After absolutely blowing through it over the past few years during recipe testing, it was about time we started making our own homemade chili powder. Since not every store bought chili powder is created equally, making your own chili powder is the best way to ensure quality and take control of the flavor profile and spice level. Not to mention the huge sodium reduction in recipes that call for lots of chili powder like Texas chili, soups, and stews. These improvements are definitely worth the 15 minutes it takes to make your own chili powder.
How to Make Chili Powder with Dried Chiles
The key ingredients for homemade chili powder are dried chiles. For my chili powder, I used guajillo and ancho chiles. You’ll find these in the spice section of most major grocery stores, especially in the southwest US. You can order them online as well if you have trouble tracking some down.
Types of Dried Chiles
Guajillo chiles are the dried form of Mirasol chiles and are a mild, sweet and smoky flavor profile. Ancho chiles are the dried form of Poblano chiles and are another sweet and smoky, mild to medium chile. Both of these chiles are in the 1,000-5,000 SHU (Scoville Heat Units) range. A jalapeño is in the 2,500-5,000 SHU range, for comparison.
If you’re looking to make a spicy chili powder, you could go with chile de árbol (15,000-30,000 SHU) or Morita (5,000-10,000 SHU) and Pequin (40,000-60,000 SHU) chiles.
For more chile info check out this Masterclass on the different types of Mexican chiles. Now, let’s talk about how to actually make chili powder from dried chiles.
Step 1: Remove the stems, seeds, and membranes from dried chiles.
I use kitchen scissors, but a knife works fine. The seeds in some dried chiles will pour straight out once you remove the stem while others are a bit more wrinkled and require some hunting. For these, I like to remove the stem and cut straight down one side of the chile. Then you can lay it flat and scrape out everything you don’t want before toasting.
Why remove the seeds? They can be slightly bitter once toasted and difficult to completely grind if you’re after a very fine chili powder. That said, a few stray seeds won’t make or break your chili powder in my experience.
Step 2: Toast the chiles in a pan over medium heat until fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Toasting improves the flavor of dried chiles and adds a bit of smoky complexity you’ll miss out on without toasting. It’s important to note you’re just after a light toasting here. You don’t want much browning or any scorching. Toasting in a 350ºF oven for 4-6 minutes on a sheet pan is another great option for toasting as well.
Step 3: Blend the toasted chiles with other dried spices and add-ins.
Similar to adjusting flavor and heat profiles with different dried chiles, you can customize your homemade chili powder with the extra spices and ingredients.
You’ll notice tortilla chips in the photo above, which I picked up from an America’s Test Kitchen ground beef chili recipe. If you’re making a chili that would call for a thickener like masa, this is an easy substitution that adds a pinch of saltiness and great corn flavor at the same time. While I’ve not tested the shelf life of chili powder made with the tortilla chips, I’m assuming the sooner it’s used, the better.
I would encourage you to tinker with additional spices and flavor combos in your chili powder. If you’ve tried my shredded Mexican chicken, you know I love ground cinnamon with earthy flavors like cumin and coriander. So you’ll find all three in this chili powder, but you may want to swap the cinnamon for something like dried thyme or marjoram.
And while I mentioned the reduction in sodium for large batch recipes like chili, you may want to add some salt to your chili powder if you’re planning to use it in smaller doses. It’s really up to you, and you’ll probably want to play around with different blends each time you make it. Be sure to let me know if you come up with any killer chili powder blends in the comments of this post!
- 3 oz Dried Chiles (I used a blend of guajillo and ancho chiles)
- 1 oz Tortilla Chips
- 2 Tbsp Ground Cumin
- 1 Tbsp Garlic Powder
- 1 Tbsp Ground Coriander
- 1 Tbsp Paprika
- 1 Tbsp Dried Mexican Oregano
- 2 tsp Black Pepper
- 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon
- Remove the stems from the dried chiles before cutting the chiles into small pieces. Discard all the seeds and any membranes. Toast the chiles in a pan over medium heat for about 5 minutes until fragrant. (Keep the chiles moving. There shouldn't be any smoke.)
- Let the chiles cool while you add the remaining ingredients to a food processor. Once cool, add the chiles and blend everything together until evenly mixed, about 2-3 minutes.
- Store in an air tight container but freshly made chili powder yields best results.
Recipe adapted from America's Test Kitchen's best ground beef chili.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 Tbsp
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 37Total Fat: 1gCarbohydrates: 6gProtein: 1g