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Four Chile Peppers You Might Not Have Tried (But Should)

Dried Cascabel Peppers

Are the old flames of your kitchen not burning as hot these days? Perhaps it’s time to switch up your chile pepper game. Reignite the passion with these unique chile peppers!

Aji Amarillo:

A classic yellow-orange chile pepper hailing from South America. A staple in numerous cuisines of the continent it’s used in both sweet and savory applications – particularly in stews, soups, and salsas.

There’s a fruitiness to it reminiscent of pineapple and guava, but it finishes with grassy notes. The Aji Amarillo pepper has a medium heat to it that loves to sneak up on you. Available fresh, pickled, jarred and dried it’s a pepper that plays well with others.

We recommend using it for your next curry or pot of beans. It also makes for a fantastic rub when mixed with ginger, black pepper, salt, turmeric, cumin, and oregano. There’s also a baking trend where pastry chefs are rehydrating and pureeing dried Aji Amarillo peppers before folding them into banana bread and pound cake batters.


Cascabel:

Cascabel means “rattle” in Spanish and it makes sense when you pick it up and give it a shake as this bell-shaped chile works as a tiny maraca. The cascabel pepper hasn’t quite taken off the way poblanos or chipotles have in the United States, which is a shame because this is a chile pepper that’s so easy to love.

Too often chile peppers offer only one of two things: heat or flavor. The cascabel does both. The aroma is reminiscent of berries, but the flavor is overpoweringly savory in a way similar to aged beef or dried shiitake mushrooms.

The cascabel chile is one to add to dry rubs meant for beef. However, rehydrated and roughly chopped they take any humdrum pico de gallo and transform it into a commanding salsa. If you’re making a chili con carne try adding a rehydrated and minced cascabel chile to imbue layers of penetrating heat and umami flavor.


Bird’s Eye:

Bird’s eye chiles are actually quite easy to grow in your own garden. The problem is that they’re so hot few people can ever use the crop of even a single bush, so unless you’re planning to dry them yourself it’s almost a wash. (And if you drying them out yourself, well done!)

Buying them dry and in bulk you can properly portion them out as needed. Portion is the key word. After all, these chiles are so hot they’ll burn you alive from the inside out.

Use a few bird’s eye chiles when you want to imbue a dish with some serious heat. If you’re into home bartending try infusing some tequila blanco with a few bird’s eye chiles, some cilantro stems, and some grilled pineapple or mango for a few days. The result is a mind-blowing, stomach nuking tequila that makes for the most memorable margarita you’ve ever had.


Aleppo Pepper:

Aleppo pepper is having a moment right now as the diva of the chile world. Chefs are sprinkling it over perfectly cooked eggs, using it to finish slices of perfectly ripe summer melon.

This pepper has a low burn and a slight saltiness to it. The chile flakes themselves have noticeable flavors of prune and raisin. You can use it in the cooking process, but there are other chiles better suited to that such as the cascabel. Aleppo pepper should be kept in a container at the table and used as a finishing spice the same way you would use salt or pepper.


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