Chili powder and chili seasoning are two spice blends that are commonly used to add a spicy, savory kick to various dishes.
At first glance, they may seem quite similar.
However, there are some notable differences between the two that you should understand before using them.
The Base Ingredients
The main ingredient in chili powder is ground chili peppers. Most commercial chili powder contains a blend of different ground chilies, with cayenne pepper often being the most predominant. Some chili powder may also contain small amounts of bell pepper for mildness and sweetness.
The base ingredient in chili seasoning is also ground chili peppers. However, while chili powder tends to utilize just one or two main dried chilies, chili seasoning contains a blend of different dried chili varieties like Ancho, chipotle, and New Mexico to create complexity.
So in both cases, you are getting chili flavor from ground dried peppers. But chili seasoning provides more depth by using multiple types of chilies.
Spice Mix Components
Aside from the dried chilies, these two blends also contain additional spices. However, the extra components differ.
Chili powder typically contains garlic powder, ground cumin, oregano, and onion powder, along with salt for seasoning. Some brands may also add a little silicon dioxide or other anti-caking agents. The overall profile leans heavily toward chili flavor, with the other spices playing a background supporting role.
Chili seasoning has a wider array of spices added to the chili peppers. Along with garlic, cumin, and oregano like chili powder, chili seasoning blends also usually contain ingredients like paprika, crushed red pepper flakes, black pepper, ground cinnamon, and dried basil. Sometimes you may see additions like unsweetened cocoa powder or coffee as well.
So chili seasoning provides a more complex, robust flavor profile compared to the relatively simple chili powder.
Presence Of Thickeners
One of the biggest differences between these two spice blends is that chili seasoning contains thickeners while chili powder does not.
Chili seasoning typically includes starch like corn starch, potato starch, rice flour, or wheat flour to help thicken the dish it is added to. Some homemade chili seasoning may use masa harina (corn flour) as the thickener as well.
The thickeners give chili seasoning the ability to slightly change the texture and add body to chili, stew, or sauce. Chili powder lacks this thickening capacity.
So if you want to adjust the thickness of your dish, chili seasoning is the better choice. Chili powder will just add flavor without impacting consistency.
Intensity Of Heat And Flavor
When comparing heat level and overall flavor intensity, chili seasoning generally provides a bolder, more pronounced taste than chili powder.
Chili powder has a milder heat and a more restrained flavor profile. As mentioned, it typically contains just chili powder, garlic, cumin, and salt. So the chili taste is not as robust.
With a mix of different chilies and extra spices like paprika and red pepper flakes, chili seasoning delivers a spicier, more complex punch of flavor. It has a deeper chili taste.
So for those who like really spicy, intensely flavored dishes, chili seasoning packs more of a mouth-tingling wallop. Chili powder offers a more subtle approach.
You will also notice a visible difference in color between chili powder and chili seasoning.
Chili powder is typically a deep reddish-brown color. Darker versions may have a more intense, almost burgundy tone.
Chili seasoning tends to be lighter in color, with shades ranging from bright to darker reddish orange. This is likely because chili seasoning contains spices like paprika and red pepper flakes that lend a more vivid orange/red hue.
So at a glance, you can distinguish the two by looking for the darker chili powder and lighter chili seasoning.
Chili powder has a very fine, smooth powdery texture since it contains only ground spices. The consistency is similar to other powdered spices you may have in your pantry.
Chili seasoning is usually more coarse and grainy in texture, thanks to the dried herbs and chili flakes it contains. Especially if you make homemade chili seasoning and grind the ingredients yourself, it will have a more rustic shredded texture versus the ultra-fine chili powder.
So if mouthfeel is important to you, chili seasoning will provide a little more noticeable texture versus the smoothness of chili powder.
Key Uses In The Kitchen
Chili powder and chili seasoning can both be used to add flavor to various savory dishes. But there are some differences in their optimal uses.
Chili powder works best when you want to add a mild chili kick without changing the texture. Sprinkle it on proteins, stir it into grains or roasted veggies, blend it into a rub - the possibilities are endless. Its versatility comes from its simplicity.
Chili seasoning is tailor-made to flavor chili, stews, and other simmered dishes where you want the thickness to increase. The thickeners give it the ability to transform the consistency as well as the taste. Use it for dishes where you want bold chili flavor and a luscious mouthfeel.
You will find chili powder used more prominently in certain ethnic cuisines, while chili seasoning has its own culinary niches.
Chili powder sees extensive use in Mexican, Tex-Mex, Southwestern American, Indian, and Middle Eastern cooking. The simpler chili taste works well to add gentle heat to dishes from these regions.
For American chili, Texas-style stews, and Mexican-American fare, chili seasoning is the go-to blend. Its ability to thicken and amplify chili flavor makes it perfect for these cuisines.
So consider the cuisine when choosing between them. Chili powder suits some regions better, while chili seasoning aligns better with others.
When it comes to finding them, you'll have an easier time locating chili powder than chili seasoning.
Chili powder is everywhere and found in any grocery store spice aisle. It is an essential spice for most home cooks. You can buy it in small bottles for a couple of dollars.
Chili seasoning may be harder to find than chili powder. Grocery spice sections have more limited selections. Certain brands of packets may be available, or you may need to visit a specialty store. However, you can easily make your own homemade chili seasoning.
So chili powder tends to be much more readily available. Seek out specialty markets or DIY your own to obtain chili seasoning.
To retain freshness and potency over time, both chili powder and chili seasoning should be stored properly.
Once opened, keep them in airtight containers away from light, heat, and moisture. An ideal spot is a cool, dark kitchen cabinet or pantry.
If stored properly, they can maintain quality for up to a year. Be sure to check for any clumping, color changes, or loss of aroma over time.
So follow general spice storage guidelines, keeping them in opaque sealed containers in a cool cupboard. This will prevent premature fading and allow you to enjoy its optimal flavor.
Choosing The Right One For Your Dish
Now that you know the major differences between chili powder and chili seasoning, you can decide which one suits your cooking needs best.
If you want a convenient chili flavor without changing consistency, chili powder is your go-to. Use it wherever you want a mild chili spice kick.
For a bolder, spicier chili taste and thickened texture, utilize chili seasoning. It will really amp up chili and stew dishes beautifully.
Keep both handy in your pantry. Chili powder for a subtle accent flavor. Chili seasoning when you really want to spotlight chili's glorious heat and depth in a dish.
So explore the wonderful world of chili flavor with these two versatile spice blends! Both chili powder and chili seasoning can enhance your cooking, depending on your preferences and the dish at hand.
What's the difference between ground chili pepper and chili powder?
Chili powder is a pre-made blend that contains ground chili peppers and complementary spices like garlic powder, cumin, and oregano. It utilizes a mix of different chilies.
So single-ground chili peppers provide pure, singular flavor, while chili powder offers an all-in-one spice blend.
What chili pepper is typically used to make chili powder?
Cayenne peppers are the most common chili used to produce generic chili powder. Cayenne provides a solid level of heat and refers to a variety of moderately spicy red chili peppers.
Some brands may incorporate other hot chili varieties like ancho, chipotle, and arbol. Milder peppers like paprika or even bell pepper may be added too. But cayenne forms the basic building block providing the main chili flavor and heat.
Can you substitute chili seasoning for chili powder?
It's best not to substitute chili seasoning for recipes calling for chili powder alone. The thickeners in chili seasoning may cause an undesirable change in texture.
However, you can add a pinch of cornstarch or flour along with the chili seasoning to balance it out. Or use half the chili seasoning and half the regular chili powder.
With a few adjustments, chili seasoning can work, but chili powder is still preferable for texture and flavor reasons.
Both offer dynamic ways to incorporate chili's addictive smoky heat into dishes. Choose chili powder when you want straightforward flavor or chili seasoning for full-throttle chili impact. No matter which one you reach for, your food is sure to impress.