Homemade Chile Powder

What’s the difference between chili (with an i) powder and chile (with an e) powder? Chili powder contains powdered chile and other spices like garlic and onion. Chile powder contains only dried chiles and is used in chili powder.

Homemade chile powder is easy to make, inexpensive, tastes better than national brands, and is a necessity if you want to elevate your chili game.

Start with dried chile peppers. These come in little cellophane packages in the spice section of most grocery stores in Texas. Fiesta brand is widely available in the south. If the chile gods favor you, you may find a store that has loose peppers in a bin.

Ancho, Guajillo, and Pasillas are my three favoriteĀ peppers for chili. Guajillo is also known as cascavel, which should not be confused with the similarly named chile cascabel. Cascabel, which means little bell, is a round chile that rattles when shook and is higher on the Scoville heat scale than the cascavel.

If you can’t find any dried peppers in your local grocery store, move they are available over the internet from places like Spices, Inc. While tempting, avoid pre-made chile and chili powders: 1). You never know how old it is, 2). You can’t control what peppers are in it, 3). Homemade powder tastes better.

If you must purchase pre-made chile powder, Mild Bill’s Gunpowder FoodsSpices, Inc., and The Spice House are good options.

Look for peppers that are pliable. If they break in half when folded or crumble when squeezed, they are old and flavorless. (A little cracking is OK.)

To toast the peppers, heat a dry pan over medium heat, then start preparing the peppers by cutting off the stem end, split the pepper down one edge, then remove the seeds and ribs. (Keep the waste for your compost!)

Cut chile pepper
Cut Chile Pepper
Cleaned Chile Pepper

Once cleaned, toast them in the dry pan for about 30 seconds per side. (If your stove has an exhaust fan that vents to the outside, you may want to turn that on.)

Toasted Chile Peppers

After toasting, let them cool, then cut into 1″ pieces. Place the toasted, cut peppers in a spice grinder, and turn it on until the peppers are ground into a fine powder. (I found that shaking the grinder and turning it upside down speeds the proces. )

I have a Krups coffee grinder dedicated to this purpose, which is available from Amazon for about $15.

Chile Peppers in spice grinder
Chile Peppers in spice grinder

Whole dried chiles will last about 3 years if properly stored, while ground chile powder stays potent for about 6 months in the pantry and about a year in the freezer. A word of caution: Even if the original package the peppers came in is unopened, I recommend placing them in a storage bag or sealable plastic bin. Moths love chile peppers and will ruin them if given the chance.

A Simply Good Chili Recipe

We had a Chili Cookoff at work, and one of my co-workers, who never made chili before, geeked out on the challenge. In his quixotic quest for a good, authentic chili, he developed his Texas Chili recipe, which is derived from the original Chili Queens of San Antonio recipe. He says the broth from his stew recipe is the secret ingredient.

I hate to admit it, but it is pretty good chili (but not as good as mine!). Please enjoys his recipe, because you ain’t getting mine! mine isn’t ready for publication yet.