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Food

All About Chile de Árbol: How to Cook With Chile de Árbol

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 31, 2020 • 1 min read

One of the most popular dried chiles in Mexican cuisine, árbol chiles add heat to salsas, adobos, and more.

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What Are Chiles de Árbol?

Bright-red chiles de árbol are two to three inches long and slender. Chiles de árbol are almost always sold dried and unlike other dried peppers, which tend to brown during the drying process, chiles de árbol retain their red color. Like other members of the Capsicum annum species, chiles de árbol grow on a bush, where they ripen from green to red.

Chiles de árbol are also known as the pico de pajaro or bird's beak chile—not to be confused with the Thai bird's eye chile.

What Do Chiles de Árbol Taste Like?

Chiles de árbol are pretty spicy, registering 15,000–30,000 on the Scoville scale. Chiles de árbol are little milder than cayenne pepper (30,000–50,000 Scoville heat units) but significantly hotter than a jalapeño pepper (2,500–8,000 SHU). They have a smoky, nutty flavor that is further enhanced by toasting.

3 Ways to Use Chiles de Árbol

In cooking, chiles de árbol bring a serious cayenne-like spice and earthiness to salsas and sauces. Toast and fry them before rehydrating to intensify their heat and nuttiness. If you can't find chiles de árbol, substitute them with the slightly hotter pequin chile peppers (40,000–60,000 SHU).

  1. Homemade chile powder. Toast chiles in a dry pan or dry comal, flipping once, until lightly toasted and aromatic, about 1 to 2 minutes. You can remove the stems with kitchen scissors either before or after toasting. Toasted chiles de árbol can be ground into chile powder or rehydrated.
  2. Chile de Árbol Salsa. For a spicy chile de árbol salsa, boil toasted chiles in hot water with garlic cloves, white onion, tomatoes, and tomatillos, let cool, and puree with cilantro until smooth.
  3. Adobo. You can also use toasted chiles de árbol to make an adobo, or marinade. Marinate pork in adobo rojo de chiles (a sauce featuring chiles de árbol along with cascabel, ancho, pasilla, and guajillo chiles) for some delicious tacos al pastor.
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