Fresno Orange Chili Powder


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Make your own chili powder blends!

It may seem a bit ‘extra’ to make something like Fresno orange chili powder from scratch. Especially when when ‘regular’ chili powder is so readily available. I would argue that what we think of as chili powder from the spice aisle is pretty mild stuff, with limited flavor and without much heat. Commercial spices can contain fillers, preservatives, and stale ingredients. With a little patience, you can create something that goes from a mundane ingredient to something you look to use in as many dishes as possible!

There are not very many interesting chili powders on the shelves at my local supermarket. But there ARE some interesting chili peppers, both fresh and dried, available in my area. I love growing my own hot peppers and creating hot sauces, but I am by no means a daredevil when it comes to serious heat. While I generally stay at the habanero-or-cooler level, I have come to appreciate that every variety of pepper has a distinct flavor profile.

My personal favorites are Fresno Chili Peppers. They are similar to jalapeño peppers in shape and heat level, but that is essentially where the similarities end. Fresno peppers are actually a variety of New Mexico chili that is distinct from jalapeños. The flavor is tart, fruity, and slightly floral. It doesn’t have the sort of raw bell pepper taste that you often get with green chilis like jalapeño and serrano. The orange in this recipe really brings out some great tart, fruity notes in the final spice blend. The heat is, on average, slightly gentler than a jalapeño, making it great for sauces, stews, ceviches, curries, and chilis. They are fantastic raw as well, and I love using them in salads and pasta dishes like my Spicy Peanut Asian Noodle Salad.

You don’t need a dehydrator!

I use a food dehydrator to make this Fresno orange chili powder recipe. You can also use your oven to dry out your ingredients.

The way I see it, there are 2 advantages to using a food dehydrator:

  • Set it and forget it. It’s easier and safer to let this energy-efficient appliance run overnight than it is to leave your oven on all night.
  • Lower temperatures. The lowest heat setting on most commercial ovens is around 175. Some of the things I’ve read suggest that is warm enough that you are actually cooking the food, which you don’t (necessarily) want to do. With a food dehydrator, you have greater temperature control and can dry things out more slowly at lower temperatures.

To be sure, you CAN do this Fresno orange chili powder recipe without a food dehydrator. To do this, simply spread your prepped veggies on a parchment-lined sheet pan and pop them in the oven at its lowest setting for 8-10 hours or until everything is 100% dry and brittle, with no bend or ‘leatheriness’.

The old grind

Once all of your ingredients are fully dehydrated, all that’s left to do is grind them up. I have a grinder that I only use for spices, but you could use a food processor, blender, or even a mortar & pestle. I find that the electric grinder is the simplest and fastest way to get a truly fine powder.

For the purposes of this blog entry, I ground each ingredient separately. There’s obviously no need to do that, though I do suggest that you work in batches unless you are using a large blender or food processor. These instructions are for using an electric grinder.

One reason that it is vital to FULLY dry your ingredients is that they will grind up much more easily and cleanly. You should be able to wipe out the grinder with a paper towel or dry pastry brush. If the ingredients still contain moisture, it’s likely that the bowl of the grinder will end up sticky and your end product will clump and stick.

CHILI PEPPER WARNING: Even relatively mild peppers like these Fresnos can put a surprising amount of capsaicin into the air. You don’t want to get your nose right into this spice blend. If you or your cohabitants are sensitive at all, I recommend doing this in a garage, next to an open window, or outdoors.

Once you have fully pulverized all of the ingredients, place them in a bowl and combine with a spoon before returning the mixture to the grinder for a second grinding to complete your DIY Fresno orange chili powder.

Seal it up

Store this Fresno orange chili powder in an airtight container out of direct light. It will stay flavorful for months! You could even use a food vacuum sealer to preserve for longer periods.

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