Anchos, Dried Poblano pepper, Ancho chile, Ancho pepper (often incorrectly called Pasilla peppers)
Chile Ancho Pronunciation: ahn-choh
Scoville Heat Units (SHU):1,000-2,000 SHU
Capsicum Species:Annuum
Days To Harvest:70 to 80 days after transplanting outside
Size:Peppers: 3-4 inches long (8-10 cm) and 2-3 inches wide. Plant: Up to 25 inches tall
Flavor:Smoky, sweet, fruity, earthy, and slightly spicy
Culinary Uses:Moles, sauces, soups, salsas, enchiladas

What Is Chile Ancho?

what is chile ancho pepper

Ancho chillies are dried Poblano peppers. Capsicum annuum chile varieties like Poblanos and different Jalapeno types are harvested green, while Ancho chiles are allowed to ripen red on the vine.

Originating in the Mexican state of Puebla, Ancho chiles are essential in Mexican cuisine. Some even consider chile Ancho to be part of the “holy trinity” of Mexican dried peppers.

where ancho came from on the map
Where Ancho Came From

Many food historians believe that Poblano peppers were likely an important staple in the diets of the ancient Aztec people. Mole sauce, whose key ingredient is chile Ancho, has been enjoyed in Mexico for hundreds of years [source]. 

Ancho chiles are flat, large, and leathery in texture. In fact, the word “Ancho” translates in English to “broad” or “wide,” a descriptor of how these peppers are shaped.

This roomy interior of Poblano peppers makes them ideal for stuffing in dishes like chile relleno. Chile Ancho – the dried version of the Poblano – is smaller so they’re better for rehydrating in sauces or grinding into powder.

While there is just one type of Ancho chile, the ripened Poblano pepper produces two dry chile varieties: Mulato chile and Ancho chile.

What Do Ancho Peppers Taste Like?

ancho peppers on a plate

Poblano peppers have a flavor profile that’s sweet and garden-fresh. However, when dried to make chile Ancho, the peppers become fruity, earthy, smoky, and a little bit spicy. Ancho chile is still sweet, but the flavor is more complex than that of fresh Poblano peppers.

While still green, Poblano peppers are fairly mild. However, Poblanos are left on the vine to ripen and turn red to make chile Ancho, so the peppers become spicier. 

Ancho Pepper Scoville

are ancho chile peppers hot scoville chart

Are Ancho peppers hot? The Ancho chile is actually a mild heat variety of pepper, with a Scoville rating of 1,000 to 2,000 SHU. To understand the hotness level of Anchos, Bell peppers are zero on the Scoville scale, and Jalapeños are at 2,500 to 8,000 SHU.

One thing to keep in mind: The spiciness of chile Ancho can vary widely, even when they come from the same plant.

While Poblano peppers are relatively mild, dried chili peppers are usually hotter than fresh peppers because they’re picked when the chiles are ripe, giving them the maximum capsaicin potential. Also, capsaicin — the source of pepper heat — is concentrated in a smaller space when a chili pepper is dried.

» Read More: What Makes Peppers Hot?

Is Ancho pepper hotter than Chipotle peppers? Because Chipotle peppers are made from Jalapeños, Chipotle is hotter than Ancho peppers.

Using Ancho Chiles

Ancho peppers — dried ripe Poblano chiles — can be used rehydrated, dried, ground, or whole. In most cases, you’ll incorporate chile Ancho before you cook your sauce to make tamales and other savory dishes found in Mexican cooking.

» Read More: Chile Ancho Dishes

You can blend Ancho chile with vegetables or other spices to create a base for soups and stews.

Another use is to sprinkle the dried chile on top of seafood, poultry, pork, or beef to use as a marinade or rub before cooking the meat. To use dried Ancho chiles this way, grind the chiles in a food processor to create Ancho chili powder.

On the subject of Ancho chili powder, you can also enhance desserts — Ancho pairs well with chocolate! In this edible brownie batter recipe, for example, add 1/4 TSP of Ancho powder at a time until you add the depth of rich earthiness you like.

How To Rehydrate Ancho Chiles

rehydrating pasilla chiles

Before you can use chile Ancho in sauces, you need to rehydrate them using hot water.

Rehydrating dried Ancho chiles takes a total of 20 minutes, with five minutes for prep time and 15 minutes of cooking time.

rehydrate ancho chiles

How to Rehydrate Ancho Chiles

Yield: varies
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: 20 minutes

Before you can use Anchos in enchilada sauce, pozole, tamales, and more, you'll need to bring them back to life. Here's how to rehydrate Ancho chiles step by step.

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Use kitchen shears to remove the stems from the dried peppers and cut them open. Remove the veins and seeds and discard them. Cooling Pasilla peppers on a plate
  2. Heat a heavy skillet (cast iron is ideal) over medium heat. heating a cast iron pan
  3. Dry roast the chiles for 20 to 30 seconds on each side or until they become fragrant. Optional: Add some onion and garlic if you're making a sauce. roasting pasilla peppers in pan
  4. Put your Anchos in an oven-proof container and boil some water.
  5. Pour the boiling water over your chiles, then cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or lid. rehydrating pasilla chiles
  6. Let the chiles sit in the water for 10-15 minutes, or until they become pliable and soft.
  7. Use your now-rehydrated Ancho chiles in recipes or blend them into adobos and salsas.

Notes

  • It's okay if you don't get all the seeds out before dry roasting your Anchos.
  • You might want to wear gloves when handling Ancho peppers -- they do have a little heat.
  • Don't let your chiles blacken (burn) because this creates a bitter flavor.
Nutrition Information:
Serving Size: 1 Ancho pepper
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 32

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Chile Ancho Dishes

chile ancho dish: pozole rojo (red pozole)
Pozole Rojo with Chile Ancho

Ancho peppers are known for making delicious enchilada sauce, chile powders, hot sauces, salsas, and stews like pozole rojo (pictured). Cook with chile Ancho whenever a rich, earthy flavor is desired.

Here are some classic Ancho recipes:

And don’t forget drinks! I love this delicious Ancho Reyes chile liqueur made with Ancho peppers — sip on its own or add to a cocktail. 😀

Related Products:

Ancho Reyes Chile Liqueur
Sweet with Moderate Heat (750ml)


Where To Buy Ancho Chiles

where to buy Ancho chiles

If you don’t have a Mexican grocery store near you, it can be challenging to find dried Ancho peppers. Fortunately, Ancho chiles can be found online on Amazon or Etsy.

Puya pepper pliability
Ideal Dried Pepper

When you buy chile Ancho at the supermarket, look for peppers that are still shiny, intact, and pliable. The color should be deep red.

Avoid buying chile Ancho if the peppers are broken or brittle because they may be older and have diminished flavor. Also, if the packages have dust or holes, they may have been damaged by insects.

Additionally, you can use pre-made Ancho chili paste, which is handy to have in the fridge for recipes.

Related Products:

Ancho Dried Peppers
Whole Dried Peppers (Resealable Bag)


Ancho Chili Powder
Powdered Pure Dried Peppers (4oz Bag)


Ancho Chile Paste
Sweet Medium Heat Paste

Storing Ancho Chile Peppers

storing puya peppers in glass jar
Dried Peppers In Glass Jar

Most dried peppers are still good for two years or more when stored in a tight container. Keep your dried peppers away from direct heat and sunlight. A dark cabinet or pantry shelf is ideal.

The powdered version of dried chiles last even longer. When stored properly, chile Ancho powders and flakes can last up to three years.

Chile Ancho Substitutions

Chile Pasilla
Pasilla Chile Peppers

In Mexican recipes, you can use any of these substitutes for chile Ancho:

  • Ground paprika: Paprika is mild, but it has a sweet flavor profile, so it’s one option for an Ancho chili powder substitute.
  • Pasilla chile: Pasilla peppers are the dried version of Chilaca chiles, and the heat is comparable to that of chile Ancho.
  • Guajillo pepper: Guajillo chiles have double the heat of dried Ancho chile, but it still works well in recipes.
  • Cayenne pepper: For a similar flavor with more kick than paprika, go with ground Cayenne pepper as a substitute for chile Ancho. Just keep in mind that Cayenne is much hotter with a Scoville rating of 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. 
  • Chipotle powder: This chile powder is spicier than chile Ancho, but it’s an acceptable substitute.

Ancho Pepper Health Benefits

Ancho’s predecessor — the Poblano pepper — provides valuable vitamins and nutrients found in chiles [source].

Here are some key nutrition facts:

  • Vitamin B6: Used for energy metabolism
  • Vitamin C: A macronutrient and antioxidant that helps fight free radical damage that promotes disease
  • Vitamin K1: Essential for blood clotting, along with healthy kidneys and bones
  • Potassium: Serves several functions, including reducing the risk of heart disease 
  • Vitamin A: Converted from the beta carotene found in most types of chiles
  • Lutein: For improved eye health
  • Ferulic acid: Antioxidant that may protect against certain chronic diseases
  • Fiber: Necessary for digestion and waste elimination

When dried for chile Ancho, Poblano peppers have even higher amounts of riboflavin and vitamin A.

The capsaicin in peppers is also effective for many things, including boosting metabolism, having anti-inflammatory properties, and potentially helping to treat cancer [source].

Growing Ancho Peppers

growing Poblano peppers

Ancho chiles are the dried version of ripened red Poblano peppers, so you’ll be growing Poblano plants. Poblanos take between six and seven months from the time you sow your seeds indoors and harvest your ripened chiles. 

» Related: The Ultimate 11-Step Guide to Growing Peppers from Seed to Harvest

These are the pepper growing supplies I recommend. Below, is an overview of a Poblano pepper plant’s growth stages.

When To Start: Start Poblano pepper seeds indoors about eight to 10 weeks before your area’s last frost date (see our seed starting calculator). The pepper germination time for Ancho Poblano pepper seeds is typically up to 10 days after planting. 

Seed Planting: In a seed-starting tray, plant 2 to 3 seeds per cell, no more than ¼ depth in a seed-starting mix. Place a lid with holes over the tray and set it on a plant heat mat to maintain an ideal temperature of 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C). To prevent the mix from drying out but not being overly wet, water your tray from the bottom.

Indoor Seedlings: Give your seedlings 14-16 hours of light per day by using a plant grow light. Once the first set of true leaves have grown, apply a 1/4 strength chile fertilizer that is suitable for pepper plants. (Your pepper plants will be inside about 2 months.)

Prepare For Outdoors: Once your Poblano plants become larger, you’ll need to transplant pepper seedlings into bigger pots. After nighttime temperatures are regularly above 55°F (13°C), start hardening pepper plants to prepare them for life outside.

Fruiting Plants: Poblano pepper plants thrive best when provided with full sun — 8 hours a day is ideal — and planted in well-drained soil. When the flowers start to appear on your plants, you’ll have peppers sometime in the next couple of months. Generally, you can harvest Poblano peppers that have turned red within two to three months after planting them outside.

» Related: When to Pick Peppers (& How) + 2 Ways to Store Your Chillies

Chile Ancho FAQs

Wrapping Up

Now that you know all about chile Ancho, you’re ready to start creating mouthwatering dishes and even grow them too! Be sure to check out our other guides to Mexican chiles below.

More Mexican Peppers:

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AUTHOR

Jenny is the creator of Grow Hot Peppers. She is a self-taught gardener and has been growing peppers and a plethora of veggies for over 10 years. When she’s not writing or gardening, she loves eating spicy foods, hiking, and going to the ocean.

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