Chili Paste Essentials: Up Your Game
Andy Anderson !
• Meat… No Meat.
• Beans… No Beans.
• On-and-on it goes.
However, the one thing that will go into every pot of chili is… Well, chilies. They can be powdered versions in a spice jar, or they can be a paste.
Most chefs will tell you that pastes are the only way to get that great chili flavor, and that is why we are going to make our own chili paste.
So, you ready… Let’s get into the kitchen.
How to Make Chili Paste Essentials: Up Your Game
- There are hundreds of different chili types… HUNDREDS.
They range from the hottest of the hot, like the Carolina Reaper, with a Scoville heat rating of over 2 million. In other words, if you were to take a bite of one of these hotties, you would quite literally wind up in the hospital.
And, then we go all the way down the scale to the humble bell pepper with a Scoville heat rating of zero.
By comparison, the Jalapeño, which many of have sampled, has a Scoville heat rating of 2,500-5,000. Mild by some standards, but hot to others.
Chiles can be sweet like the Anaheim, hot like the árbol, smoky like the guajillo, or fruity like the pasilla. Whatever you choose, the chiles will be the major flavor influence of your chili paste.
If this is something that intrigues you, then have some fun, and as time goes by, experiment with different varieties.
However, to save time, and give you a base from which to start your journey, let me give you my recommendation for a good chili paste base. I start with these four chilies (pretty much in equal amounts) and branch out from there:
• Ancho Chiles 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville Heat Units
• Pasilla Negro Chiles: 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville Heat Units
• Guajillo Chiles: 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville Heat Units
• Arbol Chiles: 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville Heat Units
After years of playing about this is my base. If I want it milder, I will tone down the Arbol chiles; if I want it hotter, I might throw in a few Cayenne, Habanero, or Ghost peppers.
FYI: The Scoville scale runs like this:
• Mild (100 to 2,500)
• Medium (2,500 to 30,000)
• Hot (30,000 to 100,000)
• Extra Hot (100,000 to 300,000)
• Extremely Hot (above 300,000)
- What is with the cumin?
Okay, this is an optional item, but I do not think I have ever made a good chili without adding some cumin. By cooking it with the chilies, it infuses its flavor into the chili paste in a perfect blending.
However, I understand that not everyone enjoys the flavor that cumin brings to a recipe, so if you do wish to add it; just leave it out.
You can store chili paste in the refrigerator for a week to 10 days. Or, you can freeze it for 6 – 8 months. I like to use an ice-cube tray and freeze it in tablespoon units. Once frozen I take them out of the tray and toss into a Ziploc freezer bag.
When I need some, I simply take out the proper amount and toss them in the pot.
- THE RATIO
The ratio of chili paste to chili powder is 4 to 1. So, if the recipe calls for a tablespoon of chili powder, you will need 4 tablespoons of chili paste.
The good news is that when you make chili paste, the volume of paste is 4 – 5 times greater than contained in a jar of chili powder.
So, not only does it taste better, you are getting more.
And, if you purchase your chilies in bulk, it is actually cheaper to make paste than to purchase the dried stuff at the grocer.