Chile de Arbol Powder: Cayenne Pepper’s Mexican Cousin

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Like all other chili peppers, chile de arbol originated in what is now Latin America. Christopher Columbus found out about chili peppers while seeking a route to Asia for the black pepper trade. It is believed that chili peppers were being cultivated by Mesoamericans as early as 5000 BC. Along with using them as a seasoning for food, they used chilies to fumigate their houses. Portuguese trade routes are to be credited for the spread of hot peppers throughout the world including in Asia.

Chile de arbol was first documented by a naturalist named Francisco Hernandez, who was also the King of Spain’s court physician. Sent to study the New World, Hernandez compiled 16 volumes on the plants found in Mexico. According to his writings, the name chile de arbol comes from a Nahuatl word and translates to treelike or woody and refers to the fact that the trees have thick stems and branch upward.

Chile the arbol is related to the cayenne pepper in that they are members of the Capsicum anuum family. Both are commonly ground and powdered. Chile de arbol is one of Mexico’s iconic chilies and is especially important to the food culture in the Mexican state of Jalisco, though they are cultivated in other parts of the country. Chiles de arbol are also called pico de pajaro, which means bird’s beak. These chilies are also used in Southeast Asia. In Thailand, the chile de arbol is known as the bird’s eye pepper.

Flavor profile of chile de arbol powder

This is considered a moderately hot pepper. It is closely related to the cayenne pepper and is slightly milder in heat. Its Scoville ranking is between 10,000 and 30,000 Scoville heat units. They have a bright, clean flavor accompanied by mild herbal notes that set them apart from cayenne peppers. Their flavor (aside from the heat) can be likened to that of bell peppers. For more detail, see the chile de arbol profile on PepperScale.

Health benefits of chile de arbol powder

All chilies are good sources of very important nutrients. The health benefits that come from chile de arbol powder are the result of it containing compounds like:

  • Vitamins: Chile de arbol powder provides significant amounts of vitamin A along with modest amounts of vitamin C.
  • Minerals: Chile de arbol powder also contains a considerable amount of iron and calcium.
  • Fiber: Like other chili peppers, chile de arbol is a good source of dietary fiber.
  • Capsaicin: Capsaicin is the compound that gives the chile de arbol its heat. It has a number of major health benefits.

Adding chiles de arbol to your diet means that you may be able to prevent or treat certain illnesses like:

  • Acid reflux: A study has shown that daily consumption of chilies over a six-week period was able to reduce the severity of heartburn in patients suffering from acid reflux.
  • High blood pressure: Research has shown hot peppers to have a high potential as a treatment for high blood pressure. It works by causing blood vessels to relax and dilate, which is what lowers blood pressure.
  • Diabetes: Chili peppers may be able to improve insulin sensitivity and help to balance blood sugar.
  • Inflammation: Chilies also contain antioxidants that may be useful for reducing inflammation and that may help to prevent certain cancers.

Common uses of chile de arbol

This powder can be used to provide heat in salsas and hot sauces. It can be heated in oil to make a chili oil. You can add the chile de arbol powder to Thai stir-fried dishes as well as Thai curries. It’s also effective as an all-purpose pepper for bringing moderate heat to Indian curries and to chili.