Five Chiles from Oaxaca

In previous posts, I talked about a few Mexican hot peppers (chiles) that I had purchased in Toronto, Ontario, and shared recipes using them, such as salsa macha and salsa endiablada.  I also briefly mentioned a Canadian company called Épices de cru based in Montréal, Québec that I wanted to check out.  Over a year later, I finally found the time to browse through their on-line catalogue, and boy, was I ever astonished by the variety of their products, ranging from teas, cocoa beans and herbs, to vanilla, salt, and all kinds of spices, and there was no disappointment either, when I saw their offerings of dried whole and ground chiles, from all over the world.  Neatly listed in alphabetical order, from South American a, and Aleppo peppers from the Middle East, to Hungarian sweet paprika, Tsilanidimilahy  – described as “a fruity and extremely hot chili with a name that roughly translated to ‘not even five men can handle it’!” – from Madagascar, and whole smoked pimentón from Spain.  In between, Korean gochugaru, Moroccan and Sichuan sweet and spicy peppers may be found, as well as, of course, a vast selection of Mexican chile varieties.  In the end, I decided to concentrate in the Mexican state of Oaxaca, and ordered five chiles that they source directly from there.  They arrived in just a couple of days, nicely packed in a box, with all the peppers inside paper bags, stamped and prepared by hand, as seen in the photo at the top of the post; they even included a sample of one of their spice blends.  As I opened each bag, the scents, shapes and colours of these peppers offered one amazing experience after another!  Preserving the alphabetical order, my box included:

1) Chile Chilcosle (also known as chilcostle, or chilcoxtle):

This is an ancient variety, but has remained pretty much only known within the state of Oaxaca.  It provides a distinctive yellow-orange colour when added to sauces and stews.  Épices de cru says:  “Chicosle chilies are becoming extremely rare because cultivating them is very costly. We continue to work in tandem with the best Oaxacan producers to ensure that this rare chile – alongside other ancient varieties – will regain a certain popularity, that will hopefully guarantee their continued cultivation.”  The aroma is very rich, and the heat scale is 7/10, so I am sure a little of this pepper will go a long way in my recipes.

005 Chilcosle Oaxaca

2) Chilhuacle Amarillo:

Amarillo means “yellow”, and the colour of these peppers is indeed a light orange, yellowish shade.  It is so distinctive in Oaxaca, that their use in one of their traditional sauces has given the dish its name of “mole amarillo.”  It is also a rare variety, and there are only 4 pieces in the 25g (0.8 oz.) bag, so I know the destiny of these precious gems will be in a nice batch of mole amarillo, or as they call it in Oaxaca, simply “amarillo.”

007 Chilhuacle amarillo

3) Costeño Amarillo:

Costeño means “from the coast”, so this is a very generic term that refers to several peppers from both the East and the West coastal regions of Mexico; most of them are red, from states such as Veracruz (Gulf of Mexico, East coast) and Oaxaca itself (Pacific West coast), but the yellow variety are unique to Oaxaca.  These are the prettiest of my lot, very smooth and truly yellow in colour.  The scent seems milder, probably will blend well in a sauce.

006 Costeno amarillo

4) Mulato:

I have mentioned these peppers before, as one of the traditional ingredients in mole poblano, the best-known red mole, in Mexico and internationally.  Mulato is a variety of poblano pepper with a fruity flavour, that is left to ripen and dry on the plant.  The heat scale on the bag says 2/10, but the company states that, just like with other poblano peppers, individual specimens may go from ” … mild to moderately hot. A kind of ‘Mexican roulette’ where one takes one’s chances with this delicious chile.”  

002 Mulato

5) Pasilla de Oaxaca extra grande (smoked):

I have been able to find pasilla peppers at international markets around my region, but Oaxacan pasillas are a different product altogether; they have a deeper flavour, are fruity, and all this is accentuated even more by the smoking process.  I could not think of more compelling words than what Épices de cru  has to say about them:  “Being able to offer this most amazing chile is a great source of pride for us.  Ripened and left to partially dry on the plant, the chiles are then further dried and lightly smoked in a traditional adobe (‘oven.’)  In December, they are transported down the mountain by horseback to the nearest road to begin their long journey to the markets of Oaxaca, Puebla and finally Montréal.” and they continue explaining that these peppers are grown by local Mixtec farmers, in the high Sierra Mije and, since they are “extra grande” – extra large, they are often rehydrated, seeded and stuffed with cheese … yummy, sounds like a plan to me!

003 Pasilla Oaxaca

I will be busy cooking with my Oaxacan chiles, and reporting back soon, stay tuned!

A little about Épices de Cru  Before opening a spice shop in the boutique-store wing of Montreal’s Jean-Talon Market, in December of 2004, Ethné and Philippe de Vienne had worked for many years in their catering business; during that time, they would travel around the world a few weeks each summer, to gather knowledge about ingredients and cooking traditions, first-hand from producers and local peoples, securing the best ingredients for their recipes.  The spice shop proved to be a very successful enterprise, becoming a full-time job, and they continue their mission to this day, true to their original vision.  Their address is 7070 Henri-Julien, C-6, Montréal, H2S 2W1, Canada; phone number 1(514)273-1118; their website is great and they ship to Canada and the US.  From their website: “Seeking the world’s best teas, spices and blends … made with respect to both the traditions of producers and the needs of our customers … We are in awe of people who respect their food traditions – they are the caretakers of the world’s flavours … We know that if people shared good tea and tasty food we could all have world peace for dessert … “

20 thoughts on “Five Chiles from Oaxaca

  1. What a hot post! As a chef, I don’t much like chillies. I don’t see the point in incinerating your tastebuds so you cant enjoy flavours for the next 3 hours and then spend the following three in agony on the toilet, lol! That said it is amazing to see so many different varieties. Thanks for teaching us.


      1. I must investigate and see if I can find some of these to try then. All we seem to have is Jalapenos, birdseyes and Skotchbonnets. Fire extinguisher please! Lol


    1. What a crude and close-minded remark!
      If you call yourself a chef, you really need to educate yourself on what subtlety and interest chiles can add to cooking.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Maybe I’m over sensitive toward chillies but to me all they do is burn off my tastebuds and leave unable to taste a thing – so no this chef does not like them and does not chose to use them.


  2. How wonderful! I’ve used aji Amarillo in Peruvian food, so I’m assuming it’s the same chile pepper?! Although you mention two varieties of Amarillo…. It can be confusing! And pasillas and mulatos I can get, but not the rest! I will look into ordering!


      1. These are peppers unique to Oaxaca. For the mole amarillo cooks in Mexico use guajillo when amarillo is not at hand. I really liked that spice company, even just browsing through their catalogue is a lot of fun!


    1. I have tried before with not much luck with other dried peppers, but I guess it couldn’t hurt to try again with these, huh? Thanks for the idea 😁👍


      1. Mason Bushell, I agree with the other person who said, “I don’t know what kind of chef you are.” A chef is curious to know and be creative with ingredients. Chilcosles chiles (peppers) are not a “new” variety; on the contrary, they have been in Oaxaca México (the only place it grows) since the Maya civilization. Unfortunately, it has become so popular that it may not be around for much longer. Peppers are hot, they are meant to be hot, and it is up to us, the chefs, to be creative as the local people from México who make such an exceptional variety of moles and salsas without calling themselves “chefs.”


      2. Hi, Tina! Thank you for your comment. If you follow the conversation with Mason, you will see that he clarifies that all he has access to, in his region (I believe he is somewhere in the UK) is very spicy varieties of chiles, and at the end of our exchange, he is thankful for the information on other, more flavourful than hot, varieties, and says he will try to find sources. I myself mentioned “new varieties” in my response to Mason, but if you read carefully, I am not referring to chilcosles (my whole post is about traditional chiles from Oaxaca!) but the ones developed more recently, catering just to boost the Scoville scale, such as Carolina Reaper or Dragon’s Breath. That said, each chef or cook or chile enthusiast is his or her own, so I respect all, regardless of their personal taste, or title.


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