Chiles of Mexico: Pasilla de Oaxaca

One of the twenty-four varieties of dried chiles more or less exclusive to Oaxaca (though found in parts of Puebla), the chile pasilla de Oaxaca grows in small pockets high in the forbidding Sierra Mixe. Also known as the chile mije, the pasilla de Oaxaca is ripened on the vine and then smoked in small batches. This chile is not produced or exported on any kind of large scale.

Although pasilla de Oaxaca is often described as “fruity,” the batch I bought this winter in Oaxaca’s Mercado Juarez is dominated by deep, smoky notes. Chewing on the tip of one is kind of like chewing on the tip of a smoldering mesquite log. But in a good way. These chiles turned out to be one of my best purchases of the trip. I keep a mason jar of the chiles mijes above my stove and I find myself reaching for it often, particularly when I’m having that, “Oh crap, I don’t have any salsa ingredients…or do I?” moment.

photo by Felisa Rogers

6 Responses to “Chiles of Mexico: Pasilla de Oaxaca”

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  1. BC says:

    I grew a variety of these, hoping for a nice fresh “jalapenos like” pepper to snack on and to put into salads, that would also dry well, which jalapenos do not. It does dry well and have a natural, though slight, smoky flavor which can be intensified by drying over smoking mesquite.

    My chilacas, name for the fresh/green form, had much less temperature than a jalapeno and were much thinner walled. Which is better for drying but also means that it lacks that jalapeno crunch that I like. Also, the thinner wall seemed to be associated with a decidedly fibrous texture, which may account for it being favored in rajas.

    Nice quick site picturing the difference between; Chilaca, Hatch Green Chiles, Problano, and California Anaheim. [http://mexicanfood.about.com/od/chileinformation/tp/Types-Of-Green-Chiles.htm

  2. churpa says:

    Good page, thanks. The ones I have seem quite different from your typical dried chilaca–the skin is definitely not as thin, and is far more wrinkled.

  3. BC says:

    Expanding on the smoky flavors theme of pasilla de Oaxaca chilies, a seemingly new trend is charred barrel-aged salsa. Enterprising foodies, hoping to add some smoky flavor to their favorite homemade sauces and salsas, are using charred whiskey oak barrel to age their hot sauce and salsa in.

    According to this New York Times article on 10 Trends for 2013: “Home-brewed hot sauce is aged in discarded whiskey barrels at Vesta Dipping Grill, in Denver, and at Magnolia Pub and Brewery, in San Francisco, the hot sauce is part of the larger craft-brew program.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/01/02/dining/after-crispy-pig-ears-10-trends-for-2013.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

    Is smoky “craft-brew” the new condiment trend ?

    • churpa says:

      I’m skeptical that anything is going to trump the time honored methods of adding smokiness to salsa, but I guess at least barrel-aged salsa sounds better than “barrel-aged cocktails” which is another trend.

      • BC says:

        I agree with your skepticism. I’d much rather have the smoky flavor in the peppers and tomatoes bits.

  4. Hans van Balken says:

    Dear Sir/Madam
    Writting a book for students botany with the provisional title “Synopsis of the plant family Solanaceae”. Started some three years ago and estimate another three years to finalize.
    At the moment I am describing Capsicum and noticed hte picture of Pasilla de Oaxaca on your website which I would like to use. Of course I will make reference to your website.

    Hoping for a positive response

    Sincerely yours

    Hans van Balken
    [email protected]
    Netherlands