Different chili powders are used for different things. Mexican cooking uses types like Guajillo, chile de Arbol, ancho and chipotle. New Mexican chiles (whether younger and green, or fully ripe and red) have a taste all their own, and are obviously used in New Mexican cuisine, along with chipotle, ancho and others. Caribbean food tends to use fresh chiles, but the favored habanero chile does come in a powder and has a bit more of a fruity flavor. And Indian has its own varieties – and they tend to be HOT!
Outside of specific chile powders, there is always that ever-present, plain old “chili powder” you can buy at your local supermarket (at least in most parts of America) like this one:
Products like this one are actually a blend of ground chiles, salt, garlic and other spices, and typically have less heat than the pure chili powders.
When I’m cooking one of the named cuisines I’ve mentioned above, I like to stick to the chiles (fresh or in powder form) that match that cuisine. But when making dishes that are less regionally specific, it’s far more fun to play with a blend. Dishes like regular ‘ole chili (with beans or without), rubs that contain chili powder, chili-spiced dips, and so on are a great way to use a blend.
So here’s my secret – for that latter type of use, blend several different chili powders and keep in an airtight container to use whenever needed. Here is my blend (I make about 2 cups at a time and it’ll last 3-4 months):
2 parts generic chili powder (like McCormick’s above)
1 part New Mexican chili powder (hot)
1 part New Mexican chili powder (extra hot)
1 part Indian chili powder
1 part Chipotle chili powder
1 part Guajillo chili powder
1/2 part chile de Arbol powder
1/2 part cayenne chili powder
You’ll appreciate the complexity of a blend like this…absolutely perfect for a rub or making American-style chili. Feel free to play with this and use your own blend of what’s available to you. (Hint: you can get a wide variety of types of chili powder on Amazon if you can’t find them in a store near you.)
Check out my Award Winning Chili Recipe here, which is a great recipe for using this chili powder blend. I’d love to hear how you decide to use it.