Make the most of culinary herbs and spices.

Chiles QandA

Online I purchased a large chile ristra from a vendor in Hatch, NM. I had it sprayed so it would be ornamental and not to be consumed. It has hung in my kitchen and I love it. When I dust it seeds fall from it and I worry about my grandkids finding a stray one. Do you know the best way to wash or clean this beautiful ristra? Thank you. JW

We have covered cleaning ristras below.  If you can't hold the ristra over a sink, perhaps before you begin cleaning it you could spread out some newspaper or a torn-open paper bag to catch any seeds that might fall.


I was given a box of red chili pods and was wondering why the pods look so dark red, almost black? Are the pods ok to use or are they old and not healthy to use? I am not used to these for I have always liked using the red-Orange pods. After blending, the chili comes out a pretty red color. Is there any possible way to get these nearly black pods back to the normal red pod? PC

There are so many different types of chiles. You have likely been given a variety with which you are not familiar, but that doesn't mean they are bad. A fresh dried chile will be somewhat pliable. Chiles don't really go bad unless there is mold present, indicating a poor drying technique.


All chili flake I gain consist high Total Plate Count (bacteria). How it can be ? Chili flake is made from drying process, what kind of bacteria can live in it ? THX, BR

It could be the very drying process that introduces bacteria if it is done in the open air rather than an oven-type dryer. Bacteria could also be introduced after drying through human handling or the cutting and packaging equipment. I'm no expert on the subject of contamination but I did come across an article on the Medical News Today website entitled "Bacterial Contamination of Herbs and Spices in Spain." Here's a quote: "The studies detected the presence of bacteria from the genuses Acinetobacter (A. calcoaceticus), Enterobacter and Shigella. Species of microorganisms such as Yersinia intermedia, Staphylococcus aureus and Hafni alvei were also found." Many of the spice producing countries like India and Viet Nam are currently working to introduce better sanitation processes.


Hi, Just found this site, which is a good one. We live in Canada and in my last trip to New Mexico found a great store where I bought all kinds of dried peppers, even though I didn't - and still don't - have a clue what to do with them. One is a bag of dried green chilies - bag just says "whole new Mexico dried green chile". They are not ground, just dried - flattened and dried. I can't seem to find a decent recipe for using them. Every recipe I find calls for fresh green chilies. Can I substitute one dried for one fresh that's called for in the recipe? And how long do they last? Seems to me I've had them for a couple of years. Thanks SQ

Dried green chiles are somewhat unusual as most dried chiles I've seen are red. You won't get the best results by substituting them for fresh, however, you could use them instead of dried red chiles called for in recipes. These are often charred in a dry skillet and then crumbled or soaked in small amount of water to soften before pureeing. Dried chiles are best at under a year old when they are still pliable.


Hi there, I recently harvested and dried on jute string in a sunny window my Thai red chillies. When I went to bag them up I realized some of them were going pale brown to black in some cases, but still dry. Are they still good to use or am I throwing half my crop out? Thanks K.

While some chiles do come very dark when dried, I did a Google image search of "dried Thai red chiles" and it seems that they remain a bright red. You know what I would do? Take some of them to a Thai restaurant and ask the chef what he thinks.


How much habenero sauce can be substituted for the actual peppers in a raspberry/habenero jam recipe that also calls for green sweet and red sweet peppers and fresh raspberries. Thanks SH

I wasn't sure this was a good substitution until I checked Yvonne Tremblay's 250 Home Preserving Favorites: From Jams and Jellies to Marmalades and Chutneys. She writes that you can use dried chiles in place of fresh as well as use hot pepper sauce to "turn up the heat."


I am hang drying my first ever harvest of jalapeno peppers, hanging them both outside and also in a window. The first batch of 6 had one that looked like it had lost a section of the green and turned kind of cream color on that strip, but it seems to be drying ok. The 2nd batch of 6 that I just started a week ago are all losing the green and turning this weird cream color instead of red. Any idea what is causing this and will the peppers still dry ok? Thanks CW

This doesn't seem right to me at all. Once picked, green peppers won't turn red because this is part of the ripening process, but I don't think they should be turning this color that you describe either. Makes me wonder if it is some sort of deterioration because the peppers aren't drying quickly enough. You might want to see if you can find a food-preservation expert, check with your local extension office, to find out more.


First, nice web site! Glad I found it. Can you help me with a canning recipe for Jalapeno pepper slices (and other peppers of that type) that give the peppers a sweet taste? I purchased a jar recently made by the Amish and I love the sweet taste they have along with the "heat". Thank for your help! LH

I did a search for Amish sweet pepper pickles and came up with this recipe for Pickled Sweet Peppers. I have not prepared it so I can't vouch for the flavor but it sounds similar to what you're seeking. You might also check your library for Amish cookbooks. They would probably have a wide variety of recipes for something similar.


I have a jalapeno plant that has been doing great but today I noticed a white hair like growth (about one inch long) growing on the back side of the leaves. What could this be and is it safe to eat the jalapenos? Please help! SR

Yikes, sounds very odd and I'm guessing fungal. Better take a sample to an expert in your area, like Master Gardeners or a professional nursery, just to be sure the peppers are safe.


Can you tell me what pepper I can use if I cannot find Habanero Peppers. I am trying to make Jerk Chicken and have not been able to find the 3 Habaneros I need. Thank you. LS

You would probably have good luck in finding serrano chile peppers, as most supermarkets seem to carry them. They aren't nearly as hot as Habaneros, however, so you might want to use more than three.


Can you tell me what the yield would be from 1 pound small fresh chilies to dehydrated? Thank you! NA

I couldn't come up with an exact answer especially since each vegetable gives a different yield. Cornell University does tell us that 25 pounds of fresh veggies will result in 3 to 6 pounds dried. I'll let you do the math.


Here's one that's full of our favorite recipes because we wrote the book! It is also full of information, helpful hints and ideas for using herbs and spices in your kitchen.

Hiya, I was bumbling about on the web looking for ways to preserve my habaneros, I've had a huge yield, and thought I'd share another way to preserve them that hadn't really been mentioned (unless I missed it :)). Use a dehydrator to dehydrate peppers. Mary Bell has written a fabulous book on dehydrating all sorts of foods and includes recipes for your bounty. I highly recommend Mary Bell's Complete Dehydrator Cookbook for anyone interested in the art of preparing and using dried foods - to include trail mixes, crushed herbs and vegetables for soup mixes, potpourri, jerky, fruit leathers and more. BTW, you don't necessarily need a dehydrator. The oven or toaster oven works just fine on low temperatures. In the past I've dehydrated bell peppers, wrapped them tightly in saran wrap and frozen them for up to a year. Not so good for eating like fresh, but just fine for cooking. On another note, Penzey's spices has a nice page in every free catalog (available by mail or online at describing various chilis; their taste qualities as well as the Scoville unit ratings. Believe it or not, I'm not trying to sell anything. Just found some really good products/info worth sharing. I have nothing to financially gain. Respectfully, if warmly, submitted, KM

Thanks for sharing your ideas. Dehydrating is a great way to preserve chiles that I hadn't thought about seriously. You're right about Penzey's, too. Their catalog is as informative as their products are high-quality.


I have a recipe that calls for a red pepper pod. May I substitute ground or flaked red pepper? If so, how much. Thank you. JH

This is a little tricky because you would usually remove the red pepper pod before serving. Certainly you could substitute ground or flaked, but I would start with just a couple of pinches and maybe pass more at the table if people want the dish to be spicier.


Hi, I was scraping seeds out of large jalapeños (thankfully, from what I’ve been reading, I was wearing rubber gloves) when I started coughing and felt like was having an anaphylactic reaction to them. Had to run outside to catch my breath. Does this mean I’m allergic to them or is this a typical reaction? Thanks, KB

Most sources that recommend wearing gloves when handling chiles will also say to avoid inhaling the fumes. As you found out, they can be quite intense.


A local Thai restaurant serves toasted, very smokey dried crushed chili flakes with its other table condiments - the first I've seen of this. You just sprinkle on your food - adds heat and great flavor. They are almost black, but you can see they were red to begin with. The taste/odor is again, very smokey, not just like any crushed dried chili pepper. We cannot communicate well enough with the serving staff to figure out how they do it. The Thai chilis I have found (in San Francisco) are all fresh. Only Asian whole dried chilis I have found are Japanese, although I did find a Thai store that sells dried, already crushed Thai chilis - crushed, not whole. I toasted them (almost killed myself inhaling the fumes - is that dangerous, by the way??) but they do not taste the same, they don't have that wonderful smoke aroma. The restaurant actually showed us a whole one, already toasted and black, but it wasn't all crushed up yet, so they obviously buy them whole and crush and toast them themselves. They told me they sell them at a particular store in SF, but I couldn't find them. Any help at all on this? Thanks very much! MA

I wonder if they might be chipotle chiles? Chipotles are smoked jalapenos. (See the article Smokin' Chipotles) You can get them dried, whole or ground, or in a delicious adobo sauce. They are Mexican rather than Thai but chiles have a tendency to travel. We do need to be careful when handling chiles, as you discovered, this is the same thing that is used to produce pepper spray.


I was at a Mexican grocery store, and asked for cayenne peppers. They didn't have any idea what I was talking about! They had shelves and large tables heaped full of peppers --- chili this and chili that. Some looked suspiciously like cayenne, but neither they nor I had any idea if something labeled "chili whatever" was in fact the "cayenne" pepper with which I am familiar. It looks to me like "chili" is simply the Mexican word for "pepper." My question is: What is the Mexican name for "cayenne" peppers? Thank you, JG

Chile peppers get complicated in any language because there are so many different types and local nicknames. From what I can determine Pimienta de Cayena is Spanish for cayenne pepper.


I purchased a Red chili Ristra several yrs ago..and have kept it in my house ..hanging...HOW long will this ristra last for edible purposes? Do they go bad? Lose flavor over the yrs? Does it get to a point where it may be too old and should not be processed for eating any longer? thank you so much, SK

Seems to me a couple of  years or so would be a good limit but I can't come up with a good reason why. It is a dried product so if that process was done right, the only worry would be is if they still taste good. You might want to simply try one of the chiles to see if it has any flavor.

I grew a pimento plant for the first time. The pimentos turned out beautiful, very deep red. What I was hoping for was a way to make pimento cheese using my own pimentos instead of from a store-bought jar. I tried slicing one and placing it in a jar with some water, vinegar, and a dash of lemon juice. I set it in the refrigerator for a week. But the results were still very hard, crunchy bites, and didn't taste like pimentos. Can you point me to a recipe to create my own jarred sliced pimentos for use with sandwiches and dips? Thank you very much. KS

Congratulations on your success! You will probably enjoy your pimentos more if you roast them. Roasted chiles only last about five days in the refrigerator, however, so you may want to look into canning them. I couldn't find a good source to refer you. If your pimento cheese doesn't use mayonnaise, you could make a big batch of that for the freezer.


I was wondering, how do I keep my jalapeno peppers firm after canning or pickling them? They seem too soft textured when we open the jars to eat them. Any ideas? Thank you. SM

You might want to look into using food grade lime. The University of Georgia came up with a recipe that is supposed to keep pickled jalapenos crisp. Find it here.


I've grown Jalapeno, Cayenne & Habanero peppers during the summer and wish to freeze then for winter use. Can they be frozen whole and if so, how may they be thawed to use as if they were fresh-picked in season? For example, stuffed Jalapenos. Thanks, CH

You can freeze peppers but the texture will be rather mushy upon thawing so they will be more suitable for adding to cooked dishes rather than a preparation like stuffed peppers. I think it would be easier to stem and seed them before freezing because of this texture issue.


I want to know how to tame the hot of jalapeno peppers. I saw in the grocery store they had tamed jalapenos. I love their flavor, but just a tad too hot. I would like to can some, how would you do it? LL

I happen to have a jar of those "tamed" jalapenos in the fridge now. I don't think they are any milder than other varieties but maybe I'm wrong. See below for an explanation of why some chiles are hotter than others as well as links to recipes for canning chiles.


Hello, Can you tell me the difference between roasted red peppers and pomentoes? I make my own pomentoe cheese spread and I couldn't find any pomentoes in the store. Can I use the roasted red peppers instead and have the same flavor? Thank you. JD

Pimentos are the fresh version of paprika and from what I can tell, they are not roasted. A high quality jarred pimento probably has a bit more flavor than a red pepper but the roasting would make it richer so I think you would end up with just about the same thing.


My mom and I have recently planted a jalapeno plant in our garden. We started to notice that on bottom side of the leaves on the stem little white balls have appeared. They are tiny and grow in rows along the stem of the leaf. We have scraped it off before and it is sort of cottony. The plant looks healthy, but we don't want some mysterious disease, or bug to eat our growing jalapeno. We live in NV. Please help. Thanks! ~two novice gardeners.

I have two ideas so you will have to do a bit more research. One, these white balls could be lady bug eggs. They grow in rows as you describe but I'm not sure about being cottony. A cottony insect is mealy bugs. Or it could be something else entirely. I suggest you try to find photos of white insects/eggs to compare to yours. You don't want to be killing lady bugs because they are beneficial to your garden.


Could you please give me a recipe for a chilli paste that I can add to my cooking. We have heaps of chillis to do this with. Thank you. Kindest regards, BK

Mark Bittman has a recipe for Chili Garlic Paste that sounds easy and tasty on his blog Bitten.


I almost know the answer already but...I can't take real hot jalapenos and I love them stuffed with cream cheese and sausage, is it just 'take a chance' sometimes I get fresh that are milder, then the next time I can't eat them they're so hot. Is their any way to judge the heat when buying??? I sure wish there was. thanks Can't take the heat in OK. lol OE

 How hot a chile will be is determined by climate, growing conditions and the degree of ripeness, not to mention the variety. One way you might attempt to get a milder jalapeno is to look for those that are grown in cooler climates or even those that are cultivated in hot climates during the winter.


Hi, my husband and I grow chilies. If you happen to get chili in your eyes (from rubbing your fingers mistakenly), rub your hair or someone's hair across your eye. The oil in hair helps neutralize the burning. We enjoy your site. We will have a site up and running soon. It is called based out of Farmingon, NM. DA

Isn't that unusual? I will have to remember that trick! Best of luck with your own site, we'll be watching for it.


I am confused about red pepper. Some recipes call for ground red that cayenne pepper, paprika, ground chile pepper? CD

Ground red pepper and cayenne are the same thing. Read more about the different seasonings at "All About Cayenne," "All About Crushed Red Pepper" and "All About Paprika."


Can ground ancho chile powder be used in place of red pepper seeds or flakes? M

Like I always say, it's your food, you can do whatever you want. These two chiles have rather different flavors, though, so you will want to consider that. Ancho chiles have a fuller, richer taste and won't be as fiery hot as crushed red pepper.


Hello, I just started growing cayenne peppers and a have a few growing. As soon as they mature and turn red, it is safe to eat them as soon as they are picked and washed, correct? Also, do they need sunlight from sunrise to sunset? CO

Unless you have used chemicals I can't think of any reason that your pepper wouldn't be safe! Chiles do need a good bit of sunlight--five to eight hours each day should be adequate although more is usually better.


Hello! A few weeks ago I purchased a mini chilli pepper plant. The plant is sitting in a pot that is abut 4' in diameter. The plant has these tiny peppers red and off white in color. The leaves are semi slender. The plant is about 6' tall. I bought the plant strictly for decoration. There was no name on the plant when I purchased it. I was wandering if you might know the name of the plant that I have and how to take care of the plant, besides the occasionally watering. Thanks so much have a nice day. S

Ornamental chile plants were a news point in our December newsletter. The NuMex variety, which changes chile color as it grows, was developed by Paul Bosland, professor of horticulture and director of the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University in Las Cruces. He says they can be planted outside in the Spring and thrive on lots of sunshine and not-too-much water.


I am trying to find a recipe for canned green chile. I have eaten it before and am told that you have to be very careful in the process or you will get botulism. Does anyone know how to prepare it to can for the winter. I have a few good days left to roast another bag of green chile so the help will be greatly appreciated. Thank you. DB

As always, I turn to Dave's chile pages at the Fiery Foods website. He says that canning isn't the best way to preserve chiles but does offer a few ways to do it, if you must. Dave has several chile canning recipes.


I recently tasted some jalapeno peppers that were jarred in olive oil with herbs, garlic, carrots, celery and onions. There may have been vinegar in there too. They were delicious. Do you know of any recipes for this type of jarred peppers? Thanks.

Try doing a Google search with the words "jalapenos en escabeche recipe" and I think you will find something that suits you.


Hello- I was hoping to try and make my own Chipotles. The only jalapenos available for sale are all green and everything I read say s to smoke red (ripe) jalapenos. Any secrets on getting these green ones to turn red? Thanks J.J.

The secret to red chiles is to leave them on the plant until they mature from green to red. Once they are picked, the ripening stops. Check out your local farmer's market. They seem to have a wide selection of peppers at this time of year.


I have finally harvested successfully yellow, and red peppers (not HOT). I have roasted some of them but now have about a half dozen more. I've been using them out of the fridge but now wonder about a larger quantity and their shelf life. Roasting and prepping is a lot of work so I want to insure not losing them. Other postings I've read on your site suggest 9 months shelf life. Is this correct? Also, any suggestions on drying green peppers? Could I hang them and then crush? Or are they too large; unlike smaller hot peppers? Loved your site and all the info. Thank you. T

 You could submerge your roasted peppers in oil to keep in the refrigerator but it's hard to say how long they will last, maybe a month. Nine months is for commercially prepared jars where preservatives have likely been added. The best way I know to preserve the green bell peppers is to chop and freeze. The texture won't be exactly the same but I think you will find them acceptable for cooking.


My jalapeno peppers are developing brown streaks on them. Is this some kind of disease? Can these peppers still be used for pickling...I usually prepare them in vinegar and olive oil. Thank you, JS

Thanks for helping me learn something cool. The brown streaks are called "corking." It develops on certain types of jalapenos and is highly desired in Mexico. The US market doesn't seem to care for it.


I am new to the green chili world, but love them. My husband wants to get a 20 lb bag, roasted, peel them and freeze them. But we currently do not have the room in our freezer. How long will this bag keep, with or without refrigeration? Also I want to take some to my son, but will not be going for a month. It is now mid-August, how long should the New Mexico green chilis be in season and sold and roasted at the stores? Good place to go to find more information on? I also have been told that it is not as good to get where they are roasted by gas grills. Thank you. DMB

Roasted chiles are essentially a cooked product so you can't expect them to keep much longer than five days or so. The person you buy them from can be more specific. It sounds like you are alot closer to the chiles than I am, we never see fresh roasted chiles at the stores in the Pacific Northwest! Ask around locally and you will likely get accurate information. My go-to place for all things chile is Dave's Pepper Pages at


This question was asked many times but never really answered: After drying our cayenne peppers, do I grind all the pepper, only the pod, only the seeds or what? Also, will a scented candle take care of the odor after drying in a dehydrator? Thank you. BJ

Most recipes that call for using whole dried chiles suggest removing the seeds and stems before proceeding. I would do the same before grinding your cayenne. Don't forget your mask and gloves! As for the scented candle, I suppose it might mask the odor but you would be better off using the dehydrator in a well-ventilated place or even position it under your stove vent.


I have some jalapeno pepper plants that I am growing specifically to smoke the peppers. I have several peppers on the plants now, but not enough to fire up the smoker. My plants have definitely slow down on production because of the peppers already on the plants. Is there some way to pick the peppers and keep them for 2-4 weeks with the hope that at that time I will have enough additional peppers to smoke? If I vacuum seal them and refrigerate will that help? Thanks. SC

Jalapenos from the supermarket seem to keep well when stored loose in a plastic bag in the vegetable bin. Fresh from the garden, they should last even longer so I think you would be able to save them up until you have enough.


I am growing red chiles for the first time, although I have grown green chiles before. Do the reds need to be roasted and peeled the same way as the greens? CJO

The roasting and peeling is a good way to get flavor from the chiles while removing the tough skin. Mostly it depends on what you want to do with them. Generally, if I am going to cook with them, I don't bother but if I'm using them fresh, it is a nice touch. It's really your call.


Can you please give me three good ways to preserve bell red chillies please? Many thanks. S

You could chop them into pieces and freeze or roast them and store in oil in the refrigerator. I can't come up with a third way.


Can you tell me the best way to dry jalapeno peppers so that I can crush and jar them to sprinkle in recipes the same as dried red peppers? I have seen a jar of dried jalapeno peppers that cost $5 and would rather just dry my own if possible. Thank you! E

 You could string them up into a ristra. Our friends at have just the information you're looking for on the page "From Pods to Powder: Drying Chiles."


I am growing green pimentos, but would like to know the best way to use them in cooking and also if I can freeze them? IT

You can use them like any bell pepper. To freeze them, just chop and freeze in a single layer. Once frozen, you can bag them up.


Hi: Can you please let me know the difference between Red Chilli and Cayenne Pepper? Do they have the same medicinal properties? With Best Regards M

Red chile is a generic term while cayenne is a specific type of chile that is hotter than most. Have you seen the article "All About Cayenne?" Since I'm a cook and not an herbalist I can't address the medicinal properties part of your question.


Hello: Could you please tell me, if a recipe calls for 5 whole dried chiles, and all I have is ground chiles, how much of the ground chiles should I use? These peppers are being used for a chile sauce. Thank you, MK

Whole chiles vary in size, of course, but I think it would be safe to use about 3/4 teaspoon to equal one. Bear in mind that unless the recipe says to grind the whole chiles you may end up with a very different result by using the ground chile.


After cayenne pepper is dried do I crush the whole thing and use or what do I do? PK


How do I make crushed red pepper? I know to dry them and that the seed is used, but do I use the "skin" also? How long should I hang the peppers to know that they are dry enough to make the crushed peppers? BB

These two questions are similar so I group them together. Although I have never prepared my own crushed red pepper, I would guess that it would be very difficult to remove the skin from the peppers after they are dried. How long to dry the peppers will depend largely on your location. It will be a matter of checking them at intervals to see if they feel at all moist. Both of you should be careful to use gloves when handling the chiles and work in a well-ventilated place. Go to great lengths to avoid inhaling the dust as you crush or grind.


Hello, I grew some habanero peppers this year and have quite a few. What is the best way to store or dry out these peppers? I prefer drying them. thanks DT

Here is the answer from "Over the years, many people have asked us how to preserve the habanero crop. The simplest method is to wash and dry the pods and place them in a plastic bag in the freezer. They will lose some of their firmness when defrosted, but the flavor, heat, and aroma are all preserved. Habaneros can also be pureed with a little vinegar and the mixture will keep in the refrigerator for weeks. "Another common preservation method is drying the pods. They should be cut in half vertically, seeds removed, and placed in a food dehydrator. After they are thoroughly dried, they can be stored in jars, stored in plastic bags in the freezer, or ground into powders (be sure to wear a dust mask!). Drying does not affect the heat level of the pods, but pods that are rehydrated will lose some flavor and aroma.

"Remember, sauces and salsas are a great way to utilize excess habaneros from the garden!"


First, I love your site! My son is growing a cayenne pepper plant and wants to try cooking with FRESH cayenne in recipes. How is this done, especially compared to the dry measures in recipes?

One source I found suggests one pepper is equal to 1/8 teaspoon of the dried powder. This seems like a lot of fresh, hot chile to me but I've never tried it. You'll probably have to experiment a bit.


What is the difference between pimento and roasted red pepper? Can they be used interchangeably in a recipe? Thank you. LSE

The pimento pepper is a red pepper with a thicker, sweeter flesh than the red bell pepper that is most often roasted. The pimento is the one that is dried and ground into paprika. I think in most cases, one could be used for the other.


Just found your website. I have enjoyed reading every one's questions and I have learned a lot myself. I grow jalapeno peppers because I love to make cheddar peppers. My question is what can you do if your cayenne peppers have been picked too early? Can you still use them. I always thought that if they are green that just meant they were not as hot as the red ones. My husband wants me to make salsa with a kick to it and I like it milder. So I was thinking of using some cayenne pepper this year. TS

 Your peppers should still be okay to eat, but unlike tomatoes, they won't continue to ripen once removed from the plant. I found a good discussion on the subject of harvesting cayenne peppers at the Garden Web forums.


We plant several jalapeno plants every year primarily so I (the only one in the family) can eat them raw. They are easy to grow and we have had no problems until this year. Our jalapenos have pale very light green splotches on them. Sometimes they are in rows top to bottom, and sometimes in random locations. There is no evidence of any kind of bug, and the taste and texture seems to be unaffected. They just don't have that rich deep green color all over. Local nurseries have no clue what is causing this phenomena. Can you help? GW, Arlington TX

Since the local nurseries weren't sure and they have seen the problem, I hesitate to diagnose sight unseen. However, you might consider the nutrient content of your soil. The Bountiful Container book reports that peppers like a fertilizer that is high in phosphorous. Just be sure not to overdo it with nitrogen or you will end up with lush foliage and few fruits.


Hello, I absolutely love small hot red chilis and I have a bush that is covered in them. My question is I want to preserve them in oil. How do I go about? What oil is best? Please note I do not want to cook them first if I can get away with it. I look forward to your answer. With Thanks. DEB, Russell Island, Australia

Preserving in oil is probably not a good way to keep your chiles for long term storage. Even in the refrigerator, the oil can develop a nasty case of botulism after a few days. You might have better success in drying the chiles, perhaps in a ristra. My best source for all things chile is


Each year I buy a red chili ristra and each year I process it into powder before buying another. What I want to know is how you clean it before processing? It gets pretty grimy in a year's time. For the first time, I actually washed and rinsed mine, a big mistake. I've spent hours trying to dry it out because there is no way you can render a wet chili into a dry powder. BM

 Finding an answer to this proved to be more difficult than I expected. Nothing seems to be written on the subject of cleaning ristras. Since we know washing does not work I can list a few general cleaning ideas that I came across as I searched for the answer. Avoid build-up by periodically blowing the dust off with a hair dryer on the lowest setting or a keyboard dust blaster. If the chiles are smooth you could wipe them regularly  with one of those new dirt-trapping dust cloths. If the chiles are wrinkly, think of a soft paintbrush.


I read an article that recommended I puree and freeze my leftover chipotle in adobo. Now that I have done this, I have forgotten the equivalency. If a recipe calls for 1 chipotle, how much of my pureed mixture should I use? Thanks.

I use the 1 teaspoon paste equals one canned chipotle, in general, but sometimes I find I need a little more.


I am new to this site--I love it. I would like to know what the difference is between Cayenne Pepper and Crushed Red Pepper? Hot but are the flavors different? Thank you so much. B

Welcome to the site! Cayenne pepper is derived from a single particular hot chile while crushed red pepper is an amalgamation of several different chiles. Cayenne is usually hotter.


Even in cold, wet Scotland, it's easy to grow all kinds of peppers in an unheated greenhouse if you bring the plants in to a sunny (classroom in my case) window ledge in autumn. I found, accidentally, that sweet peppers dry very well in the same conditions. If I grind them to make my own paprika do I include all parts, including the seeds? DL

Good on you-bringing a bit of summer along for the winter! Looks like you could go either way with the seeds. One source I checked noted that Spanish paprika is often ground only from the pod, not the seeds or membranes. Although the color and flavor is more rich, the yield is reduced along with the pungency.


We recently received a bag of chili from some friends that has way too much cinnamon in it. Is there anything I can add to the chili to make it taste better? It is way too sweet to eat as is and we do not want to hurt anyone's feelings by throwing it out. Thanks MF

The cinnamon wouldn't necessarily make it sweet so I suspect  your mix has a bit of sugar added. You might try adding less spice and more of the savory ingredients like onions, peppers and tomato.


I would like to know what the meaning is for hanging a bunch of chili peppers up for Christmas. I have noticed this quite often here lately at some of the homes around. And I don't have a clue as to why these are hanging for Christmas. In the stores you can purchase all types of chili pepper decorations. Please help, need to know before my nose falls off Thanks, D

The chile ristra has long been a symbol of abundant harvest and/or good luck but I am not aware of any meaning for it around the celebration of Christmas. My guess would be whimsy. Colorful and clever, these chile related decorations are appealing, especially to those in the Southwest where they naturally complement the year-round decor. Chef Michael from Restaurant Edge gave us more information after this posting "Ristras during Christmas is to keep evil thoughts/words/deeds out of the household to insure that the season of worship is not interrupted by bad spirits."


My kitchen unfortunately lacks a good ventilator (or any ventilator!) A few days ago, I made the mistake of not opening the windows when I sauted chopped jalapenos. Although I have thoroughly aired out the house, the fumes continue to cause my eyes to burn. What more can I do? BC

Consumer Reports' "How to Clean Practically Anything" suggests freshening the air by setting out a bowl of hot water with a few drops of household ammonia or a tablespoon of bicarbonate of soda or a few drops of lavender oil. You might also wish to contact your local county health department for ideas.


My family loves chili and historically I have purchased dried chili peppers at the store. At the market, I bought freshly picked chili peppers and do not have time to string them up for drying. Can I store the peppers in a container in the freezer and just take out what I need when making chili? Will the peppers loose their punch? Thank you. AC

Your chile peppers would retain their flavor and punch after freezing but they will not retain the firm texture. For ease in handling, it would be a good idea to seed them (if desired) and chop before freezing so that you can just add them to your recipes later.


Hi. Can you please tell me what the average monthly yields are in Kgs or Lbs of the Jalapeno and Habanera chilies? Regards JF

Check out New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute website for this precise information. Just click on the "chile information" tab at their homepage.

I have a green pepper plant at home but the peppers on it are turning red. Why is this? JB

This is perfectly natural. Most green peppers will turn red when left to ripen on the plant.


I grew cayenne peppers, but don't know what to do with them. Do I tie them together then turn upside down, or on a screen? Do I crust up the whole pepper with seeds. Thanks for your help. D has a wonderful article about drying chile peppers.


Is it possible to cut up jalapeno peppers and freeze them? JD

Certainly! The best way to freeze most fruits and vegetables is to lay them out in a single layer on a paper-covered baking sheet. After they have frozen you can collect them into a sturdy bag for storage. This method makes it easier to take out what you need without thawing the whole package. The peppers will be a bit mushy when they thaw but are still good for cooking.


Hi, would you know where I can buy chipotle in abodo sauce in South Florida? Thanks, ttr

I find little cans of chipotle in adobo at most supermarkets in with the ethnic foods or alongside the cans of green chiles and jalapenos. Pendery's has a great product called Chipotle Chile Paste that eliminates the need for chopping or handling these potent chiles.


I made 2 pots of chili but used an East Indian chili powder called Reshampatti. I should have been more careful in selecting the chili powder. It turned out to be extremely hot. Short of pitching the whole thing is there anything I can do to tone down the heat to a "normal" level?

One thing that might work is to make one more batch without any seasoning to combine with the other two.


I received a beautiful ristra for Christmas and want to preserve it for decoration not cooking use. I already have more red chile than I can eat. How do I successfully preserve the ristra for permanent hanging? Thank you. L

You don't really need to do anything to preserve the ristra as it will dry naturally as it is. If you want to keep the nice bold colors to it, you might check with a craft shop to see if there is anything they can recommend as a sort of sealant.


I hope you can help me with a problem. I made a recipe that called for canned peppers, so I wanted to make a double batch and put 2 cans of green chiles, one diced and the other was chopped. My problem is that I have some very hot Southwestern white chili and would like to know, if possible, what I can do to tone this recipe's heat or can this dish be salvaged? I read the questions others have sent in to you and your site is very informative. Thanking you in advance. R

Sounds like one of your cans of green chiles might have been jalapenos. You might make another batch with no chiles to add to it or try adding cream to make it a sort of cream of white chili. Unfortunately, it will probably just keep getting hotter as it sits.


We are having a "Chili Cook-off" with friends this weekend and wondered if you had any ideas for how to judge the entries or how to organize the actual competition. It will be with 4-5 couples and so around 8 chili recipes. Thanks. K

This sounds like a fun party! You will probably want to decide the judging criteria beforehand, perhaps basing it on taste, creativity of ingredients or level of heat, depending on what your group likes. It might be best to have one person keep track of the entries, placing them into numbered bowls and collecting ballots. Doing the tastings blindfolded might add some fun and make the judging less biased.


I just bought a red pepper plant at Home Depot and am using it as an indoor plant. However, my wife is sensitive to airborne allergens, and I'm wondering whether it's possible to have a reaction to a plant like this. The lady at the store didn't think so, but do you know if the plant itself produces any sort of chemical that could be transmitted through the air? Thanks so much! MB

The only thing I can think of that might be a problem is when the plant produces flowers, the pollen might bother her. I am not certain about any other substances. It is probably best to check with her allergist to be sure.


I saw in a magazine regarding the meaning of where you hang dried chile peppers in your house there is a meaning. It can bless a room or fight away evil spirits, please help. RB

I learned some fun information while looking for the answer to your question but not specifically what you ask. I didn't know that ristra is the Spanish word for string. Ristras were hung near the front door of a Mexican family's home to help ensure an abundant harvest. Native Americans often used ristras to keep evil spirits away. I especially liked the idea of giving a ristra as a housewarming gift. In another article, I learned how to braid a ristra as well as more about how they are used today in the American Southwest.


Loved your web page! I have a number of hot peppers growing in my garden. I am in Zone 7, and we have had an abundance of rain. I feel relatively sure they will not be as strong as they would have been grown in a hotter and dryer climate. However, I would like to dry some for use this winter. What is the best way to dry hot peppers? Many thanks! BH

Congratulations on your successful crop. has an excellent series of articles about methods for preserving your chiles. Look for other pages within the site for information on pickling peppers.


Can you recommend a spice or spices or a cooking tip that will capture the judges' attention in chili cookoffs. Sometimes the judging process takes over an hour and the chili cools changing the initial taste. LZ

I won a chili cook-off with the recipe for My Best Chili at "All About Coriander." Like many dishes, I think chili is best prepared the day ahead and then reheated, if that's possible for your contest. One way to make chili more interesting is to use more than one type of chile. Combining your own spices rather than using a commercial blend nearly always makes for better chili.


Hi: This may be a silly question, but do you make crushed red pepper flakes from dried cayenne peppers? I have a plant growing in my garden and the peppers are starting to turn red. What else can I do with the peppers? LB

Not a silly question at all. You can make crushed red pepper flakes from your dried cayenne chiles. You could use them fresh for cooking if you can take the heat. Otherwise you could grind the dried ones into a powder for cayenne pepper. Be sure to use gloves when you are handling them and be careful not to inhale the fumes as you are working with them.


I would like to have jalapeno peppers on my salad the way they appear at your local Subway. I am asking what I need to do to the raw peppers I buy at the supermarket to make them like Subway's (softer, darker, moss-green, tastier). Please help. Thank you so much, MM.

Those peppers you like so much are pickled. Look for them in jars labeled as "sliced jalapeno peppers" at the supermarket with other pickles or in the Mexican food section. I'm crazy for them on pizza!


If by chance the pepper attacks you, use plain vegetable oil and it will quickly be gone. I thought I would absolutely die once, didn't even realize while cooking that I had touched my face briefly. I thought I would die, became panicked and tried whatever seemed reasonable. My head in the sink with cold water, ice packs on my face, putting my face on the tiles of the bathroom floor. I then called my doc and he suggested the poison control center. They said put vegetable oil everywhere it hurts. Within seconds the pepper was extinguished. BM

Thanks for this valuable piece of information! I've never heard of it but will certainly remember it for that next unfortunate chile pepper incident.


My mother was threading up cayenne pepper to dry and the heat of the peppers are still on her hands any suggestions...She keeps her 93 year old mother and is causing a problem. ASAP...Thanks DB

Oh, gee, sorry to hear that. I know it's a painful condition but I've never found anything besides time and lots of handwashing to help. I wonder, though, if aloe would make a difference with the pain? As for transferring the burning onto another, gloves are the only prevention that might provide immediate relief. Might want to consult a doctor on this one. Let this be a lesson to all of us. When handling chiles, latex gloves may be cumbersome but they will protect you from the capsaicin.


I hope you don't mind, but I wanted to let you know that the proper spelling for the stuffed chilies dish you have on your site is: "Chile Relleno". The verb rellenar means to fill. Thanks! B

Don't mind a bit, thank you! That is sort of an embarrassing mistake to have throughout a website. Hopefully I have found them all!


We usually buy a medium box of jalapeno peppers because it's a little cheaper that way. Even though we use the biggest part of them, they usually start to go bad after about a week.  I'm really not into canning but I was wondering if you knew of any way to use the deep freezer or even in the freezer on a refrigerator.

To freeze the peppers you could go ahead and stem, seed and chop them as you would in preparing them for a recipe. Spread the pieces out on a paper covered baking sheet and place them in the freezer.  After they are frozen, transfer them to a bag or freezer container for storage. With this method you will be able to easily remove the amount you wish to thaw but you would only want to use them in cooked recipes as they will become a bit mushy, or water-logged, when they thaw. I must confess, I haven't tried this with jalapenos but I know it works with onions and bell peppers.  Be sure to wear gloves if you are going to handle large quantities of chiles at one time.


How can I off set the spice of red pepper flakes when you put too much in? thank you

Rodale's Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs suggests a few different things you might try when you have overseasoned:  "Strain as much of the herbs and spices as possible out of the dish.  Add a peeled, whole, raw potato just before serving. If possible, add more of the bland ingredients, or make a second, unseasoned batch of the recipe and combine it with the overseasoned one. Serve the dish chilled to blunt the taste."


What are the effects of thips on a paprika plant and are the effects long term and what pesticides do you recommend?

We cover thrips on indoor plants a little bit in a question below.  I can't seem to find much information about thrips in my own references but found a great resource for organic pesticides.  Oddly enough, it is included in a site called tracker-outdoors that is mostly about hunting.  They suggest making a nicotine tea concoction that might help with thrips.


First I have to tell you I love your website. I have a question. I have a couple chille pepper plants that gave me plenty of chille's which I used. It only lasted a few months and it stopped producing and the leaves are crimping all around the edges. I have it in the sun and water regularly. Any suggestions.  Thank you - vg

Glad you are enjoying the site! My first guess is that your plants are "finished" for the season. Most chiles are annuals, meaning they go through their life-cycle in one season. The jalapeno plants in my garden produced for longer than a few months but I have noticed that they don't like to flower if I don't harvest the peppers regularly. You might inspect the plants carefully for some sort of pest or disease problem. Or you might consider trying some sort of fertilizer--my plants showed a great and immediate response to a seaweed fertilizer.


Can any one help me find a recipe for jalapeno jelly? NM

 I have never made this Southwestern treat but you will find a recipe that sounds pretty good here.


LOVE Your website! I grew Pimentos in my garden and want to preserve them by storing them in oil.  I cannot find anything.  Do you have a quick recipe and do the peppers need to be cooked?  I would think they would to get them soft, but is it just a blanching? Thanks for your help.

Pimentos are beautiful peppers that not many people grow.  Good job! After checking several sources, it seems to me you have two ways to go.  You might roast the chiles before packing them in oil.  Roasting will bring out the flavor as well as allow you to peel them.  You could also freeze the roasted pimentos. Blanching--boiling the peppers for a few minutes and the plunging into ice water--would work for softening and peeling.


Or you might consider looking into the canning process for preserving your peppers.  As I have said before, I hesitate to offer advice on canning because I haven't done it and you must be very careful with the entire process.

 I have some cayenne and jalapeno peppers in my garden. Could you tell me how I would know when to pick them? I live in Northern IL.  CB

The cayenne peppers will need to become completely red before they are ready.  This spice is always dried so when harvesting, cut the stem about a half-inch away from the pepper and use this to hang the pepper to dry.  Once completely dry, you might want to grind them into a powder but use great caution, these are quite potent!    The jalapenos can be picked at varying stages of ripeness.  The best way to decide how you like them is to experiment. Once they get a bit longer than an inch, cut one off and see how it is.  Then try leaving a few on until they begin to turn red and try them that way too.


What is the pimento that is pickled and sold in jars? Some say red bell pepper, others say it is a different pepper and others say it grows on a tree. I have a pimento pepper plant and wonder if it is really red bell pepper. HELP

The pickled pimentos are actually the same chiles that paprika is ground from. You might want to read All About Paprika to learn more.


I have added too much crushed red pepper how do I cut the heat down?

It's difficult to go back on this little error. Depending on the recipe you have added the pepper to, you might try adding a fat like dairy products or eggs or you could add lots more liquid. See more tips in the other entries above.


Privacy policy

Copyright 1999-2015 A Pinch Of... All rights reserved

Contact us