Chipotle Flavors: Chipotles in the Kitchen

Dave DeWitt Chipotle Flavors Leave a Comment

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By Dave DeWitt and Chuck Evans




Chuck’s Chipotle Sauce

Chipotle-Tomatillo Sauce

Chipotle-Corn Salsa with Poblanos and Morels

Guacamole con Chipotle


Chipotles and all their processed forms are very versatile. With the possible exception of some desserts, cooks can use them in just about any recipe. For example, add a few dashes of a chipotle hot sauce to a bloody mary and taste the difference!

Flavor Elements

Chef and author Mark Miller described the flavor of chipotles in one of his books as “smoky and sweet in flavor with tobacco and chocolate tones, a Brazil nut finish, and a subtle, deep, rounded heat.” In another book, he added “leather, coffee, and mushrooms” as flavor components. We believe that smoked jalapeños are much more interesting and flavorful than the fresh ones.


Many cooks have success storing chipotles in a zip-lock bag in a cool and dry location. If humidity is kept out of the bags, the chipotle will last for twelve to twenty-four months. A more secure method to store them at room temperature is to keep them in glass jars with a tight-fitting, rubber-sealed top.  Of course, the best storage of all is to freeze them. Use heavy-duty freezer bags and double-bag the chipotles. They will keep for years in the freezer with no noticeable loss of flavor or smoke.

Making Chipotle Powder

A “dried” chipotle usually has about 80 to 90 percent of its moisture removed, which is enough, with the smoke, to preserve it and retard bacterial growth, but not enough to create a powder. Therefore, regardless of whether you are using the típicomorita, they must be further dried in a food dehydrator or in the oven on the lowest possible heat, until they are so dry that you can snap them in half. Put on a painter’s mask to protect you from uncontrollable sneezing, and break the chipotles into manageable pieces. Use an electric spice mill or a coffee grinder to reduce the pod pieces to a powder.  Because they are so desiccated, the chipotle powder stores well in air-tight containers such as small jars. But remember, powders will oxidize and absorb odors from from the air or the freezer, so if you intend to freeze the powders or store them in bags at room temperature, triple-bag them first. It is best to store the powder in a small glass jar with a tight-fitting lid. chipotle or the

Using Chipotle Powder

Powdered chipotles are used just like any other chile powder. The powder, if properly stored, retains its smoky flavor and is great for use in rubs for smoked meats, in sauces, and in chili con carne. Remember that the chipotle powder will be much hotter than red chile powder made with New Mexican chiles, and hotter than commercial “chili” powder that has other spices added. Substitute 1 teaspoon chipotle powder for each chipotle called for in the recipe.

Rehydrating Chipotles

Unless you are going to make powder, both the típico and morita varieties of chipotles will need to be rehydrated. Bring a pot of water to a boil, turn off the heat, and add the chipotles. Depending upon their degree of dessication, the chiles should absorb water and be fully hydrated between 1 and 4 hours.. The left over water, which will have some flavor, can be used in making chipotle sauces. Usually after rehydrating, the seeds and stems are removed before use in a recipe.

Canned Chipotles

Chipotles canned in adobo sauce are already rehydrated, and, of course, are flavored by the tomato-based sauce. Cooks must decide, depending on the recipe, whether or not to rinse off the chipotles to remove most the tomato flavor, or to use the chipotles with the sauce.

Other Substitutions

Any smoked chile pod, sauce, paste, or powder may be substituted for any other. Remember, generally speaking, the smaller the chile, the hotter it is, so cobans will be hotter than moritas and moritas hotter than pasillas de Oaxaca. The only exception is the smoked habanero, which is larger and hotter than the coban.

When substituting sauces for chipotle pods, an approximate equivalent is one tablespoon of sauce per pod. Some cookbooks recommend cayenne hot sauce mixed with liquid smoke as a substitute, but we find this to be inferior to the real thing.

Chuck’s Chipotle Sauce

This is a version of Chuck’s number one brown hot sauce, Smokey Chipotle Hot Sauce® that he manufactures under the Montezuma Brand. Take chipotle chiles, place them in a bowl and cover them with distilled vinegar. After several hours, the chiles will be reconstituted and plump.  Use this sauce as you would any commercial hot sauce.  It’s particularly good on scrambled eggs and any grilled meat. Note: This recipe requires advance preparation.

12 reconstituted chipotle chiles
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 cups water
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup tomato sauce
Salt to taste
2 cups white distilled vinegar (or more or less)

Place all the ingredients except the white vinegar in a saucepan, cover and simmer over low heat for about an hour or until the liquid is reduced to about 1 1/2 cups. Transfer the mixture to a food processor or blender and puree.

Combine the puree and the white vinegar in a bowl and mix thoroughly to the desired consistency. Strain the sauce through a sieve and discard the solids. Bottle in sterilized jars.

Yield: About 3 cups
Heat Scale: Hot

Chipotle-Tomatillo Sauce

Ah, the smoky flavor of the chipotle–or any type of smoked chiles. It won’t matter for this sauce, for any smoked chile will work. If using dried chipotles, be sure to soak them first in water to soften them. This is a great sauce for grilled or barbecued meat or poultry.

1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 pound tomatillos, halved
1 medium tomato, chopped
1/2 cup chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano
3 canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 teaspoon vinegar
Salt to taste

In a skillet, saute the onions and garlic in the oil until soft and slightly browned.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients except the salt and puree. Transfer the puree to a skillet and simmer for 20 minutes to thicken slightly. Salt to taste.

Yield: 4 cups
Heat Scale: Medium

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