How to Make Your Own Chili Powder

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Making your own chili powder is easy, requiring just a few ingredients such as cumin, a ground chili and oregano. The best part about making your own is that you can customize it to suit your tastes; adding cayenne pepper will spice it up, while sweet paprika introduces a sweet smokiness. Experimenting with different types of chili peppers -- whether you grind them yourself or purchase pre-ground -- will also yield specific results that differ from those of store-bought chili powders.

Chili Powder: Ingredient Basics

  • Many chili powders contain cumin, some type of ground chili and oregano. Cumin is earthy and peppery, and lends a warming effect to chili powder. You can grind your own cumin from seeds or purchase it pre-ground. Mexican oregano, which is pungent and earthy with hints of citrus and licorice, is typically used, though milder Mediterranean oreganos can be substituted instead. Ancho chili powder, with its mild heat and fruity notes, is a common addition, though paprika is an acceptable substitute. If you aren’t a fan of one of these ingredients you can simply leave it out or replace it with an ingredient you prefer.

Chili Powder: Optional Extras

  • Other ingredients can add flavorful dimensions to your chili powder. Cayenne pepper adds spice whereas a chipotle chili powder will introduce smokiness without increasing the heat. Onion and garlic powders pair well with chili peppers and produce a savory, well-rounded seasoning. Coriander is sweet, floral and citrusy, and pairs well with heat. Dried cilantro, which is much less pungent than fresh, contributes a bright, earthy, citrusy flavor. Mix it up and experiment with different dried chilies such as the fiery, smoky heat from an arbol; the woodsy, medium heat of the cascabel; or the rich, berrylike flavor of the guajillo.

Drying and Grinding Your Own Chili Peppers

  • Using peppers you've dried yourself adds freshness to homemade chili powder. Begin by trimming the stem ends from your peppers. Wear gloves if you are working with hot peppers like habaneros. Cut the peppers in half; remove some of or all the seeds and membranes if you’d like to reduce the heat. Cut into thin slices, around a quarter-inch thick. Arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet and dry at 130 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours. The peppers are done when they are dry and snap when bent in half. Let the peppers cool and grind them into a powder using a mortar and pestle or a spice grinder.

Homemade Chili Pepper

  • Once you’ve selected all the spices you would like to use, simply add desired amounts of each to a bowl, blending to combine. You can also pulverize the spices together in a blender or food processor if you’d like the powder to be fine and uniform, or use a fine mesh sieve to filter out any large bits or seeds. Store homemade chili powder in an airtight container in a cool, dark place for up to 6 months.

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