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Behind the Seasoning: Chili Powder - Uses, Benefits, & Recipes

Circle of Chili Powder on left. Pie chart of chili powder ingredients on right.

Prepare your tastebuds! This one is going to be spicy. Our chili powders are guaranteed to tickle your tastebuds in the best way possible. But how do you know which variety to use when? Read on to learn all the ins and outs of chili powder and how to utilize the spice for maximum flavor. 

What is Chili Powder?

Chili powder, like chili itself, includes a little bit of everything when it comes to spice. The spice blend is similar to the ingredients used when making chili con carne, which is where the name originates from. Most chili powders start with a blend of chile peppers and add on from there with spices like paprika, garlic, cumin, and Mexican oregano

So, what is the difference between chili and chile? Chili powder is a blend of spices, which include dried chile peppers as well as the other ingredients we’ve mentioned above. Chili Powder can actually be a base for other seasonings, especially BBQ rubs like our Carolina High Country BBQ Rub.

Unlike chili powder, chile powder has a pure flavor of dried chiles. Chile powder is made using just dried chilies and no additional spices or seasonings. Typically, chile powder is also just one single variety. The dried chiles range in color, flavor, and heat level. Ancho Chile Powder is rather mild and is actually the base of most chili powders. You might guess from the name that Mild Red New Mexican Chile Powder doesn’t have much heat, neither does Guajillo Chile Powder. Hotter chiles like Hatch Green Chile Powder and Jalapeño Chile Powder are great for a spicier flavor profile. 

Types of chili powder

Not all chili powder is made the same. The spice level can vary in the blend depending on what kind of chile peppers are used. Mild Chili Powder falls lower on the heat scale and tends to have a more garlic-based, earthy, and bittersweet flavor. Medium Chili Powder has a similar flavor profile, but we upped the ante in the heat department by adding more cayenne and Hot Red New Mexican Chile Powder.

It’s also easy to make your own chili powder.

For a basic chili powder, mix 2 Tbsp. ground ancho chiles with 1 1/2  tsp granulated garlic, 1 1/4  tsp ground cumin, 1/2 tsp paprika, 1/2 tsp Mexican oregano, and 1/8 tsp cayenne.

For extra hot chili powder, mix 1 Tbsp Mild Chili Powder with 1 tsp each of smoked paprika, ground cumin, and granulated onion, as well as 1/4 tsp Ghost Chile Powder and granulated garlic.

For spicy green chili powder, mix 3 Tbsp. Hatch Green Chile Powder with 1 T granulated onion, 2 tsp each of granulated garlic and ground cumin, and 3/4 tsp Mexican oregano.

Pie chart of Mild Chili Powder ingredients with a jar of Mild Chili Powder

What Does Chili Powder Taste Like?

Don’t be intimidated by the heat when it comes to chili powder. While chili powder seasoning is known for its kick, it also has a rich flavor profile thanks to the other spices that make up the powder. Our chili powders have a blend of garlic, cumin, paprika, and Mexican oregano in the mix, in addition to dried chiles. This blend keeps the flavor profile rather earthy, slightly sweet, and garlicky.  

Is Chili Powder spicy?

While chili powder has chili in it, it can vary vastly when it comes to spice level. The variety of chile in the different blends impacts the heat level, making some mild and others very hot. Our blends fall on the mild to medium scale, as the spice level is more for flavor rather than heat. Mild chili powder isn’t very spicy and has a kick that adds more flavor than spice. Medium chili powder increases the heat, but still to a manageable amount.

More heat can easily be added to chili powder seasoning by adding more ground chiles to the blend. The spicier the ground chiles are, the hotter the chili powder will be. Remember, you can always add more heat but it’s a lot harder to make it more mild!

Chili Powder vs. Cayenne

If you are wondering what the difference between chili powder and cayenne pepper is, you are not alone. Chili powder is a spice blend that contains chile peppers, garlic, cumin, oregano, and paprika. Cayenne pepper, on the other hand, is pure ground cayenne peppers and is much hotter than chili powder. The spices are similar as they both add heat but are not interchangeable. If you are trying to use chili powder in place of cayenne, know that you’ll have other flavors like cumin and garlic being added and it will be milder. If you’re using cayenne in place of chili powder, you’ll definitely want to scale back.

Cayenne pepper can be up to eight times hotter than your typical chili powder blend. Cayenne Chile Powder is our version of ground cayenne peppers. The spicy ground powder has a zesty kick and falls about 40,000 units on the Scoville scale — making it a medium heat. While the heat is tolerable for most people, it is much hotter than chili powder.

Are There Health Benefits of Chili Powder?

You wouldn’t think that something that could be so spicy could be beneficial to your health, but that is definitely the case when it comes to chili powder. Chile peppers, which have many health advantages, are the main ingredient in chili powder. These peppers naturally contain vitamins and minerals such as Vitamin C, B6, A, Potassium, and are rich in antioxidants. Capsaicin, found in chile peppers, is known to have qualities that help relieve pain and may help to burn fat.

Where & How to Buy Chili Powder

Dried chili powder is available in most supermarkets in the spice section - but don’t forget that color and scent are key indicators of freshness. Chili powder should be almost brick red, not brown, and should have a strong fragrance. We carry both Mild Chili Powder and Medium Chili Powder. If you’d rather see our spices in store, head to our store locator to find a local retailer near you.

If you’re looking for more heat, we also have you covered. It’s surprisingly simple to customize your spice blends and turn your Medium Chili Powder into a hot or extra hot version.

If you are interested in making your own blend of chili powder, our store has everything you will need. Popular spices for chili powder include garliccumin, paprika, and Mexican oregano, along with the chiles of your choice.

Chili in bowls topped with cheese, tortilla strips, and cilantro

What is Chili Powder Used For?

The different ways that you can use chili powder will surprise you. Since it is a spice blend, it carries multiple flavor profiles that complement ingredients when cooking with meats and vegetables. That also makes it a great base for creating other spice blends.

Chili powder is perfect for seasoning beans and, of course, when cooking up a big pot of chili. Some of our favorite chilis include Whatcha’ Got Chili Pot and South End Brewski Chili

The powder adds a nice kick to whatever you are cooking. The blend is great both as a rub or placed directly into a stew or soup. You can even add it to sour cream or queso for a Tex-Mex dipping sauce. How spicy you want your meal to be will determine how much chili powder is used. Obviously, the more you add, the more intense the end product will be.

What Can Be Substituted for Chili Powder?

Don’t worry if you find yourself with an empty bottle of chili powder in your spice cabinet. Since chili powder is a blend of spices, it is rather easy to replicate the flavors using what you have on hand. Something spicy like Chipotles Chiles In Adobo Sauce, Cayenne Pepper Chile Powder, Crushed Red Pepper Flakes, or Chipotle Chile Powder will be a fine substitute to replicate the heat in the chili powder. These spices are significantly hotter though and have a bigger kick to them, so a little goes a long way. Along with the chiles, you’ll want to add garlic, paprika, and cumin to make a substitute that will be suitable in the kitchen.

Taco Seasoning or Family Style Fajita Seasoning or enchilada spices can also be a great replacement. While they have a slightly different flavor, they both contain the spicy kick and tangy flavors that are needed to replicate a chili powder seasoning.

What Other Spice, Seasoning, and Flavors Pair Well with Chili Powder?

The spice blend is popular when it comes to Tex-Mex, Latin American, and Mexican-American food, however, it doesn’t draw boundaries. Because of the varieties of spices in the blend, garlic powder, cumin, paprika, and Mexican oregano are strong pairings. Chili powder is versatile and makes an excellent rub for meats, seasoning for vegetables, beans, stews (and chili) in all various cuisines.

Southwest Egg Rolls with Santa Fe Dipping Sauce

Recipes Using Chili Powder

Excited about cooking with chili powder but not sure where to start? We’ve got you covered with these tasty recipes. We’ve broken them down by spice level so you can choose how hot you want your food to be.

Here’s a quick tip! As with many spice blends, the flavors intensify with time. Try making your chili a day or two before serving as this additional time in the fridge will help the flavors meld and will create a rich chili taste.

Mild Chili Powder: A little spice and heat go a long way when using mild chili powder. Our salt-free blend is both bitter, sweet, garlicky, and earthy, making for a wide range of tastes all in one bite.

  • Southwest Egg Rolls with Santa Fe Dipping Sauce: Traditional egg rolls get a Southwestern spin with this recipe. While the egg rolls are the main part of the dish, the real star is in the dip made with mild chili powder and hot sauce. 
  • Smoky Turkey Chili: Bookmark this recipe and save it for a chilly winter night. The warmth of other spices alongside the Mild Chili Powder, make a chili that is award-worthy. 
  • Mexican Mole Beef Chili: There is a reason why this chili won the Savory Spice Portland’s 3rd Annual Chili Cook-Off. Adding Mexican Mole along with Mild Chili Powder gives this meaty dish an added layer of flavor.
  • Beachside Fruit Cup: If you’ve never put chilis on your fruit, get ready for your tastebuds to be blown away. The mild seasoning gives the fruit a kick that is somehow refreshing and spicy, all at the same time. 

Medium Chili Powder: The spiciness gets kicked up a notch with Medium Chili Powder. The salt-free spice is similar in taste to the mild chili powder but there’s more of a spicy edge to the blend.

  • 3 Bean Chuck Eye Chili: This award-winning chili doesn’t hold back. A blend of spices and Chili Powder work overtime with 3 varieties of beans to make a superb bowl of chili. 
  • Pumpkin Pie Spice Chili: A little sweet, slightly spicy, and a whole lot of goodness is the perfect way to describe this unique chili. If you’ve never tried Pumpkin Pie Spice in a savory dish, you simply have to try this recipe. 
  • Charro Beans: Say goodbye to under-seasoned and boring beans as this recipe is truly the opposite. Well seasoned, these beans have a lot going on in…a good way. 
  • Vindaloo Burgers with Cucumber Raita and Pickled Onions: If Indian cuisine ranks high on your list, these fusion burgers will be a home run. The burgers get served with a bold pickled onion and refreshing raita. 

*Bonus* Hot Chile Powders: We know this is all about the chili powder but if you want to test out how much heat your tastebuds can tolerate, check out these spicy recipes. Chiles like Hatch Green Chile Powder, Habanero Chile Powder, and Ghost Pepper Chile Powder will really raise your spice tolerance.

Spoon with chili powder

Find all things chili and chile, from recipes to seasonings. And for more information, read Is It Chili or Chile? A Burning Question.

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