¡Fuego! Sixteen Popular Peppers
Bell: Strips of sweet bell pepper are ubiquitous on fajita platters. Mild.
Caribe: Also called güero (blond), this slightly sweet chile is good for sauces and for pickling. Mild.
Chiltepin: This is known as the bird pepper, because birds eat it and disperse the seeds; in Nahuatl, its name (and that of its close relative the chilipiquin, opposite) was chiltecpin, meaning “flea,” because of its size and quick, sharp bite. A bottle of chiltepins in vinegar was once common on Texas tables. Very hot.
Habanero: This sweet but incendiary chile was traded in the Caribbean and takes its name from the capital of Cuba; used in salsas and marinades. Very hot.
Jalapeño: The iconic chile of Texas and the first chile in space (1982), the jalapeño grows in, among other places, the Mexican state of Veracruz, whose capital is Jalapa; used for salsas, nachos, and small-town chile-eating contests. Medium hot.
New Mexico Green: An El Paso favorite, the chile verde is uncommon elsewhere in Texas except during August, when Hatch chiles (a type of verde) are roasted and sold by major grocery chains; the closely related Anaheim is sold year-round. Mild to medium hot.
Poblano: Roasted, the spicy-sweet poblano is used in sauces and is often stuffed with meat or cheese. Mild.
Serrano: This little devil has a quick, stinging heat; used in salsas and guacamole. Hot.
Ancho: One of the dried forms of the poblano, the broad-shouldered ancho (its name means “wide”) is used in chili con carne, sauces such as moles, and commercial chili powder. Mild.
Cascabel: The seeds of this small, round dried chile make a rattling sound, thus the name (“rattle”); good in sauces, soups, and stews. Medium hot.
Chile De Arbol: Related to the cayenne, the dried árbol is muy picante; used in sauces and to make decorative miniwreaths and ristras (“strings”) of dried chiles. Hot.
Chilipiquin: Dried and crushed, this tiny tyrant spices up soups, stews, and beans; in early Texas, children who used bad language sometimes had their lips rubbed with a chilipiquin. Very hot.
Chipotle: This smoked, dried jalapeño, which can also be found canned in adobo sauce, is a staple of sauces. Medium hot.
Guajillo: Called travieso (“naughty”) for its irksome sting, the dried guajillo has a tough, smooth skin that requires longer soaking than most chiles’. Confusingly, it is labeled “cascabel” in some Texas grocery stores; used in soups, stews, and sauces. Medium hot.
Mulato: Like the ancho, this is another dried form of the poblano, but it tends to be darker and narrower; traditionally used for moles, soups, and stews. Mild.
Pasilla: The name of this dried chilaca chile means “little raisin,” a reference to its dark brown color; it enriches cooked salsas and mole poblano. Mild.