The cascabel pepper (or chile cascabel) is a unique dried Mexican pepper that looks like a bell and sounds like a rattle. Find out everything you need to know in this guide, including how to prepare it for recipes.
Table of Contents
📖 What are chiles cascabel?
Cascabel chiles are the dried form of a certain mirasol chile — the bola (round) mirasol. Along with guajillo chiles, they are part of the Capsicum annuum species.
These peppers are named after a rattling sound the seeds make when the chiles are shaken ("cascabel" is Spanish for "rattle").
Mirasol chiles grow pointing up towards the sky rather than hanging down like most other chiles. Hence why their name is "mirasol," which means "facing the sun."
Cascabel chiles are native throughout the entire country of Mexico, but they are primarily grown in the states of Guerrero, Durango, Coahuila, Jalisco, and San Luis Potosi.
Although there are similarities between mirasol chiles, we'd like to highlight how they each differ.
- Cascabel: cascabel chiles are small and round, approximately 2-3 cm in diameter. They are a deep reddish-brown color when dried, and they have slightly nutty, earthy, and smoky flavors.
- Chile guajillo: perhaps the most well-known of the mirasol chiles, guajillo chiles are fruity, fresh, and mild in flavor. They appear a well-known crimson color that makes them easy to spot.
- Guajillo puya: similar in color to the chile guajillo, puya chiles are smaller. They taste tart and fruity with more heat than their bigger brother.
🍴 Flavor profile
As mentioned above, the chile cascabel carries an earthy, slightly smoky, and pleasantly nutty flavor.
This chile can be found in many different recipes like cascabel salsa, menudo, or even some tacos al pastor recipes.
🔥 Spice level
Cascabel chiles are relatively mild in heat, measuring in at 1,300-2,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the Scoville scale.
The closest comparison is the chile guajillo, which averages about 2,500-5,000 SHU.
🍎 Health facts
Cascabel chiles are low in calories, high in fiber, and contain significant levels of thiamine, iron, magnesium, and vitamin C.
Dried peppers like the chile cascabel also contain capsaicin, which is responsible for the spiciness in some peppers.
With so many unique health benefits, one of the more interesting effects of chiles is an increase in metabolic rate. There have even been studies linking chile pepper intake to a reduction in weight.
Capsaicin also has anti-inflammatory properties, which have been shown to promote heart health.
How to Rehydrate Cascabel Chiles
- Kitchen shears
- Cast-iron skillet or comal
- 1 package cascabel chiles ($0.96)
- Water for soaking
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium, then dry toast the chiles for ~30-60 seconds per side, or until fragrant.
- Bring a saucepan of water to boil, then turn the heat off, add the cascabel chiles in, cover the pot, and let the chiles rehydrate for 15-20 minutes, or until they feel soft and pliable.
- Drain and remove the stems and seeds. Your chiles are now ready to be used in a wide variety of recipes from salsa, menudo, and more!
- Make a slit in the chiles to reduce rehydration time.
- The weight used for this recipe is an example only. The amount needed will depend on the size of the recipe.
- You can reserve the soaking water to use in recipes, but some people find it bitter so always taste it first.
- Recipe cost calculations are based on ingredients local to us and may vary from recipe-to-recipe.
- All prices are in USD.
🍽 Cascabel chile dishes
Maybe cascabel chiles aren't the first variety you reach for, but they should be at the top of your list! Try using them in dishes like:
Keep cascabel chiles in airtight glass containers in the cupboard (or any cool, dry, and dark places). This helps to control moisture levels and keep the flavors long-lasting.
💰 Buying guide
We hope you're convinced to add the nutty, smoky, and earthy flavors of cascabels to your chile rotation. Use these tips to make sure you find the very best peppers.
What to look for
Avoid brittle or cracked cascabel chiles as their flavors will be weakened. Instead, pick chiles that are dry, but still pliable enough that they don't break when you apply slight pressure.
The color should appear dark red (almost purple-ish) with a stiff tan stem. There are sometimes lighter patches, which are completely normal and won't affect the taste.
Where to buy
Cascabel chiles are a more challenging variety to find in-person outside of Mexico — unless you live near a Mexican food market.
Instead, you can buy cascabel chiles online. Just follow the proper storage techniques and you'll have fresh chiles for a long time.
Although cascabel chiles provide unique flavors, the two other mirasol varieties make suitable replacements if you're in need.
- Chile guajillo. While guajillo chiles are more fruity and less spicy, they still make a good substitute for cascabel chiles.
- Chile puya. Likewise, puya chiles are fruitier than cascabel chiles. They are also quite a bit spicier. If you can tolerate the heat, puyas can be used in most recipes calling for cascabels.
🌶 More Mexican chiles
If you're interested in learning about more popular chiles used in Mexican cooking, check out our other detailed guides:
If your recipe is bitter, it's likely because your cascabel chiles were burned during the toasting process or too many seeds were left in.
Yes, you can make your own cascabel chiles. All you have to do is purchase mirasol peppers and dry them in the sun, a dehydrator, or the oven. If you can find bola mirasol pepper seeds, you can even try growing them yourself!
Although the chile cascabel may have a slightly smoky flavor, this variety does not traditionally go through a smoking process.