Dried peppers can keep for years, and they offer dimensions of flavor deeper than the bright taste of fresh peppers. An ancho pepper is a medium hot dried chile made from poblanos, the chiles most commonly used in chile rellenos, the Mexican classic featuring breaded stuffed chiles. Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapenos, and are typically used in salsas and stews to add smokiness and heat. Although anchos and chipotles are dried and rehydrated using similar processes, their flavors are sufficiently different that they should not be used interchangeably.
Ancho vs. Chipotle Appearance
Ancho peppers are reddish brown, the color of dried blood. Chipotle peppers are a tawnier brown, the color of suede. Both types of pepper are dried and wrinkly. They keep their same colors when rehydrated. Anchos are larger than chipotles, ranging from the size of an egg to the size of a fist. Chipotles tend to be smaller, coming from smaller fresh peppers, and they typically range from the size of a grape to the size of a walnut.
Ancho vs. Chipotle Flavor
Ancho peppers have a rich savory chile flavor without an intimidating heat level. Chipotle peppers are much spicier than anchos because the jalapenos they come from are hotter than the poblanos that are used to make anchos. Some aficionados describe the flavor of anchos as smoky, although this smokiness is a subtle, naturally occurring muskiness as opposed to the aggressive infused smoky characteristic of chipotles.
Ancho vs. Chipotle Uses
Because of their moderate heat level, anchos are usually used in greater volume than chipotles. A salsa made with anchos can incorporate equal amounts of tomato and pureed, rehydrated chile without being intimidatingly hot, while a salsa made with chipotle can attain a convincing level of heat using only a small amount of the dried chile. Chipotle can also be used in small amounts in vegetarian dishes to recreate the smoky flavor of barbecued meats.
Ancho vs. Chipotle Processing
Although anchos and chipotles are both dried peppers, anchos are prepared simply by drying fresh poblanos either in an oven, a food dehydrator or by hanging the fresh chiles in a well-ventilated room for several weeks until they grow light and brittle. In contrast, chipotle peppers are dried from jalapenos hung in a chamber with circulating wood smoke that creates dry heat and imparts the chipotle's characteristic flavor. There is no such thing as a fresh chipotle because it does not become a chipotle until after it has been smoked.
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