Know your spices

Alison Miksch

Yes, there’s a difference, and it’s not just in the spelling. You’ll find these two spicy powders in a variety of dishes across the culinary spectrum, and we love the kick that they bring to all sorts of dishes. So what’s the difference? Chile powder is made of pure ground dried chile peppers. Usually, chile powder has no additives. Chili powder, on the other hand, is a blend of chile peppers and other spices, including cumin, peppercorn, oregano, and salt. The blend depends on the brand, so be sure to check the ingredient label to find out exactly what spices it contains.

Chili powder is a favorite ingredient for beloved dishes such as our Chili-Rubbed Salmon. Game Day Chili, Three-Sisters Chili, and Chili-Lime Pecans. We use chile powder in our recipes for West Texas Chili and Creamy Ancho Slaw, as well as the intriguing recipe for Fruits and Vegetables with Lime and Chile Powder, a delicious dish from San Antonio chef Johnny Hernandez that is inspired by traditional Mexican street food. These spices add just the right amount of heat and memorable flavor to make our favorite dishes utterly show stopping.

There are several varieties of chile powders, all of which are derived from a different Capsicum annum, a genus that includes peppers ranging from sweet bell peppers to very hot chile peppers. Here are three of our favorite chile powders to use in the kitchen.

Chipotle Chile Powder

Dried, smoked jalapeños give this powder its rich, smoky aroma while also adding a moderate dose of heat. Use this powder in our recipe for smoky Chipotle-Bacon Mac and Cheese.

Cayenne Pepper

Spicy, pungent cayenne is a good way to increase the heat factor in dishes. Use it in any recipe that calls for “ground red pepper.” Whip up our recipe for Sweet Potato Soup or BBQ Brisket to taste the peppery warmth of cayenne pepper.

Ancho Chile Powder

Made from the sweetest dried chile, ancho chile powder has a slightly fruity flavor with only a mild amount of heat. You’ll need this powder to make our tender, flavorful, crowd-favorite Ancho Chile Flank Steak and Sweet Potato Tacos.

Now that you know the difference between chili powder and chile powder, you can start cooking with confidence. Keep these recipes in mind when you're stocking your spice cabinent.