Ancho Chili Powder Vs. Chili Powder

When it comes to spicing up your meals, you may have encountered recipes that call for ancho chili powder and wondered if it's the same as the standard chili powder in your spice rack.

Ancho Chili Powder Vs. Chili Powder.jpg

While they may seem similar, there are some crucial differences you need to be aware of.

We will explain their similarities and differences and provide essential information on their use, taste, and heat levels.

The Origin of Ancho Chili Powder and Chili Powder

Ancho chili powder is made from dried and roasted poblano peppers, a chili native to Mexico. These peppers are known for their mild heat and earthy, smoky sweetness.

When ripe poblano peppers are dried, they become ancho peppers ground into a fine powder to create ancho chili powder.

ripe poblano peppers
ripe poblano peppers

On the other hand, chili powder is a blend of various spices, including ground chili peppers and other ingredients like cumin, garlic, and oregano.

The chili peppers used in chili powder can range from mild to hot, depending on the brand and type, and may include jalapeño, cayenne, or other varieties.

The Ingredients: What Makes Them Different?

While both powders contain ground chili peppers, their crucial difference lies in their composition.

Ancho chili powder is made of 100% ancho peppers.

No additional spices or ingredients are included, which gives it a pure, unadulterated flavor profile unique to the ancho pepper.

The Ingredients What Makes Them Different

Chili powder, known as chili seasoning, mixes ground chili peppers and other spices.

The composition of chili powder can vary, but it typically includes ingredients such as cumin, garlic, and oregano.

The type of chili pepper used in chili powder can also differ, from milder jalapeños to hotter cayenne peppers, which affects the overall heat level.

Heat Levels: Comparing Scoville Heat Units

The heat levels of ancho chili powder and chili powder are determined by the Scoville Heat Units (SHU) of the chili peppers used in their production.

Ancho chili powder, made from poblano peppers, has a mild heat level, ranking between 1,000 to 1,500 SHU.

This places it between a bell pepper and the mildest jalapeño possible (2,500 SHU).

Heat Levels Comparing Scoville Heat Units

Depending on the brand and variety, chili powder's heat level can range from poblano pepper (1,000 SHU) to cayenne pepper (30,000 SHU) and even more.

Taste Profiles: Earthy Sweetness vs. Spicy Blend

The taste profiles of ancho chili powder and chili powder are distinctly different, which can significantly affect the flavor of your dishes.

Ancho chili powder has a unique, earthy sweetness with a hint of smokiness.

Taste Profiles Earthy Sweetness Vs. Spicy Blend

Chili powder, a blend of various spices, has a more complex taste profile.

The specific flavor of chili powder will depend on the combination of spices used, but it typically has a spicy, slightly smoky taste with hints of cumin, garlic, and oregano.

The Role of Ancho Chili Powder and Chili Powder in Cooking

The unique flavor profiles of both of them make them suitable for different types of dishes and cooking techniques.

Ancho chili powder is commonly used in traditional Mexican cuisine, adding a mild heat and earthy sweetness to dishes such as mole sauces, enchiladas, and stews.

Its smoky flavor also serves as a seasoning for grilled meats and vegetables.

The Role Of Ancho Chili Powder And Chili Powder In Cooking

With its blend of spices, chili powder is a versatile ingredient used in various dishes, from Tex-Mex to Indian cuisine.

It is commonly used in chili con carne, taco seasoning, and curry blends and can also be used as a rub for grilled meats or as a seasoning for roasted vegetables.

Substituting One for the Other: Can It Be Done?

While tempting, it is not recommended due to its distinct flavor profiles and heat levels.

Substituting ancho chili powder for chili powder may result in a dish with a milder heat and a more pronounced earthy sweetness.

On the other hand, substituting chili powder for ancho chili powder may lead to a spicier, more complex taste that could overpower the different flavors in your dish.

If you must substitute one for the other, carefully check the label of your chili powder to determine its composition and heat level. Adjust the amount used and other spices in the recipe accordingly.

Other Chili Powder Alternatives

If you can't find either powder, there are other alternatives you can consider.

Chipotle powder made from dried and roasted jalapeño peppers is a good option.

It has a similar smoky flavor to ancho powder, but it's less sweet and has a higher heat level.

Using chipotle powder as a substitute, use half the amount called for in the recipe to balance the overall spiciness.

Paprika, a spice made from dried and ground sweet peppers, can also be a substitute.

Sweet paprika is milder in heat and can substitute for ancho powder, while hot paprika can replace chili powder.

However, remember that paprika lacks the smokiness that ancho and chipotle powder provide.

Buying Ancho Chili Powder and Chili Powder: Tips and Tricks

When purchasing powders for cooking, consider the following tips to ensure you're getting the best quality and flavor:

  1. Check the ingredients list: Ensure ancho chili powder is made from 100% ancho peppers. Check that the chili powder contains the desired blend of spices.
  2. Look for freshness: Opt for brands with a clear production or expiration date on the packaging. Fresh chili powder will have a brighter color and a more potent aroma.
  3. Buy in small quantities: Since chili powders can lose their flavor and potency over time, it's best to buy smaller amounts and replenish your stock as needed.
  4. Choose a reputable brand: Opt for well-known brands or specialty spice shops known for their quality products.

Storing Your Chili Powders: How to Keep Them Fresh

Proper storage is essential to maintain the freshness, flavor, and potency of your powders for cooking.

Storing Your Chili Powders How To Keep Them Fresh

Follow these tips to ensure your spices stay fresh for as long as possible:

  1. Store in a cool, dark place: Keep your seasonings in a cupboard or pantry away from heat, light, and moisture, which can cause the spices to degrade faster.
  2. Use airtight containers: Store them in airtight jars or containers to prevent exposure to air, which can cause the spices to lose their flavor and potency.
  3. Label and date: Label them with their name and the date of purchase or opening to keep track of their age and freshness.
  4. Keep a clean spoon: Use a dry spoon every time you scoop out chili powder to avoid introducing moisture or contaminants.


Understanding the key differences allows you to make informed decisions when cooking and experimenting with new recipes.

We hope our tips help you and that you'll be better equipped to choose the right chili powder for your needs.

Sarah Cortez
Sarah Cortez

My name is Sarah and I'm a baker who loves trying out new recipes and flavor combinations. I decided to challenge myself to use a new spice or ingredient powder in my baking each week for a year. Some successes were the cardamom sugar cookies, vivid turmeric cake, and beetroot chocolate cupcakes. Failures included the bitter neem brownies and overwhelmingly hot ghost pepper snickerdoodles. Through this experience I've discovered amazing additions to spice up desserts while learning how to balance strong flavors. Follow my journey as I push the boundaries of baking with unique powders!

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