Chile de Arbol Peppers Will Bring Mexico Right to Your Kitchen

If you've ever seen festive wreaths made up of tiny red peppers, these little red chiles are chile de árbol peppers. Also known as bird's beak chile or rat's tail chile, these peppers are a staple of Mexican cooking, adding a tangy kick to any recipe. Chile de arbols are perfect for a spicy salsa, soup or hot sauce, but be careful when you dig in!

What Are Chile De árbol Peppers?

Chile de Arbol peppers
Amazon

These Mexican chili peppers are 2 to 3 inches long and under a 1/2 inch wide. Chile de árbol means "tree chili" in Spanish, which describes the peppers' woody stem. These little chilis are small but mighty, with a heat index of 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), comparable to a Serrano pepper or cayenne pepper. However, some have been found to be around 65,000 on the Scoville scale. For a reference point, 30,000 SHU is six times hotter than the average jalapeño pepper.

At first green, these red peppers eventually become a vibrant red color as they grow. Once they mature into a bright red, they are harvested and used in cooking. You can find them at the grocery store fresh, dried, or in powdered form. The dried chilis are often made into chili pepper wreaths, or ristras, for festivities like Cinco de Mayo. They're ideal for decorating because they maintain their bright red color when dried.

Chile de árbol peppers are believed to have derived from the cayenne pepper, and they can be a great substitute for cayenne peppers, pequin peppers or guajillo chiles. These peppers are the perfect ingredient when you want to add bite to a dish, and they're especially popular in salsa and hot sauce.

What Do Chile de Arbol Peppers Taste Like?

Chile de Arbol salsa
Muy Bueno Cookbook

Chile de árbols have a distinctive taste, providing a natural, nutty, smoky flavor along with their intense heat. When they dry, their flavor and heat intensifies, making them even spicier. This makes them a delicious choice in any dish, as salsa to drizzle over tacos or extra flavor in huevos rancheros.

Make sure to add these peppers to your dish slowly, checking the spice level often to ensure that it doesn't become painfully hot. When cooking with dried peppers, you can either grind them into chili powder to use as seasoning, or soak them in very hot water for about 15 to 20 minutes until soft, rehydrating them. Here are some to try for yourself!

Chile de Arbol peppers
Amazon

When handling these little peppers, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands afterward to as not to accidentally touch your eyes. To bring their spicy, smoky flavor to your kitchen, here's a recipe for Chile de Arbol salsa at Muy Bueno Cookbook.

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