Chile Puya 101: About This Deliciously Spicy Mexican Pepper (+ How to Grow!)

The fruity, fiery chile Puya is hugely popular among Mexican pepper enthusiasts, but it’s not always easy to find. If you want better access to this variety, I’ve got you covered. Here’s all my information on Puya peppers, including flavor and heat comparisons, using them in your kitchen, and growing these chiles so you never run out.

Chile Puya peppers

Let’s start with chile Puya origin before diving into cooking and growing.

CHILE PUYA FACTS:

Common Names:Pulla pepper
Chile Puya Pronunciation:PU-yah
Scoville Heat Units (SHU):5,000-8,000 units
Capsicum Species: Annuum
Days To Harvest:70-80 days after transplanting plants outside
Size:Peppers: 3-4 inches long and 1/2 inch wide. Plants: between 30 and 48 inches tall.
Flavor:Fruity and light (but spicy) with cherry, licorice, and berry undertones
Culinary Uses:Most Mexican dishes, including casseroles, burritos, dips, cooked vegetables, sets, meats, fish, pizza, mole sauces, and enchiladas

About Chile Puya

about chile puya origin
Central Valley Mexico

Chile Puya is a red hot Mirasol pepper and a member of the Capsicum annuum species of chile. (Other peppers in this category include the Jalapeno and Cayenne pepper.)

Puya chile has been cultivated in the Central Valley in Mexico since ancient times. Archaeologists believe that this area around Mexico City has been home to Mexican people, the ancient Aztecs, and the Toltecs for more than 12,000 years.

Chile Puya is also abundant in the Mexican states of Jalisco and Michoacan, which are also in the region around Mexico City.

The state of Michoacan has been recognized by UNESCO for its efforts in preserving traditional Mexican cooking techniques and recipes, including Puya salsa (read more). This authentic salsa is found throughout western and central Mexico.

Many chiles have a different name when they’re dried, but not Puya. Whether used fresh or dried, this chile pepper is still called Puya. When dried, chile Puya is slightly curved and flat. 

Puya pepper appearance

On the vine, chile Puya goes from dark green to a deep, dark red color if allowed to ripen. Puya peppers are about four inches long and half an inch wide. The peppers have long flat pods and taper to a point. 

Puya peppers look similar to Guajillo peppers, but Puyas are usually smaller.

Chile Puya In English

The word “Puya” translates to “goad” or “prod” in English. The tongue-in-cheek name probably came about because of the sharp spiciness this pepper delivers. 🔥

What Do Puya Peppers Taste Like?

Puya peppers in molcajete

Chile Puya is famous for its pungent heat and fruity flavor profile. There are notes of berry and licorice in this chile, but they’re also smoky and have a hint of citrus flavor.

Puya peppers are similar in flavor to Guajillo chiles, but Puyas are smaller than Guajillos and pack more heat.

And the aroma is incredible! Puyas smell like a mix of Cayenne and raisins without sugar. (You won’t burn your nose hairs sniffing these chiles! 🤣)

Ultimately, Puya is a great choice when you want to add more heat to your Mexican dish.

Side Note: Some say that chile Puya tastes like a mix of Guajillo and Chile de Arbol peppers. I only taste the heat of an Arbol, but thought this was worth mentioning!

How Hot Are Puya Chiles?

Puya pepper scoville chart

Chile Puya ranks between 5,000 and 8,000 on the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) scale. How does this compare to other peppers?

» Related: What Is the Scoville Scale for Peppers?

As it turns out, the chile Puya spice level is hotter than other popular peppers used in Mexican cuisine.

  • Chile Puya vs Guajillo: Guajillo peppers are milder with a SHU of 2,500-5,000.
  • Puya peppers vs. Jalapeño: The Jalapeno Scoville is 2,500-8,000 SHUs. While the heat is similar between the two, Puya pepper land closer to the top of the high range, and most Puya peppers are hotter than the average Jalapeño pepper.
  • Chile Puya vs Pasilla: Pasilla peppers have less heat with a SHU of 500-2,500.
  • Chile Puya vs California pepper: California peppers (Anaheim chiles) are another mild variety at 500-2,500 SHUs.

Using Chile Puya

using chile puya to make mole sauce
Mole Sauce Dish

Chile Puya can be used as a key ingredient in lots of Mexican recipes, from enchilada sauce and fresh salsa. This chile is also commonly used for making mole sauce and seasoning soups and stews.

Because they have a fruity flavor, chile Puya is ideal for using to spice up fruit salsas. And don’t forget pepper jelly — it’s delicious when served over cream cheese and eaten with crackers!

Dried Puya peppers can be used the same as any type of dried peppers. Crush the dried peppers to make red pepper flakes, or put them in a spice grinder to make chile powder (not to be confused with “chili powder,” which contains garlic powder, cumin, and other spices). Crushed red pepper is nice to add to dips and atop pizza.

And to add a huge flavor boost to a pot of slow-cooking pinto beans, add a whole dried chile pepper and allow it to simmer along with the beans to release the flavor. (So much goodness!)

How To Rehydrate Dried Puya Peppers

The flesh of Puya peppers is thin, so you don’t have to put in a lot of effort to rehydrate them.

Puya peppers dried on counter

How To Rehydrate Chile Puya (Pulla Peppers)

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

Rehydrating Puya peppers prepares them for recipes like sauces, moles, and salsas. Here's how to do this and ensure your chiles retain the best flavor.

Ingredients

  • Dried Puya Peppers

Instructions

  1. Remove the stems from the dried peppers using kitchen shears. Cut the peppers open, removing the seeds and veins. When you pull the stems from the top of the chiles, the seeds are easy to pour out. 
  2. Place a heavy skillet on your stovetop and heat the burner to medium. A cast-iron skillet is perfect for roasting chiles.
  3. Dry roast your peppers for 30-60 seconds on both sides, just until they become fragrant.
  4. Bring a saucepan full of water to a boil. Remove it from the heat once it starts to boil.
  5. Add the chiles to the hot water and cover the pan.
  6. Let the peppers sit for 10-15 minutes in the water until they become soft and pliable. At this point, your chiles are now rehydrated and ready to use in recipes.

Notes

  • Dry Roasting: Try not to burn your peppers because this can potentially add bitterness to the flavor.

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Where To Buy Puya Peppers

You can often find dried chile Puya at any market that sells dried Ancho peppers. If you live in an area that has a Mexican grocery store, look there first. 

Purchasing dried peppers in person is ideal because you can ensure you’re getting a fresh product. You can also buy chile Puya and other dried peppers at online marketplaces like Amazon and Etsy

When shopping for dried chile Puya, keep these tips in mind:

Puya pepper pliability
  • Look for peppers that are still shiny, intact, and pliable. If they’re dry to the point where they’re falling apart, they may be older. This can affect the flavor of the peppers. 
  • For the same reason, avoid buying broken dried chile Puya
  • If the packaging has holes or dust in it, this is an indication that it has been exposed to insects. 
  • When shopping online for dried chile peppers, buy from a reputable seller. Read reviews and research the retailer’s reputation. 

Related Products:

Puya Chile Peppers
Whole Dried Peppers (1lb Resealable Bag)



Trejo’s Hot Sauce
Blend Of Chili Puya + Other Mexican Chiles

Puya Chile Substitute

Guajillo chili peppers
Guajillo Chili Peppers

If you’re having a hard time finding chile Puya, there are lots of excellent substitutes. While the Guajillo chile is most similar to Puya, the others on this list also work.

  • Guajillo chili: The Puya is often mistaken for the Guajillo because they look so much alike, but the two peppers have somewhat different flavor profiles. Guajillo chile doesn’t have as much fruity flavor as chile Puya. Nevertheless, you can use Guajillo chile in any recipe that calls for chile Puya. Also, when using chile Guajillo, you won’t get the kick that chile Puya gives. The hottest Guajillo pepper is the spiciness of the mildest chile Puya. 
  • Pasilla pepper: The Pasilla chile is also called chile Negro. These chiles are milder than both the chile Puya and chile Guajillo.
  • Ancho chile: If your recipe calls for dried chile flakes or powder, you can substitute Ancho chiles. Ancho chiles are dried Poblano peppers.
  • Cascabel peppers: These peppers are the dried form of the bola Mirasol pepper. At just 1,000-2,500 Scoville Heat Units, Cascabel peppers are much milder than chile Puya, but they have a nice flavor.
  • Mulato chili: These chiles are actually Poblanos that have fully ripened until they’re deep brown. Because they’re Poblano peppers, they’re very mild.

Related Products:

Storing Puya Peppers

storing puya peppers in glass jar
Puya Peppers In Glass Jar

To serve chile Puya fresh, keep them refrigerated before use and they’ll stay fresh for longer. Fresh peppers last as long as two weeks in the fridge if they’re stored in the veggie drawer.

Cooked peppers will keep for 3-5 days. 

Dried peppers are best if used within six months. However, dried peppers store well for up to two years in a pantry or dark cabinet. Keep dried chiles away from direct sunlight, moisture, and heat. Store them in an airtight container or heavy-duty zippered bag.

Puya Peppers Health Benefits

Peppers of all types offer valuable vitamins and nutrients, including these:

  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin K1
  • Potassium
  • Vitamin A
  • Lutein
  • Fiber

Countless research studies suggest that Capsaicin – the compound that makes peppers spicy – has a myriad of health benefits. For one thing, if you eat lots of chiles, you may live longer [source].

Capsaicin also provides effective pain relief, metabolism-boosting, and anti-inflammatory properties [sources: 1, 2].

Growing Chile Puya

Mirasol peppers group include chile Puya
Mirasol Peppers

If you’ve grown other chiles, you’ll find Puya peppers easy to grow. To find Puya chili seeds to buy, check Etsy or shop online seed vendors if you can’t find them locally.

» Resource: 30 Places to Buy Pepper Seeds Online

If you can find plants, you can expect to harvest Puya chiles within 70 to 80 days. Starting from seed generally takes up to six months.

Here’s an overview of this spicy pepper’s growth stages.

When To Start: Start chile Puya seeds indoors about eight to 10 weeks before the last frost date in your region (this calculator tells you when to plant peppers). Puya chile seeds usually germinate up to 14 days after you plant them.

» Read More – Growing Peppers from Seed to Harvest: The Ultimate 11 Step Guide

Seed Planting: Sow Puya pepper seeds 1/4 to 1/8 inches in a slightly damp seed-starting mix — two seeds in each pot. Cover your containers, then place them on a plant heat mat to keep them at the optimal 80 to 90°F (27 to 32°C) temperature that encourages germination. Water from the bottom so the mix doesn’t get dry (the frequency depends on your growing media and environment).

» Read More: Watering Peppers & How to Bottom Water Plants Without Fail (+ Printout)

Indoor Seedlings: Use a plant grow light after your seeds germinate (14 to 16 hours a day is good), and remove the cover. After your chile Puya seedlings grow their true leaves, apply 1/4 strength fertilizer for pepper plants. Seedlings stay inside for about two months before going outdoors.

Prepare For Outdoors: After your Puya pepper plants are about 4 in (102 mm) tall and night temperatures are consistently above 55°F (13°C), it’s time to prepare for an outdoor transplant. (Here’s more on when to transplant pepper seedlings). The process of hardening off plants, specifically, gets them ready for outdoor weather so that plants aren’t shocked by the change of environment. This guide to hardening pepper plants walks you through the two-week process.

Fruiting Plants: Chili pepper plants need at least eight hours of sun a day. Once flowers appear on your plants, you’ll be harvesting your peppers within a couple of months. You will be able to harvest Puya peppers within 70 to 80 days after planting them outside in the ground or in containers. 

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

Puya Chile FAQs

Wrapping Up

Now that you know what you can do with chile Puya and how to grow your own, you’re ready to start reaping the rewards of this spicy, fruity pepper! 🌶

And if you’re interested in learning about more Mexican chiles, be sure to check out the section 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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