Chile or Chili: What’s the Difference?

Chili powder or chile powder, is there really that much of a difference? It turns out that that one little letter does matter, so be careful when reading your recipe and then choosing your spice from the spice rack in the grocery store.

Chili Powder

Let’s talk about chili powder first. Chili powder is a blend of spices and herbs that can be mild to moderately spicy. It just depends on how much cayenne pepper is in the mixture. Other components of a chili powder mixture after are: oregano, cumin, garlic, paprika and onion powder. It’s best to read your jar to see exactly what’s in your chili powder since ingredients will differ slightly between brands.

Chili powder creates that Tex-Mex flavor profile you’re used to in fajitas, stews, casseroles, beans and meats.

Chile Powder

Chile powder, on the other hand, usually has no additives. It’s made from dried ground chiles. There are several variations of chile powder, so you’ll need to read the label to see exactly what is in your chile powder. The chile powder will generally be named after the pepper of origin, for example you’ll find “ground cayenne pepper” on your grocery store shelf.

Any chile pepper can be turned into a chile powder. It ranges from sweet and mild bell peppers to spicy ancho chiles.

Below are a few of my favorite chile powders.

chile powder or chili powder, what's the difference?
chile powder or chili powder, what’s the difference?

Ancho Chiles

Ancho chiles are a sweet and medium spicy chile that has an almost fruity taste.

Cayenne Pepper

Often used to increase the heat in dishes, cayenne is a spicy and distinct flavor in dishes. Tip: Use cayenne pepper to replace “red pepper” if you’re looking for more heat in your dish.

The difference between chili powder and chile powder can be confusing, but now you can get back to cooking with confidence.

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