Chili Powder is a spice mixture made primarily from dried chili peppers. Chili powder can be made from any type chili pepper, and each manufacturer selects their own blend. Typically large red chili peppers from Mexico and California are used, these typically fall in the mild range, 1,000 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale. Special blends will use more intense chili pepper varieties such as cayenne peppers. Other ingredients used will vary by manufacturer, but usually include cumin, garlic powder, oregano, paprika and occasionally allspice, anise, cinnamon, clove, coriander, and nutmeg. Lower quality blends may contain higher levels of salt. Some ethnic markets sell chile powders that contain only dried ground up peppers. These are supposed to sold as “chile powder” with an “e”, whereas “chili powder” with an “i” is a blend of other spices. Some cooks prefer to use chile powder to make their own blend, as this gives them more control over the final taste, color, and aroma.
One of the distinctive qualities of chili powder is its red color, however, many chefs prefer a more complex taste and aroma over color. Many of the more desirable blends have a dark reddish-brown color instead of a bright red color. Due to the nature of the spice blend, it can lose its flavor intensity over time. When purchasing chili powder try to buy from a popular specialty spice merchant or a supermarket with high product turnover. Purchase smaller quantities that you will use quickly, instead of the large containers found in many discount bulk merchants.
Chili powder is used in many different style cuisines including Tex-Mex, Indian, Chinese, and Thai. Some of the more popular chili powder recipes are chili, chili con carne, and curry. It can also be found in many dry bar-b-que rubs. Some unusual uses include popcorn seasoning and ice cream dusting.