The chilaca pepper is quite rare outside of Mexico but the dried form of the chilaca pepper is more popular and is known as the ‘pasilla pepper’ which is a common ingredient in many traditional Mexican mole sauces.
What Is A Chilaca Pepper?
The chilaca pepper originated in central Mexico in the Puebla region and has been around since ancient times.
The fresh peppers can be found in most local Mexican markets and home gardens and the dried form can be picked up from large grocery stores and online retailers all around the world.
However, if you cannot manage to find any chilaca peppers, there are substitutes out there that are similar in flavor and heat such as the poblano pepper or the ancho pepper.
This pepper is one of the gentler types and reaches 1,000 to 2,500 units on the Scoville scale which is about the same heat as a mild jalapeno. However, when the chilaca pepper has been dried and turned into a pasilla, it tends to be hotter as this happens when the chilacas are at full maturity.
Since the chilaca pepper has been around since ancient times, its name has an ancient Aztecan meaning which translates to ‘gray hair’ and ‘old’. This name is very fitting for this pepper as they tend to be more wrinkly than other peppers and bend in contorted ways like old fingers.
Throughout their entire life cycle, these peppers never reach a bright vibrancy that other peppers do and instead just turn from green to dark brown.
Despite their old, shriveled-up appearance, these peppers have a rich meatiness in their flavor as well as a slightly fruity undertone which makes a delicious addition to many dishes.
In its dried form as a pasilla, it becomes a bit sweeter, and it can be said that they taste like a little raisin which is the name pasilla translates to in Spanish.
In the drying process when they are mature, they also achieve earthy, and smokey undertones which makes it a very versatile pepper.
What Are They Used For?
The name of the chilaca pepper translates to ‘sauce’ which can be a pretty good idea of where to start with this pepper when you are thinking of ways to use it in your cooking.
It can be roasted, diced up and used in salsas, or put in a food processor to blend into a sauce for fish, chicken or enchiladas.
If you’ve got a grill, you can also experiment with grilling them and adding them to rice, soups, vegetable dishes, stews, and casseroles. The chilaca pepper can also be pickled if you fancy a snack on the go.
The pasilla is a popular way to eat this pepper because it can be ground down into a powder and added to many dishes as a seasoning or into soups and sauces.
They are usually combined with fruits and served with a wide range of foods such as seafood, mushroom, lamp, and duck among many others.
Stuffed Chilaca Peppers
This recipe takes just 20 minutes to do and is a great starter, side or snack for any time of day and you don’t have to be a particular fan of spice to enjoy it either.
For this tasty recipe, you will need chilaca peppers, chorizo, onion, corn kernels, and cheese. It’s optional to serve the peppers with flour tortillas and salsa but it is recommended.
Begin by grilling the chilaca peppers on high heat until they have almost turned black then let them rest for 15 to 20 minutes in a plastic bag for them to ‘sweat’.
Once the time has passed, you can take them out of the bag and carefully remove their skins with a knife and remove the seeds, it is important to do this step gently as the chilaca peppers tend to be thin.
Next, fry the chorizo over medium heat then add the onion and leave to cook for a few minutes before adding the corn kernels and seasoning. Use this mixture to stuff the peppers and cover them with cheese and wrap in foil.
Finally, cook them on low heat until you see the cheese has melted which is the sign that they are ready to serve!