Chili Paste Essentials: Up Your Game

Andy Anderson !


When you are making that “special” pot of your homemade chili, you can put a plethora of different ingredients into the pot.
• 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.


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15 Min
15 Min
Stove Top



  • 3 - 4 oz
    freshly dried chilies, more on this later
  • 2 - 3 c
    chicken stock, not broth

  • 1 tsp
    ground cumin

How to Make Chili Paste Essentials: Up Your Game


  2. Besides a saucepan, to finish the chili paste, you will need a good blender, or food processor.

    I found that an immersion blender did not get the paste as smooth as I desired.
  3. 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)
  4. How to buy chilies
    Make sure that they are still pliable. If they crack when you bend them inside their packaging, they are old and probably have lost most of their flavor.

    FYI: You can freeze dried chiles in Ziploc bags, and they will remain useable for a year or more.
  5. 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.
  6. Storage
    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 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.
  8. Gather your ingredients (mise en place).
  9. Cut off the tops of the chilies and deseed. Do not go crazy here, just remove as many seeds as possible. And, do not forget, if you have sensitive skin, please wear gloves.
  10. Optional Step
    Toasting the chiles is optional; however, it really helps to bring out their flavors.

    Set a rack in the bottom position and preheat the oven to 350f (175c).

    Spread out the chilies on a baking sheet and add to the preheated oven.

    Turn once or twice until fragrant, about 3 – 4 minutes.
  11. Add the chilies to a saucepan, pour in 2.5 cups of the chicken stock (reserve the remainder of the stock), then simmer and stir until they soften, about 10 – 12 minutes.
  12. Allow them to cool down, for about 10 minutes, then place into a blender.
  13. Blend-baby-blend, until smooth.
  14. If the mixture is too thick add some of the chicken stock, a bit at a time until the paste is pourable.
  15. Store, using the earlier suggestions.
  16. Use in any recipe that calls for chili powder and taste the difference. Enjoy.
  17. Keep the faith, and keep cooking.

Printable Recipe Card

About Chili Paste Essentials: Up Your Game

Course/Dish: Other Sauces
Main Ingredient: Spice/Herb/Seasoning
Regional Style: Southern
Other Tag: Quick & Easy

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