The chipotle pepper. It's name alone makes us crave it's earthy, rich, and smoky flavor. But what is a chipotle pepper and how did it grow to be so popular that one of the largest fast food chains is named after it? Let's break down its ancient history.
Jalapeño Peppers Incognito
It's often thought that chipotle peppers are their own distinct species of pepper, but, the chipotle is actually just a fully-ripe, smoke-dried jalapeño! But aren't jalapeños green? Most are, however, as jalapeño peppers age, they turn red on the vine when they fully ripen and eventually begin to dry.
To turn a jalapeño into a chipotle, jalapeños are left on the bush until they have lost most of their moisture. It is at this point that they are picked, and smoked, typically for several days. The result of the just-smoked chipotle resembles a raisin or prune.
The Ancient History
The practice of smoking ripened jalapeños dates back to Mesoamericans who smoked the peppers as a form of food preservation. The Aztecs then adopted this practice and introduced it to the Spaniards in the 1500s, and continuously got shared throughout centuries. Today it's a staple in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine and can be found in as a staple spice in many kitchens around the world.
The name chipotle derives from the Nahuatl word chilpoctli, which means “smoked chile pepper," AKA chile ahumado, chile meco, and chilpotle.
How Hot Are Chipotle Peppers?
Chipotles measure in at 5,000 to 10,000 Scoville Units on the heat scale. As perspective, one of the hottest peppers, the Carolina Reaper, comes in at 800,000 to 3.2 million Scoville units. Ouch! So, while the chipotle pepper has some kick, it's pretty mild especially for the spice lover.
- It takes about 10 pounds of jalapeño peppers to make 1 pound of chipotle peppers.
- There are two types of chipotle peppers depending on how long they are dried: Mortia chipotles (dark red, sweeter, fruitier and smoked for half the time of darker chipotles) & Meco chipotles (grayish in color and smoked for twice as long.)
- Not all chipotles are alike since there are so many varieties of jalapeño peppers
- Chipotles are almost as hot as a regular jalapeño
- You can purchase chipotles in whole pods, ground, in adobo, or other ways.
Find authentic New Mexican Chipotle Peppers in the Chef Soraya Chipotle Bowl!