Dried Chillis

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

  • About
Dried chillis are much more than a conveniently stable source of pungency and thickening power: they’re the source of flavor complexity that is rare even among herbs and spices. The drying process concentrates the contents of the cells in the fruit wall, encouraging them to react with each other and generate dried-fruit, earthy, woody, nutty, and other aromatics. Drying traditionally took several weeks in sun or shade, and in much of the world it still does. Modern machine drying offers more control, and can minimize the loss of light-sensitive pigments and vitamin C, though it brings flavor differences as well. Chillis are sometimes smoke-dried (Mexican chipotles, some Spanish pimentons), which lends a characteristic note.