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Seasonings Made with Chili Peppers

by Berkeley Wellness  

You can use dried chilies to make your own custom chili powder. De-stem and de-seed dried chilies, cut into large pieces, then process in food processor or blender. The advantages of doing it yourself are you can customize the flavor, make it as mild or as hot as you wish, and both its aroma and flavor are much richer than store-bought chili powders.

Whether you make the seasonings or buy them in stores, chili powders and condiments made from hot peppers enliven dishes without added calories or fat. Here are some chili seasonings to consider.

Cayenne pepper: This ground spice—very hot and orange-red or deep red in color—is just ground cayenne chilies, mostly grown in Louisiana, Africa, India, and Mexico. Some spice companies also offer a ground spice labeled simply “red pepper.” It may be made from other dried mild to medium-hot red peppers or the more pungent cayenne.

Chili oil: This Asian condiment and cooking ingredient is vegetable oil that has been infused with heat from ground red chilies and then strained.

Chili paste: There are red pepper-based Chinese chili pastes and there are several types of Thai chili pastes. They are all quite hot. The Thai pastes vary in color (including red, green, yellow, and brown) and each one has a particular flavor in addition to chili heat.

Chili powder: Dried ground Anaheim peppers are the basis for the typical seasoning used to flavor chili con carne. Usually the peppers are mixed with other spices, such as garlic, cumin, and cayenne. There are also pure chili powders, which are made from a single type of chili pepper (and sometimes a combination of chilies), but they have no added seasonings.

Curry powder: A number of variations of this Indian spice are available, Most of them contain at least some dried hot peppers in addition to the numerous other spices, typically turmeric (the source of the yellow color), coriander, cumin, and fenugreek. The heat level varies, depending on how much chili pepper is used.

Hot pepper sauces: There is no way to conveniently characterize the multitude of pepper sauce styles available. Broadly speaking, however, there are the vinegar-based Louisiana-style red sauces—Tabasco is the best-known example. There are the slightly fruity, sweet-sour Caribbean-style sauces. There are mustard- and Scotch Bonnet–based Jamaican hot sauces. There are garlicky Southeast Asian sauces. And then there is a world of proprietary commercial hot sauces competing with one another to be the hottest one in town.

Paprika: Originating in Hungary, this spice is made by grinding dried mild to slightly hot red peppers into a powder. Sweet paprika contains just the pods; hotter versions may also include the ground seeds and ribs.

Tabasco sauce: One company, based on Avery Island in Louisiana, is the only one that can call their hot spicy sauce Tabasco—the name is a registered trademark. The sauce is made by mashing freshly picked tabasco peppers, adding salt, and letting the mixture age for at least three years. It is then mixed with vinegar and strained before it is bottled. Similar hot sauces are made from other red chilies, such as cayenne. The same Louisiana company also makes a green Tabasco sauce using green jalapeño peppers.

See our recipes for: Thai-Style Beef and Noodle Salad and Thai-Style Salmon.