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Southwest Cooking Cornerstones

The foundation of Southwest cooking is chile peppers, corn, and beans.

Chile Peppers

From mild to hot, chiles are a fundamental in Southwestern cuisine. Today more chiles are grown and we devour them more than any other seasoning. Southwestern recipes often mix chiles, allowing you to enjoy the diverse tastes provided. Each chile type has its own distinctive taste. Southwesterners want the flavor, not just the heat. For those who prefer the mature tastes go for the slightly less hot red chiles. For those who want the hotter version go for green version of the same chile.

Note: The chiles we use in our recipes are those that are easily available.

There are hundreds of varieties of chiles; some even have similar names, which adds to the confusion. For example, chile ancho is dried poblano. The same chile in California is called pasilla. Other problems stem from differences in soil types and climatic conditions. All these variables go into creating a wide range of heat levels.

So what�s the difference between CHILI and CHILE? Chili spelled with an �i,� mixes spices with chile peppers and meat. Many cooks add beans; however, to the real chili fanatic, chili is only spices and meat, most often pork. Chile spelled with an �e,� a specific plant�s fruit.

Chile Pepper Types


The Ancho chile is the most usually used dried pepper. Ancho is the dried green poblano chile and it is a reddish brown, flat, heart shaped chile. Their pungency varies from mild to medium. Their smoky flavor is suggestive of coffee, prunes, and tobacco.

Ancho Powder

Ground form of the dried Ancho Chile.


It is a dried, dark reddish brown chile with smooth tough skin. In Spanish Cascabel means �rattle.� The chile rattles from the seeds inside the dried pepper. It has a medium-hot quality and is slightly acid.


It is the crushed New Mexico dried red chile and it includes the seeds.


It is the dried and smoked form of a fresh green jalapeno chile. The color is a dusty brown. It has a rich smoky-tobacco zest with a very marked heat.

Chipotle in Adobo

It is canned Chipotle chiles in a tomato, vinegar, garlic, onion, and spice sauce.

De Arbol

A dried bright red chile and part of the cayenne pepper family. It is very hot with an powerful taste.


It is a dried red chile and looks like a dried New Mexico chile. However, it is smaller and smoother in texture with an earthy flavor.


It is a fresh, small, green chile with a thick skin. It is the most popular hot green chile.


It is another type of dried, smoked jalapeno chile. Their color ranges from a deep red to a red-brown color.

New Mexico Green Chile (Anaheim)

Fresh, New Mexico variety of green chile.

New Mexico Red Pods

These are green chiles that have been ripened, dried and color turned red. Farmers tie them in a long bunch called a ristra.

New Mexico or Chimayo Chile Powder

Dried version of the New Mexican Green chile which has been ripened (turned red) and ground into powder without additional ingredients.


A type of poblano chile, dried browner in color than the ancho chile and slightly smokier, but without the depth.


It is also known as Chile Negro. It is dreid chile. It is brownish-black in color, wrinkled, long, and tapered.


It is a fresh green chile. This is a good chile for chile rellenos, due to it size and the thickness of its skin. A dark green color, the poblano is usually charred and peeled to enhance its full flavor.


It is a fresh green chile. The taste is crisp and hot. Used in salsas.

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