You may not have come across a puya chili pepper before unless you live in Mexico. It is a good substitute for its cousin the guajillo pepper as they have a likeness in a fruity and spicy flavor.
However, the puya chili is smaller and hotter than the guajillo which makes it less accessible for those with heat-sensitive palates but can still be incorporated into many meals, especially Mexican cuisine.
What Is A Puya Chili Pepper?
The puya chili pepper originates in Mexico, particularly in Mexico’s Central Valley, and also goes by the name ‘pulla pepper’ with heat reaching 5,000 to 8,000 units on the Scoville scale which is about as hot as a jalapeno pepper.
When the puya chili is ripe, the pods are flat, long, and reach about 4-inches long. They have a deep red-purple color which makes them look quite similar to a guajillo pepper but are a bit smaller.
What Are They Used For?
Puya chili peppers are usually used dried like guajillo peppers which makes them great for grounding down and using as a seasoning on pizzas as well as being pureed and added to sauces and soups.
Since puya chilis are usually sold as dried, they are usually soaked in water before being added to anything and this water can be used as a separate ingredient if you are wanting to dilute the spiciness.
Unfortunately, since the puya chili peppers are so thin they do not work well with being stuffed and can be quite tough when eaten on their own but are still edible.
Puya Chili Salsa
One of the best ways to eat puya chili peppers is by using them in a salsa which you can use as a dip or to add to meat, and its very easy to make. All you will need is five puya chilis, tomatoes, garlic, onion, vegetable oil, and salt.
To make the salsa, begin by placing the peppers into a hot frying pan and leaving them to toast for three minutes, and turn them around regularly to prevent them burning.
Once they are toasted and you can smell the flavor come to life, put the peppers, tomatoes, onions, and garlic in a food processor and blend well.
Then, in the frying pan that you used to toast the peppers, heat the oil on a low heat and add the blended mixture from the blender into the frying pan.
Add as much salt as you wish and leave to cook for another 15 minutes. If stored in a sealed container, the salsa should keep for about a week but if you want to keep it for longer it can be frozen for two months until it starts to lose its quality.
Puya Chili Enchilada Sauce
This is another great recipe to try in order to make the most out of your puya chili peppers. It adds a great kick to enchiladas whilst still being packed with fruity flavors that let the taste of the rest of the enchilada shine through.
The ingredients that you will need to gather consist of whole puya peppers, tomatoes, garlic, ground cumin, oregano, chicken broth, vegetable oil, kosher salt, and white sugar.
Begin by preheating the oven to 350°F and placing the peppers on a tray with a layer of baking sheet. Leave them in the oven until they have puffed up a bit and smell stronger which should take no longer than five minutes.
Once they have reached this stage, take them out of the oven and leave to cool before removing the stem and seeds and ripping or cutting them into smaller parts.
Get your handy food processor ready and place the peppers, tomatoes, garlic, cumin, and oregano into it and blend until it has a smooth texture.
After that, use a saucepan to heat up some oil on medium-high heat. Add the mixture from the food processor into the saucepan by using a strainer so that there are no lumps and keep stirring the sauce for 5 to 7 minutes until it is a darker shade and has thickened.
Finally, add the chicken broth and bring the sauce to a boil then let it simmer for 10 minutes on low heat and stir frequently to avoid burning. Add the kosher salt and white sugar to taste.
This enchilada sauce can be used with other dishes as well and can be kept in the fridge for up to 5 days and can be frozen for up to 3 months.
Growing Your Own Puya Chili Pepper
Puya chili pepper seeds are relatively easy to get online if you cannot find them at local stores or markets since they are quite rare outside of Mexico. Start growing the puya chili pepper plant inside in early spring.
They do best in temperatures of 85°F with a bright light on them and moist as much as possible. The seeds should form into a seedling in a week or two and can be transferred into a pot with rich soil in 5-gallon containers or 30-inches apart from one another outside when they have grown six leaves.
You will know when the peppers are ready to harvest when they have reached a red-purple color.