Move over store-bought chili powder! With an incredibly robust and vibrant flavor, NOTHING compares to homemade chili powder made from scratch – it’s a total game changer! This Chili Powder recipe is easy to make and I can practically guarantee that after tasting this you’ll never want to buy it again!
We all know people who claim to make THE best chili on the planet. You may be one of them. And you may be right. But what I’m offering you is a secret ingredient to add to your already amazing chili that will elevate it to even greater flavor heights.
Why? Because nothing – and I mean no fancy doodad gourmet store-bought or special ordered chili powder – can compare to this homemade chili powder made completely from scratch! I’m talking about using fresh, whole dried chili peppers and whole spices, and roasting and grinding everything for the most fantastically fabulous flavor EVER.
What is Chili Powder?
Chili powder is a spice blend made from ground dried chili peppers and a combination of other spices and herbs such as cumin, coriander, garlic, and oregano. Additional spices can be used to add depth and complexity of flavor. Chili powder is used in a variety of cuisines including Mexican, Tex-Mex, and Southwestern dishes to add flavor, color, and heat (depending on if it’s a hot or mild chili powder).
Chili powder is used in a wide variety of dishes, for example chili con carne, tacos, enchiladas, salsas, marinades, and rubs for grilled meats.
How to Use Chili Powder
Use this homemade chili powder blend in any recipe that calls for chili powder. Deliciously versatile, this blend will add a deeply rich flavor and color to a whole host of dishes, Mexican and otherwise. Here are a few ways to use chili powder:
Sprinkle some on your chicken or beef before roasting or grilling, or add a spoonful to give life and zest to your soups, stews, beans and vegetables.
- Seasoning Meats: Use this as a dry rub for seasoning your beef, pork, chicken, and seafood.
- Chili Con Carne: A key ingredient in making chili con carne, this homemade blend will add life and flavor like no other. Add it to the ground beef while cooking it. Try our recipes for Instant Pot Chili, and Spicy Chipotle Chili with Hominy.
- Tex-Mex and Mexican Dishes: Incorporate this chili powder into Mexican or Tex-Mex recipes such as tacos, enchiladas, burritos, or use it to make our steak fajitas.
- Spicy Sauces and Marinades: Add chili powder to your homemade sauces, marinades, or dressings for a spicy twist. It can enhance the flavor of barbecue sauce, salsa, or hot sauce. Try it in our ultimate BBQ Sauce and Cherry Barbecue Sauce.
- Beans and Soups: Chili powder can be added to a variety of bean and lentil-based dishes, soups and stews to give them a deep and robust flavor. Try it in our Pozole Rojo, Chicken Tortilla Soup, and Albondigas Soup.
- Roasted Vegetables: Sprinkle this on roasted vegetables like potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, or cauliflower before baking for a deliciously smoky flavor. For a Mexican twist, replace this with the paprika to make our Sweet Potato Fries. It’s also terrific in salads like our Mexican Corn Salad.
- Seasoning Rice or Grain Dishes: Use this to season rice dishes, pilafs, or grain bowls to add flavor and some kick. Use it to make our Spanish Rice and our Cheeseburger Macaroni.
Best Chile Peppers for Chili Powder
Which variety you use comes down to personal preference but there are some favorites that I especially recommend for the best flavor combination.
Guajillo: Bright red with mild to medium heat and are sweet with a touch of acidity. With its earthy-sweet flavor it’s one of the most popular chilies in Mexican cuisine.
Ancho: Dark red and very mildly spicy with a rich fruity and lightly smoky flavor. Ancho chilies are poblano chilies that have been allowed to fully ripen to a deep red and then dried. They contribute a beautiful dark red color and rich flavor to foods and are also one of the most popular dried peppers.
Pasilla: Sweet, fruity flavor with medium heat. The name “pasilla” comes from the word pasas, meaning “raisins”, because of its deep fruity flavor.
Arbol: Earthy flavor and very spicy. These don’t add a ton of flavor but are added if you like your food spicy hot.
For the best tasting chili powder, use a variety of chiles. My favorite two are ancho and guajillo. And if you like a bit heat, add some arbol and/or cascabels.
Incidentally, you’ll need these same chile peppers to make our authentic Enchilada Sauce.
How to Choose “Fresh” Dried Chiles
A critical key to making the best chili powder is to select quality dried chile peppers.
Many dried chiles I come across in grocery stores and online are unfortunately quite poor in quality. They’re old and brittle and flavorless. Here’s how to know if the dried chiles are “fresh”:
1) The peppers should be pliable and flexible (like a very stiff fruit leather), not overly dry or brittle. 2) Look at their skins; they should be glossy, not dull. 3) They should have a good deal of fragrance, a little like dried fruit, not a dusty smell.
Ready to make some show-stopping homemade chili powder?
Chili Powder Recipe
Let’s get started!
Remove the stems from the dried chilies and scrape out and discard the seeds and membranes. Heat a cast iron or heavy pan over medium-high heat and place the chilies in the pan single file so they’re not overlapping. Roast on both sides just until fragrant (approx. a couple of minutes) being very careful not to scorch them or they will taste bitter. Remove and let cool.
Place the whole spices in the pan and roast until very fragrant, being careful not to scorch them (a couple of minutes). Remove and let cool completely.
Once the chilies and spices are completely cooled, place them in a blender or spice/coffee grinder with the remaining ingredients and pulse until it’s a powder.
Transfer to an airtight jar for storage.
For best flavor use within a few weeks.
For more fabulous homemade seasoning blends be sure to try our:
- Greek Seasoning
- Old Bay Seasoning
- Creole Seasoning
- Montreal Steak Seasoning
- Poultry Seasoning
- Seasoned Salt
- Chili Powder
- Pot Roast Seasoning
- Curry Powder
- Garam Masala
- Herbes de Provence
- Chinese Five Spice
- Mixed Spice
BEST Chili Powder (From Scratch)
- 4 ounces dried red chile peppers (we highly recommend a combination of ancho, guajillo and any other variety you like, and if you want heat add some arbol and/or cascabel peppers)
- dried ancho chiles (I use this brand)
- dried guajillo chiles (I use this brand)
- 3 tablespoons whole cumin seeds
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dried Mexican oregano
- 2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 3 whole cloves (or 1/8 teaspoon ground)
- 2 small allspice berries (or 1/8 teaspoon ground)
- Remove the stems from the dried chilies and scrape out and discard the seeds and membranes. Heat a cast iron or heavy pan over medium-high heat and place the chilies in the pan single file so they're not overlapping. Roast on both sides just until fragrant (approx. a couple of minutes) being very careful not to scorch them or they will taste bitter. Remove and let cool. Place the whole spices in the pan and roast until very fragrant, being careful not to scorch them (a couple of minutes). Remove and let cool completely.
- Once the chilies and spices are completely cooled, place them in a blender or spice/coffee grinder with the remaining ingredients and pulse until it's a powder. Transfer to an airtight jar for storage. For best flavor use within a few weeks.Makes about 1 cup of chili powder.
Originally published on The Daring Gourmet January 11, 2019