If you love Mexican cuisine, you’ve probably got questions about Chile Guajillo — the dried form of the Mirasol pepper. Here’s everything you need to know about using this medium hot chile in recipes. Plus, get the best Guajillo substitutes and learn how to grow them so you never run out. Let’s start by answering the most common questions, go into rehydrating Guajillo peppers, and more.
CHILE GUAJILLO FACTS:
|Common Names:||Guajillo chili, chile Guaco, Mirasol chile, chile Cascabel Ancho (in the Mexican state of Guanajuato)|
|Scoville Heat Units (SHU):||2,500 to 5,000 SHU|
|Days To Harvest:||60-80 days after transplant|
|Size:||Plant: 2-3 feet tall. Peppers: 1 inch wide and 3-6 inches long.|
|Flavor:||Complex smoky and fruity flavor, milder than a Jalepeño pepper but spicier than a Poblano pepper|
|Culinary Uses:||Dried peppers used for taco salsas, sauces, pozoles, chilaquiles|
What Is Chile Guajillo?
In Mexico, chile Guajillo is mainly grown in the state of Zacatecas, but these peppers can be grown anywhere.
Chiles Guajillos are dried Mirasol chiles. The term “Mirasol chile” is used to refer to fresh Guajillo peppers, while the word Guajillo is used for dried peppers. Mirasol translates to “looking at the sun,” which refers to how the peppers grow pointed up at the sky.
Guajillo chile peppers have a smooth appearance and are deep red in color when ripened. These long, thin peppers are usually anywhere from 3-6 inches long and 1 inch wide.
These chiles have a sweet, fruity flavor that’s similar to the Ancho chile.
There are three varieties of Mirasol chili:
- Chile Guajillo: This pepper is the largest of the three varieties and gives you the richest flavors.
- Chile Guajillo Puya: These peppers are spicier and smaller than chiles Guajillo, with a Scoville of 5,000-8,000 SHUs.
- Chile Cascabel: For spice and flavor very similar to Guajillo chiles, go with this fruity pepper.
Are you wondering how to pronounce “Guajillo”? Guajillo pronunciation is like this: gwah-HEE-yo. Some Spanish speakers omit the “y” sound and pronounce it gwah-HEE-oh.
What Are Guajillo Chiles Used For?
Guajillo chiles are used to make salsas, Guajillo sauces, and a wide variety of popular Mexican food dishes, including:
Does Guajillo taste the same as Ancho chile? The flavor is very similar, so you can substitute Guajillo chiles for recipes that call for dried Ancho chiles.
Essentially, the flavor profile of dried Guajillo chile is earthy and rich. Although Guajillo chiles are mildly hot, these peppers are also packed with lots of flavors.
Guajillo chiles give you smoky and fruity tones, along with a delightfully tangy kick making them great for enchiladas rojas and enchiladas potosinas. Also, Guajillo chiles carry notes of green tea, berries, and tomatoes.
Can you eat Guajillo chiles fresh? Technically you can. However, Mirasol peppers are almost never eaten raw.
How Hot Are Guajillo Peppers?
So is Guajillo spicy or mild? Generally, you will probably find that Guajillo peppers are a medium heat chile.
On the Scoville scale, Guajillo peppers rank between 2,500 to 5,000 SHU. This is milder than the Jalapeno Scoville but somewhat spicier than a Poblano pepper.
» Read More: What Is the Scoville Scale for Peppers?
Is Guajillo spicier than Chipotle? Keep in mind that Chipotle peppers are smoked Jalepeno peppers, so the spiciness of Chipotle peppers depends on how spicy the original peppers were.
Are Guajillo peppers healthy? Guajillos typically have around 20 calories, have no fat, and are low in sodium and carbs.
All peppers offer valuable nutrition [source]. For example:
- Vitamin B6: Great for energy metabolism
- Vitamin C: Important for immune function and wound healing
- Vitamin K1: Essential for healthy bones and kidneys, as well as blood clotting
- Copper: Important for healthy neurons and strong bones
- Potassium: Reduces the risk of heart disease and serves other functions
- Vitamin A: Converted from the beta carotene found in chiles
- Lutein: Has links to improved eye health
- Ferulic acid: Antioxidant that can help protect against some chronic diseases
- Sinapic acid: Provides a variety of health benefits
Capsaicin in chiles binds with your body’s pain receptors, the pain-sensing nerve endings [source]. It also helps does other things like boost metabolism, aids metabolism, and helps bring down inflammation.
Peppers are also an excellent source of antioxidants, which have been associated with a reduced risk of stroke, specific cancers, and heart disease [source].
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How To Rehydrate Guajillo Chiles
Before using chile Guajillo in dishes, you need to rehydrate (reconstitute) your dried peppers. Rehydrating dried Guajillo chiles takes about 20 minutes in total.
- Cut open your Guajillo chiles and scrape out the seeds and stems.
- Set a cast iron (or other heavy skillet) over medium heat.
- Roast your Guajillos for up to 30 seconds on each side until you can smell the aroma. Optionally, add some garlic and onion if you're making a salsa or sauce.
- Soak your peppers in a container up to 15 minutes in warm water. Cover the container with a towel or lid during this time.
- Use your now-rehydrated peppers to blend into sauces, salsas, pastes or use in other recipes.
- Don't let your peppers burn when toasting them so that they don't taste bitter.
- You don't need to remove all the seeds (step 1).
- Wear gloves (optional) when handling your Guajillo chiles so as not to stain your hands or get a slight burn when woring with them.
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Nutrition Information:Serving Size: 1 Guajillo pepper
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 20
What Are Good Guajillo Substitutes?
In some areas of the U.S., Guajillo peppers can be challenging to find.
What are Guajillo chiles similar to? Here are some good substitutes for you to use if you can’t get your hands on chile Guajillo.
- Poblano peppers: Poblano peppers are mild in flavor, and they’re about the size of bell peppers.
- Chile de Árbol: If you want to add some kick to your Mexican recipe, use Chile de Árbol. Just keep in mind that they’re a good bit spicier than Guajillo peppers.
- Pasilla peppers: Also called chile Negro, Pasilla chiles are milder than both Guajillo and Jalapeño peppers. Pasilla peppers are best known as a key ingredient in authentic Mexican mole sauces.
- Mulato chiles: Mulato chiles are fully ripened Poblanos that have turned deep brown in color.
- Anaheim peppers: Anaheim peppers are also called California chili peppers. These peppers have a sweet flavor and mild heat.
- Ancho peppers: Dried Ancho chiles have a fruity, sweet flavor, so they’re an excellent substitute for chile Guajillo.
- Chipotle peppers: These peppers are actually Jalapeños that have been smoked to give them a distinctive smoky flavor. They can add extra flavor to a Mexican dish that calls for Guajillo chiles.
What can you substitute for Guajillo chiles in birria tacos? If your local market doesn’t carry Guajillo peppers, you can use dried Ancho chiles instead.
Tips For Buying Guajillo Peppers
If you love Mexican cooking, it’s a good idea to keep your pantry well-stocked with dried chiles. When shopping for dried Guajillos, follow these tips:
- Look for dried chili peppers that are still pliable, intact, and shiny. Dried Guajillo peppers should have a hue that’s deep red.
- Avoid buying brittle or broken dried Guajillo peppers because they may have diminished flavor.
- If packages show holes or dust, they may have insect damage.
How To Store Guajillo Peppers
Keep your dried chiles in a dry, cool, dark area of your pantry or cupboard.
To ensure bugs don’t invade your chile stash, be sure to store them in a sturdy zippered bag or airtight container. A canning jar with a tight-fitting lid is ideal for storing peppers in their dried form.
Some people like to store their dried peppers in a paper bag in the fridge, but I’ve found that my chiles last longer if they’re dried in an airtight container in a dark cupboard.
It’s important that your peppers are completely dry before you store them because any moisture left in the chiles will cause them to spoil quickly. Once you have dried chiles, you can also grind your chiles to make homemade chile powder (Guajillo powder).
I recommend using your dried chiles within a year of their production time (not the time you bought them). Dried peppers are still good for up to two years post-production, but the flavor may be diminished.
Growing Guajillo Peppers
To grow Guajillo peppers, plan for six to seven months from the time you plant your seeds indoors to harvesting your peppers.
Here’s an overview of all the stages of Guajillo pepper growth, from start to finish.
When To Start: Start Guajillo pepper seeds indoors about eight weeks before the last expected frost for your area. Guajillo pepper germination time is usually up to 14 days after they’re planted.
Seed Planting: Sow your Guajillo pepper seeds in a seed-starting mix that’s slightly damp. Then, cover your containers and place them over a plant heat mat to encourage germination. Pepper seeds sprout best if the temperature is between 80 and 90°F (27 to 32°C).
Indoor Seedlings: For indoor seedlings, I recommend that you provide a plant grow light after your seeds germinate. Then, use 1/4 strength fertilizer for pepper plants once the first set of true leaves appears. Your seedlings will need to be inside for about two months before they can be planted outside.
Prepare For Outdoors: As for when to transplant pepper seedlings, you can do this generally within 3 to 4 weeks after they germinate. Begin hardening pepper plants when the nighttime temperatures in your area are above 55°F (13°C) regularly and the last expected frost date has passed.
Fruiting Plants: Pepper plants thrive best when provided with full sun—ideally 8 hours a day—and planted in well-drained soil. Once the flowers start to appear on your plants, you’ll have peppers sometime in the next couple of months. Generally, you can expect to harvest Guajillo peppers between two to three months after you plant them outside.
When To Pick Guajillo Peppers
Guajillo peppers ripen about 60 to 80 days after outdoor transplant. When fully mature, Guajillo peppers are about 1 inch wide (2.5 cm), 4-6 inches (10-15 cm) long and are a deep red color. If you leave Guajillos on the plant, they will start to wrinkle.
When your Guajillo peppers are fully ripened, use one hand to hold the stem. Then, snap off the pod with your other hand.
The stems on these pepper plants are fragile, so avoid forcefully yanking them.
Chile Guajillo FAQs
Now that you know about chile Guajillo, you’re ready to use this delicious pepper in your cooking. Grow your own, dehydrate, or grind them for use in your Mexican dishes.
Ready to dive deeper into Mexican chiles? Check out the section below.