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Food

Pasilla Pepper Guide: How to Use Pasilla Peppers

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Mar 30, 2020 • 2 min read

The pasilla pepper is a wrinkly-looking chile pepper that is a staple in many Mexican recipes.

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What Are Pasilla Peppers?

Pasilla, which means “little raisin” in Spanish, boasts—true to its name—dark wrinkly skin and a deeply sweet, dried-fruit flavor. Thanks to a heat that isn’t overpowering, it’s often used in Oaxacan moles and other complex sauces cooked all over Mexico. Pasillas are the dried form of the chilaca pepper, which ripens from dark green to dark brown and can be over six inches long. Pasilla peppers are also known as chile negro or pasilla negro chiles.

How Do Pasilla Peppers Taste?

Pasillas have a smoky, fruity, earthy flavor that is often compared to berries and dried fruits (like raisins). Pasilla peppers are similar in flavor to ancho chiles but are less sweet.

How Hot Are Pasilla Peppers?

Pasilla peppers have a mild heat, ranging from 1,000 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale, which is a measurement of spice in peppers. For reference, the spiciest pasilla pepper is as hot as the mildest jalapeño pepper (2,500–8,000 Scoville heat units).

Pasillas are similar in heat range to cascabel peppers (1,000–3,000 SHU) and are a little milder than guajillo chiles (2,500–5,000 SHU) and mulato peppers (2,500–3,000 SHU). Pasilla peppers are much milder than hot peppers like serrano peppers (10,000–23,000 SHU), cayenne peppers (30,000–50,000 SHU) and habanero peppers (100,000–350,000 SHU), but hotter than bell peppers (0 SHU).

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3 Ways to Use Pasilla Peppers

  1. Dried pasilla chiles are most often incorporated into sauces, such as salsa, enchilada sauce, and mole sauce, where they’re typically used in combination with other dried chiles, such as chipotle and ancho peppers.
  2. Chef Gabriela Cámara incorporates pasilla chiles into an adobo rojo de chiles sauce used to marinate pork for tacos al pastor. Learn how to make Gabriela Cámara’s Tacos al Pastor here.
  3. Gabriela also spreads the same adobo on one half of a whole snapper for her restaurant Contramar’s famous Pescado a la Talla. Find Gabriela Cámara’s Pescado a la Talla recipe here.

What Is the Difference Between Pasilla and Poblano Peppers?

Dried pasilla chiles look somewhat similar to ancho chiles, the dried version of poblano peppers—both are long and dark. You’ll find both pasilla chiles and ancho chiles (dried poblano peppers) in the spice section of the grocery store. You can tell the two chiles apart because dried pasillas are darker and narrower than anchos.

Fresh poblano peppers are green and fairly wide making them great for stuffing, as they are in chile rellenos. At the grocery store, you’ll find fresh poblanos in the produce section. The fresh version of pasilla chiles, the chilaca pepper, is more of a rarity in grocery stores.

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