pasilla chile: a part of the Mexican “holy trinity”

Pasilla chile
Pasilla chile is the dried form of ripened chilaca pepper. The dark and wrinkly chile peppers are fruity and earthy, with mild to moderate heat. They are perfect for Mexican dishes, such as the Oaxacan mole sauce.

What is pasilla chile?

Pasilla chile
Pasilla chile

Also known as pasilla negro or chile negro, pasilla chile is one of the most commonly used chiles in Mexico, along with ancho chile, guajillo peppers, and jalapeño peppers.

The versatile pasilla chile can be rehydrated, fried, or ground, depending on how you will use them. It is perfect for soups, mole sauce, enchiladas, and salsas. 

Fresh poblano peppers are often incorrectly sold or mislabeled as pasilla peppers in the United States, Canada, and Mexico. The ancho peppers are the dried version of the poblano.

OriginSouthern regions of North America and northern regions of South America
AppearanceGreen to dark brown, 6 to 10 inches with a diameter of 1 to 2 inches
Flavor profileA fruity, smoky, and earthy flavor

Origin

The chilaca peppers belong to the species Capsicum annuum. Once ripened and dried, they become what’s known as pasilla chile.

The chilaca peppers grow in the southern regions of North America and the northern portions of South America. You can buy pasilla peppers at local grocery stores, Mexican stores, or online.

Appearance

The name pasilla chile comes from pasas, the Spanish word for raisins. When fresh, the chilaca peppers ripen from dark green to dark brown.

See Also:  What is a puya chile pepper?

Unlike the little raisins they’re compared to, these popular chile peppers can grow as long as 6 to 10 inches with a diameter of 1 to 2 inches. 

Flavor profile

The pasilla chile or dried chilaca pepper, just like raisins, can give dishes a fruity, smoky, and earthy flavor. The pasillas can hit the palate with similar notes from anchos, although they’re less sweet.

Are pasilla chilies hot?

The pasilla chile isn’t particularly hot. The pasilla peppers register at 1,000 to 2,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Meanwhile, jalapeño is in the 5,000 SHU heat level.

For comparison, other peppers in the range measure as follows on the Scoville scale:

  • Cascabel peppers (1,000 to 3,000 SHU)
  • Mulato peppers (2,500 to 3,000 SHU)
  • Guajillo peppers (2,500 to 5,000 SHU)
  • Cayenne peppers (30,000 to 50,000 SHU)

Nutritional Benefits of pasilla chile

Pasilla chile is not just packed with flavors but also carries:

  • Vitamin A
  • Vitamin B6
  • Vitamin B2
  • Potassium
  • Iron
  • Manganese
  • Copper

These nutritional benefits of the pasilla help with brain function, energy production, and eye health. The capsaicin compound in chiles may also help improve heart health.

What are pasilla chiles used for?

Pasilla chile flavors dishes in Mexican cuisine. Here are some popular dishes where you can use pasilla peppers:

  • Pasilla Mole Sauce: Use chile negro with other dried chiles like ancho and chipotle, tomatoes, dried fruits or sugar, spices, and thickeners. This dark, flavorful sauce is perfect for chicken, rice and beans, tacos, stews, and soups.
  • Hot Chocolate: You can amp up the flavor of your hot cocoa or chocolate desserts with some pasilla.
  • Morisqueta Michoacana: A dish made with layers of rice, pinto beans, salsa, meat, and cheese. You can combine pasillo with other chiles, such as guajillo peppers and seasonings.
See Also:  meet guajillo powder - a staple in Tex-Mex cuisine

If pasilla chiles are unavailable, you can substitute them with ancho peppers, raisins, poblanos, or bell peppers.

Pasilla Chile and the holy trinity

The holy trinity of Mexican chili peppers is a loose term that refers to the well-loved chiles often available in kitchens in Mexico and used in many traditional dishes. It consists of ancho peppers, guajillo peppers, and chile pasilla. 

This pack of dried chilis gives dishes added depth and complexity:

  • The ancho injects sweet flavor with mild heat.
  • The guajillos provide medium heat and some fruity flavors.
  • The pasilla chile completes the dynamic combo of flavors essential to Mexican cooking by bringing the earthy flavor plus mild to medium heat.

Randell

Randell loves experimenting in the kitchen (with his family and friends as willing victims). He sees cooking as a great adventure. To enjoy that, he believes this is the recipe: a tad of creativity, a dash of courage, a pinch of humility, and a ton of love.

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