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The chile morita, also known as the morita pepper, is a smoky-yet-fruity chile used extensively throughout Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine. Learn everything you need to know in this guide, including its heat level, its health benefits, and how to prepare it for recipes.
Table of Contents
🌶️ What is the chile morita?
The chile morita is one of two main types of chipotle peppers, the other being chile meco. Moritas are created when ripe (red) jalapeños are dried, then lightly smoked.
These dark red chiles are aptly named after the Spanish word “morita,” which means “little blackberry.” But the word “chipotle” stems from the Nahuatl word “chīlpoctli,” meaning “smoked chile.”
So to recap, chipotle morita chiles are small, blackberry-looking chiles that have gone through a smoking process.
Morita chiles are mainly produced in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua, which has contributed to their popularity in the United States. More often than not, they’re the variety that can be found in items like chipotles in adobo.
What makes the chipotle morita different from the chipotle meco is the fact that the jalapeño is left to ripen but smoked for less time, resulting in a completely different flavor profile.
🍴 Flavor profile
Morita peppers have a subtle smoky flavor with sweet chocolate notes. The milder, more fruity flavor compared to chipotle meco creates a very pleasant taste in dishes like soups, stews, salsas, marinades, and even desserts.
🔥 Spice level
The chile morita falls into the moderately spicy category, sitting at around 5,000-10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the Scoville Scale.
Not surprisingly, this chile is slightly hotter than a typical jalapeño pepper. This is because they’re left to ripen until red.
🧑⚕️ Nutritional information
Morita peppers, akin to all chile peppers, are low in calories but high in fiber and brimming with beneficial nutrients. Here’s the typical nutritional content of one chile morita:
- Calories: 15
- Carbohydrates: 3.2g
- Sugar: 1.9g
- Fiber: 1.2g
- Protein: 0.6g
Keep in mind that these values are approximate as nutritional content can vary based on size and specific growing conditions. As always, for exact values, refer to the nutritional label or consult with a nutritionist.
🍎 Health benefits
The chile morita doesn’t just add notes of dried fruit and smoke to recipes, it also contains a surprising amount of health benefits. Did you know morita peppers are packed with B vitamins (like niacin and thiamine), vitamin C, vitamin A, and magnesium?
Chile peppers also house a compound called capsaicin, which is what causes them to be so spicy! However, capsaicin has proven to be very beneficial in increasing metabolism, achieving a healthy weight, and even improving blood sugar levels.
📝 How to cook with the chile morita
The smoky flavor of chile morita peppers can be employed in various ways to add depth and warmth to your favorite dishes. Here’s how you can integrate them into your cooking:
- Roasting or grilling: Give your morita peppers a quick roast in the oven set at 400F or grill them over medium-high heat until their skin is blistered and charred. This process helps to amplify the chile’s innate smoky flavor.
- Boiling: Boil your chile morita peppers for a few minutes until they’re plump and vibrant. This is an excellent technique if you’re planning to use them in homemade salsas or sauces.
- Sautéing: You can slice or dice the chile morita peppers and sauté them along with onions, garlic, or other veggies. It will infuse a potent smoky flavor into any dish.
- Infusing: You can infuse chile morita peppers into olive oil or vinegar to create a fiery condiment for your cooking and sauces.
- Rehydrating: Chile morita peppers are typically sold dried. Rehydrate them by soaking them in hot water for about 20-30 minutes before using them in your dishes.
Always remember, chile morita peppers pack a punch, so when handling them, consider using gloves to protect yourself from the heat.
- Too smoky: If you find the smoky flavor of the chile morita overpowering, try using it sparingly or mixing it with milder chiles to balance the flavors.
- Difficulty handling: Chile morita peppers can be quite hot, so always wear gloves when handling them. Afterward, wash your hands thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes or other sensitive areas.
- Excessive heat: The heat of chile morita peppers primarily comes from the seeds and veins. To moderate this, remove some or all of the seeds before cooking.
- Stomach discomfort: If you have a sensitive stomach, you might find the heat of the chile morita to be too much. To mitigate this, remove all the seeds before cooking, and pair them with starchy foods like rice or potatoes to buffer the heat.
🍽 Morita chile dishes
With so many ways to utilize morita peppers, we’ve narrowed down a few of our favorite plant-based recipes! Here are a few of our favorites:
Keep your morita peppers fresh and potent by following these storage tips:
- Room temperature: Dried chile morita peppers can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Keep them in a cool, dark, and dry place (like a pantry), ideally in an airtight container to prevent exposure to humidity.
- Fridge: While it’s not typically necessary to refrigerate dried chile morita peppers, doing so won’t really harm them and may extend their shelf life. Just make sure to keep them in an airtight container to prevent moisture absorption.
- Freezer: For long-term storage, you can freeze your dried morita peppers. Place them in a freezer-safe bag or container and they should maintain their flavor for up to 2 years. This is a great way to make sure you always have these smoky peppers ready for your recipes.
- Rehydrated: If you’ve rehydrated your chile morita peppers for a recipe but have leftovers, these can be stored in the fridge in a sealed container for up to a week.
Remember, no matter where you store your chile morita peppers, it’s crucial to keep them dry. Any exposure to moisture could lead to mold development, rendering them unusable.
👌 How to pick perfect morita peppers
When seeking out chile morita peppers for your recipes, keep these aspects in mind to ensure you’re getting the best of the best:
- Appearance: Look for chile morita peppers that are intact, with a uniform dark reddish-brown to black color. They should be plump for dried peppers and not overly shriveled or cracked.
- Size: Typically, chile morita peppers are about 1-2 inches long. Size does not substantially affect flavor or heat, but uniformity in size can be a sign of quality processing.
- Smell: Good quality chile morita peppers will have a strong, smoky, and slightly fruity aroma. This scent is a good indicator of a flavorful pepper.
- Texture: These peppers are usually soft and pliable despite being dried, not brittle or dusty.
- Mold: Check the peppers for any signs of white or blue mold, particularly if they’re sold in bulk. Mold can develop if the peppers were not properly dried or stored.
💰 Where to buy morita peppers
You can find chile morita peppers in various locations, including to following:
- Mexican or Latin American markets: These stores often have a broad selection of dried chiles, including chile morita.
- Large supermarkets: Many larger grocery chains carry a selection of dried chiles in their international or spice aisle. You may be able to find chile morita there.
- Online: Numerous online retailers specialize in selling spices, including a variety of dried chiles. This option provides an easy way to access chile morita peppers if they’re not readily available in your area.
- Grow your own: If you’re a gardening enthusiast, try growing your own chile peppers and drying them to make chile morita. Seeds or starter plants can often be found at garden centers or online.
With such a distinct smoky infusion, there are only a few other chiles that would make a suitable substitute for the chile morita. Our top choices include the following:
- Meco chipotles: The best replacement is meco chiles since they are also jalapeño peppers. Keep in mind that due to the longer smoke time, they will impart a more intense flavor.
- Pasilla de Oaxaca: Not to be confused with pasilla chiles, pasilla de Oaxaca chiles are a smoked pepper with slightly fruity notes. These would also make a good substitute for chile morita, but they aren’t very common outside of Mexico.
- Chipotles in adodo: Possibly the easiest option to find, most places carry chipotles in adobo. The only limitation to these is the actual adobo, so they may not be suitable as a substitute in all recipes.
🌱 Growing your own morita peppers
If you’re a fan of gardening and spicy foods, growing your own jalapeño peppers and dehydrating your own morita peppers might be the project for you! Here’s a guide to get you started:
- Soil requirements: Jalapeño peppers prefer well-draining soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.8. Make sure to enrich your garden soil with compost to provide the essential nutrients these plants need for optimal growth.
- Sun exposure: These pepper plants require full sun exposure, ideally 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day to ensure a healthy fruit yield.
- Watering needs: The soil should be kept consistently moist but not waterlogged. Overwatering can lead to root rot and other plant diseases.
- Spacing: To promote healthy growth, plant your red jalapeño peppers about 14-16 inches apart. This spacing allows for proper airflow, which can help prevent the spread of diseases.
- Temperature: Jalapeño peppers thrive in warm temperatures. Plant them after the danger of frost has passed, as they can’t tolerate freezing conditions. They handle heat well, but temperatures below 60F (15.5C) or above 90F (32C) can negatively impact their growth and fruit production.
- Harvest time: Jalapeño peppers are typically ready for harvest about 70-80 days after transplanting. Unlike the common green jalapeños, red jalapeños are left on the plant to fully mature and turn red, resulting in a slightly sweeter and hotter flavor profile.
- Common pests and diseases: Keep an eye out for common pests such as aphids, cutworms, and pepper maggots. Diseases that might affect red jalapeño plants include bacterial spot, Phytophthora blight, and various viral infections like the tobacco mosaic virus. Proper care, regular monitoring, and early intervention can help keep these potential issues at bay.
Drying Red Jalapeños
Drying red jalapeños preserves their flavor for future use and allows you to make your own makeshift morita peppers! Here are a few options for drying jalapeños:
- Air drying: This method works best in a dry, well-ventilated, and warm space. Hang the peppers by their stems in a bunch, or thread them on a string. Let them dry for several weeks until they’re completely dehydrated.
- Oven drying: Place the peppers in a single layer on a baking sheet. Set your oven to the lowest setting and prop the door open slightly to allow moisture to escape. This can take anywhere from 4 to 12 hours.
- Dehydrator: If you have a dehydrator, simply place the peppers in a single layer on the racks and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
- Smoking: For the classic morita flavor, try smoking your red jalapeños. Use a smoker or a charcoal grill, maintaining a low temperature (around 200F) and using wood chips to impart that quintessential smoky flavor. Once smoked, they can be dried further in the oven or dehydrator.
🌶 More Mexican chiles
If you’re interested in learning about more popular chiles used in Mexican cooking, check out our other detailed guides:
- Chile poblano
- Chile jalapeño
- Chile serrano
- Chile habanero
- Chile de árbol
- Chile piquín
- Chile guajillo
- Chile pasilla
- Chile ancho
- Chile Anaheim
- Chile cascabel
- Chile chipotle meco
If dehydrated peppers are toasted for too long, they can burn and cause the taste to turn very bitter. If the bitterness is too strong, it’s best to start over.
Yes, morita chiles are a type of chipotle pepper that is dried and smoked.
If you have access to jalapeño pepper seeds, you can grow your own (leaving them on the plant until red). You will need access to a smoker though, so it may be more convenient to purchase them.
How to Rehydate Morita Chiles
- Kitchen shears
- Cast-iron skillet or comal
- 1 package morita chiles
- Water for soaking
- Using kitchen shears, cut off the stems of the chiles and cut them open. Remove the seeds and veins and discard.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over medium, then dry toast them for ~30-60 seconds per side, or until fragrant.
- Bring a saucepan of water to boil, then turn the heat off, add the moritas in, cover the pot, and let the chiles rehydrate for 10-15 minutes, or until they feel soft and pliable.
- Your chiles are now ready to be used in a wide variety of Mexican salsas, soups, stews, and more.
- The weight used in 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.
Note: We’ve updated this post to include new information and helpful tips about the recipe.