The chile pasilla (or pasilla pepper) is an extremely popular and widely utilized chile in Mexican cuisine. Find out everything you need to know in this detailed guide, including how to prepare it for recipes.
Table of Contents
📖 What are chiles pasillas?
Chile pasilla is the name given to ripened, dried chilaca peppers — which belong to the Capsicum annuum species.
These peppers are native to Southern North America and Northern South America.
Chilaca peppers are very dark green, but they are sometimes referred to chile negro because as they mature their color darkens to a brownish hue. These peppers usually grow to 6-9 inches long and about 1 inch in diameter.
Chilaca peppers turn into pasilla peppers once they are dried (under the sun or in a dehydrator). They can then be ground or rehydrated and used in many different recipes.
Once the chile pasilla is formed, it takes on a whole new set of characteristics and flavors compared to its fresh counterpart.
🍴 Flavor profile
Pasilla peppers have a unique flavor profile consisting of smoky, earthy, and fruity flavors often described as "raisin-like." We find their aroma to be quite fragrant and personally think they smell like prunes.
You'll find the chile pasilla flavoring all kinds of dishes from salsas and moles to soups.
🔥 Spice level
Pasilla peppers are relatively mild in heat and measure in at 1,000-2,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) on the Scoville Scale.
The best comparison would be the jalapeño pepper, which averages about 5,000 SHU.
🍎 Health facts
Pasilla chiles are filled with many vitamins and minerals like B2, B6, A, iron, and fiber. All contribute to increased brain function, energy production, eye health, and more.
There is one compound found in chiles, called capsaicin, that is particularly beneficial for a few reasons.
Capsaicin is responsible for the spiciness of pasilla peppers, but it has also been shown to promote heart health, reduce inflammation, and increase metabolism — just to name a few.
How to Rehydrate Pasilla Chiles
- Kitchen shears
- Cast-iron skillet or comal
- 1 package pasilla chiles ($0.96)
- 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 griddle or comal 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 pasillas 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 soups and sauces.
- 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.
🌶️ Pasilla chile dishes
With so many tasty recipes utilizing pasilla peppers, we've narrowed down some of our favorites including:
Store pasilla chiles (or powder) in an airtight glass container to control moisture levels. You should also keep them in a cool, dark environment (like a cupboard) to keep their flavors lasting the longest.
💰 Buying guide
If you're looking to cook more Mexican-inspired dishes, you really need to have pasilla peppers stocked in your pantry.
What to look for
Pasilla peppers should be pliable with a very dark (almost black) appearance. Brittle or cracked peppers should be avoided if possible because the flavors won't be as vibrant.
Alternatively, extremely soft pasilla chiles may have been in contact with moisture, so they should also be avoided.
Where to buy
If you're lucky enough to live by a Mexican market or store, pasilla peppers will most certainly be available there.
However, since we live in such a convenient day and age, you can also order pasilla chiles online and keep them stored well.
With a rather unique flavor profile, there are only a couple of good substitutions you can go for when trying to emulate the flavor of chile pasilla:
- Ancho chiles. More mild in flavor and slightly less sweet, ancho chiles are the preferred choice to use in place of pasilla peppers if you can't find them.
- Mulato chiles. If you can't find ancho chiles, mulato is a worthy second choice. Although they can be significantly hotter than anchos, they do provide some sweet, smoky, and chocolate notes similar to pasilla peppers.
🌶 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 food comes out bitter after using pasilla peppers, it's likely because they were burned during toasting or the seeds were left in. In some cases, seeds can be very bitter when left in the chiles.
Yes, you can make your own pasilla peppers. All you have to do is purchase chilaca peppers and dry them outside, with a dehydrator, or in the oven to make pasilla peppers.
Typically, the chile pasilla variety is not smoked. However, pasilla de Oaxaca are significantly hotter and are smoked during the drying process.