Good Chili starts with good chili powder so I’m going to show you how to make your own. All you need is a good source for dried chilies, an oven to dry them in and a food processor to grind them, oh and a recipe. For my base chili powder I use six dried ancho chilies, five New Mexico Chile’s, five Chile de Arbol and a tablespoon of toasted cumin seeds. The Ancho’s are a mild deep red chili that provides the base for the chili powder. The New Mexico Chilies are a lighter red and slightly hotter and finally the Chile de Arbol is small thin red chili that adds more heat and is similar to cayenne in heat. The combination of these chilies provides the depth of flavor that you will need for a good chili. The great thing about making your own chili powder is that you can experiment with different chilies to get the flavor you want. It’s also very inexpensive compared to store bought powder and you won’t be tied to grocery store chili powder and its lack of depth anymore once you start making your own.
First find a good source to buy dried chilies. Dried chilies are not brittle but are somewhat soft and pliable and can either be dried further for chili powder or rehydrated for other dishes. After you get comfortable with making your own base chili powder you can start making different powders for a variety of dishes or dumps for world class chili! Dumps are what the chili champs use to provide even more depth of flavor. Take a look at this to see what I mean.
Start by removing the stem from each chili and slicing lengthwise down the chili to open it up and remove the seeds. Lay the chilies open on a cookie sheet and place in a 300F oven for 4-5 minutes. Remove and let cool for a few minutes until cool enough to handle then break the dried chili into pieces. Place any parts of the chili that have not dried enough to break up back into the oven for about four more minutes and repeat with the remaining chilies. After your chilies are dried and broken into bits place them in a food processor and pulse on low for several seconds to get them started then process on medium for about fifteen seconds and then on high for fifteen seconds more. Toast 1 tablespoon cumin seed in a cast iron skillet until the seeds are about two shades darker than what you started with then finely grind in a coffee/spice grinder. I process only one kind of chili at a time and then at the end combine them all for about another thirty seconds. This should yield about 1 ½ cups of chili powder.
Chilies seeded and ready to be dried
Dried chiles crushed and ready for the food processor
Toasted cumin seeds
I like to make a Saturday afternoon of it and dry a bunch of different chilies. This way I can have my base chili powder and a powder of each individual chili that I can create dumps with or use in a variety of different dishes. I also like to make my own crushed red peppers out of Chili de Arbol or cayenne and leave the seeds in for some real heat.
Have fun making your own dried chili powders and be careful to wash your hands before rubbing an eye ;)