Ancho Powder: Made From the Sweetest Chiles

As you might expect, ancho powder is made from ground ancho chilies. The grinding of dried peppers to make powder is a practice that dates all the way back to the Aztecs, who cultivated poblano peppers used to make ancho chilies. The peppers were dried to preserve them and were used by the Aztecs to flavor various foods including chocolate drinks. Ancho chilies are made from poblano peppers that are allowed to ripen before being dried. Only after ripening and drying, are they considered ancho chiles.

As the name “poblano” indicates, these peppers originate from the Mexican state of Puebla.

Ancho Powder

Ancho powder flavor profile

The flavor of ancho chili powder can be described as mildly fruity; in fact, ancho chiles are considered the sweetest of all the dried chiles. In addition to being sweet, their flavor is also smoky with subtle earthy notes. Ancho powder is only mildly hot (between 1,000 to 1,500 on the Scoville scale) which makes it perfect for layering with other flavors. It’s very family-friendly. It can be paired with cumin, cinnamon, and cilantro.

Benefits of ancho powder

The heat of ancho powder comes from the capsaicin it contains. Medical experts believe capsaicin to provide medical benefits such as:

  • Pain Relief: Capsaicin triggers a release of endorphins that work to block pain. It is useful for treating pain resulting from arthritis as well as pain caused by skin conditions like psoriasis.
  • Appetite suppression: The ability of capsaicin to suppress appetite means that the capsaicin contained in ancho powder as well as in other chili peppers may help with weight loss.
  • Defense against prostate cancer: There is research suggesting that capsaicin kills prostate cancer cells. In addition, there is also evidence that men who eat hot peppers regularly are less likely to suffer from prostate cancer. While this does not indicate that capsaicin is a prostate cancer cure, it may be useful for prevention of the disease.

In addition to the benefits that come solely from capsaicin, ancho chiles are actually a good source of several important nutrients such as:

  • Vitamin A: A single tablespoon of ancho chili powder provides 69 percent of the daily recommended intake of vitamin A. Vitamin A is important for bones as well as for the proper functioning of your immune system.
  • Iron: A tablespoon of ancho powder can provide 10 percent of your daily recommended iron intake. Iron is important for the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells.
  • Fiber: A tablespoon of ancho powder provides 4 grams of dietary fiber, which is 15 percent of the RDA. Along with the fact that it helps to prevent constipation, dietary fiber also helps to lower your risk of heart disease and diabetes.

Common uses of ancho powder

Ancho chili powder is responsible for much of flavor most people associate with traditional Mexican mole. In this dish, the ancho chili is used alongside the pasilla (sometimes called the pasilla de negro chili) and the mulato pepper. The peppers can be used in whole form or in ground form for mole.

Aside from its use in mole, ancho powder may be used to make enchilada sauce, chile relleno, and chile con carne; it is used to thicken the sauces in these dishes as well as for its flavor. The powder can also be added to beans or used to make meat that has been marinated with adobo even more flavorful.