Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The pepper conundrum: easy differences between Poblano, Pasilla, and Ancho peppers

Poblano peppers

I made tamales about a month ago and I realized something was seriously awry in local grocery stores. It seems that the names Poblano, Ancho, and Pasilla are used interchangeably except they are all very different peppers and shouldn't be. I realize that if chilies were being mislabeled in Arizona then they most likely were being mislabeled in less Southwestern areas and perhaps I should write a blog about it.

Here are some easy ways to tell the peppers apart:

1. Poblano peppers are most frequently mislabeled as Pasilla. They will have a wide top and a narrow base; they will be about the size of a small female's hand. They are often dark green but can be lighter green. They are less spicy than a jalapeno and when you cut them will smell very similar to a green pepper. Even though they are low spice the seeds will still burn so wear gloves when you cut them!

2. Ancho peppers are just dried Poblano peppers. To add to the confusion they look nothing like Poblano peppers; when they are dried they are red and will need to be deseeded. The easiest way to deseed them is by taking a pair of kitchen shears and cutting off the top then removing the seeds.

3. Pasilla peppers are also dried but they are dried Chilaca chilies not Poblano; they will be a dark brown or a black and are spicy so you don't want to confuse Anchos and Pasillas!




  1. Great info Becky. Some grocery stores just can't get their produce department up to snuff.

    I'm not sure how I arrived here. Your blog is gorgeous!!! Thanks for sharing...Bookmarked!!!

  2. I will be sure to check back to this post before I shop for any hot peppers. Our labeling in Roanoke, Va. stores is sketchy as well.

    Thanks so much!

  3. Louise- Thank you! I am glad that you found your way over to my corner of the internet!

    Healing woman- Your welcome! I am glad to be of help.

  4. The variety of peppers I keep learning about never ceases to amaze me. Thanks for this educational post.


  5. I enjoyed this post quite a bit. Very educational.

    Last year I informed my husband that I planted both Ancho and Poblano chiles in our garden. Of course, he looked at me as though I'd lost my mind! LOL! I am constantly surprised at how many types of peppers there are. This year I'm trying Thai peppers!

  6. great tutorial on peppers!! They add so much flavor to food...not just heat!

  7. Thank you! I just came from the grocery store where they didn't have the Poblanos I was looking for. Instead they have two bins of jalapenos and I thought maybe I didn't know the difference. Produce education is apparently needed in NY too!

  8. Thanks for the post! And you're right- fresh pobalnos are sometimes labeled pasilla here in Oregon

  9. I live in AZ and right next to a Mexican marketplace. I have never found Poblano chilies but tons of Pasilla chilis which look like what is normally found in chili reyenos which i always thought used poblanos. I guess they are one in the same. Thanks for finally explaining the correct labeling which was driving me crazy!

  10. First try adding a photo of the Pasilla, and then show photo's of the peppers in the same form. I can't distinguish what that Ancho is supposed to look like before it is dried.

  11. I appreciated this information, very much. In the Seattle area, the Pablano peppers are marked "Pasilla Peppers."