Ancho is the Clark Kent of dried chiles: Mild-mannered. Perfect for someone looking for big flavor, without much heat.
Chile ancho (“wide chile”) is the dried edition of the poblano, a mild chili pepper, (1000-1500 SHU). To be specific, it’s the dried version of the ripe version of the poblano pepper. Mature pepper pods grow to a length of 3-6 inches, becoming dark. They are then dried, “wide.” In the Mexican variant of Spanish, ancho means “wide.”
A very mild chile, the ancho is all about its sugar content. A tad smoky, the dried powder is a bit bitter, like a baker’s chocolate, with a hint of the sweetness of the pasilla. While poblanos tend to be minimally pungent/spicy, occasionally, and unpredictably, they can have significant levels of heat. Different peppers from the same plant have been reported to vary substantially in Scoville units. The
Ancho chiles originated in, and the pasilla peppers, that they begin as, are still heavily grown.
A Dominican nun, Sister Andrea de la Asuncion, at Santa Rosa Convent, in Puebla, Mexico is said to have first dried the poblano pepper, sometime during the 1500’s. For a special occasion, she created the first mole, in honor of a visiting viscount, from Spain. A box of then chipotle chiles, smoked jalapeños, was brought to the convent. Access to them was limited, so she began lightly smoking the more available poblano peppers, which became the first “ancho” chiles.
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