What’s A Good Pasilla Powder Substitute?

Pasilla chili peppers have one big drawback, which is that they are not easy to find in brick and mortar retailers outside of Mexico. You will need their fruity and woodsy flavors if you want to make classic dishes like Oaxacan mole. If you need some right away and don’t have time to wait for an online order to arrive, try one of the pasilla powder substitutes below. 

Your best bet: Ancho powder 

The ancho chili peppers used to make ancho powder are the same as poblano chilies, just dried. Like other Mexican chilies, the dried pepper has a different name from the fresh one. In comparison to pasilla chilies, ancho peppers offer the incredible benefit of being widely available on both sides of the border.

At the same time, anchos have a lot in common with pasilla chilies such as the fact that neither of these peppers is exceptionally hot. That said, the ancho does have a little more heat to it than the pasilla. Keep in mind that hot pepper heat measurements are never precise and can vary based on the environment in which a particular pepper plant was grown. 

Ancho powder is the pepper component in most chili powder seasonings — it is responsible for chili powder’s deep red color. You can make it yourself by grinding the peppers in a spice grinder. Remember to deseed them first if you attempt this. 

A decent second choice: Guajillo powder 

The guajillo chili continues the Mexican trend of dried peppers with different names from their fresh counterparts. It is a dehydrated mirasol pepper. Like the pasilla, the guajillo provides a mild heat — these peppers typically get no hotter than 5,000 Scoville Heat Units. They have a fruity flavor similar to that of the pasilla pepper. Their appearance is also very much like the pasilla pepper’s — they both offer a deep red color.

Traditionally, whole guajillo chilies are rehydrated before being made into a paste that is added to dishes but guajillo powder is widely available. You can make your guajillo powder yourself if you cannot find it on store shelves. Guajillos are among the mainstays of Mexican cuisine, and you may see them featured in such dishes as enchiladas and salsas. 

In a pinch: Mulato chili powder 

The mulato pepper is from Central Mexico just like the pasilla. It is another version of the dried poblano. They are considered separate products because they get harvested at different stages of ripeness. The ancho gets harvested a little while after it ripens and when the pod is a bright red. The mulato pepper is taken from the tree later on after darkening to a deep brown. The degree of ripeness does not do a lot for the heat level, so mulato chil powder is still mild enough to be a good substitute for pasilla powder.

The flavor profile includes smoky notes along with fruity ones as well as hints of chocolate. Mulato powder is not very common in US grocery stores, but you should be able to find whole dried mulato chilies in stores that specialize in Mexican ingredients. They grind easily, just like anchos. 

Other alternatives 

Chipotle powder is made from dried and smoked jalapeños. Jalapeño peppers are mild chilies but can be quite a bit hotter than pasillas. Even so, chipotle powder can be a tasty pasilla powder alternative if you don’t mind the extra heat.