What Is Guajillo Chili Powder?

Guajillo chili pepper powder is a medium-heat chili powder made from ground-dried guajillo chile peppers. It has a sweet, fruity flavor with hints of berries and a medium heat level of 2,500-5,000 Scoville Heat Units.

What Is Guajillo Chili Powder

Guajillo chili powder is very popular in Mexican cuisine and is used in many classic dishes like moles, salsas, and enchiladas. It's considered one of Mexico's most essential chile peppers. When ground into a powder, guajillo chilies bring a complex flavor and mild heat to any dish.

A little guajillo powder goes a long way, so start with small amounts when using it in recipes. Its sweet-tart flavor pairs wonderfully with meats, beans, corn, and chocolate. Keep reading to learn more about this versatile chili powder!

The History and Origins of Guajillo Powder

mirasol chili pepper

The guajillo chile comes from Mexico, where it's the second most popular dried chili after the ancho. Guajillo means "little gourd" in Spanish, referring to the rattling sound of the seeds when the dried pods are shaken.

Guajillos are actually the dried form of the mirasol chili pepper, also known as the "serving chili" since it's frequently served along with food. When dried, mirasol chilies take on a deep burgundy color and smooth, leathery skin.

Fresh mirasols have a light fruity flavor, which intensifies when dried into guajillos. Along with anchos and pasillas, guajillos are essential to making traditional mole sauces in Mexican cooking.

Flavor Profile and Heat Level

The guajillo chile has a unique sweet and tangy flavor profile, with notes of berries, pine, and tea leaves. Many people describe it as having a slight fruitiness akin to berries or green tea.

Compared to other dried chiles, guajillos are on the milder end. On the Scoville scale, they rate 2,500-5,000 SHU, giving them a medium heat similar to jalapeños.

So you can expect a decent kick of heat from guajillo powder, along with its signature sweet-tart taste. The heat builds slowly and doesn't overpower the other flavors.

Popular Uses for Guajillo Powder

In Mexican cooking, guajillo chili powder seasons many staple dishes:

  • Mole sauces: Guajillo is traditionally used along with ancho and pasilla peppers to make complex, layered mole sauces.
  • Salsas: A little guajillo powder lends sweetness, fruitiness, and mild heat to salsa recipes.
  • Enchilada sauce: Simmer dried guajillos in the sauce for homemade enchiladas.
  • Soups and stews: Add depth of flavor to pozole, birria, and other Mexican soups and stews.
  • Rubs and marinades: Use guajillo powder in spice rubs for meats before grilling.
  • Snacks: Season roasted nuts and popcorn with guajillo for a kick.

Guajillo chili powder also works nicely in spice blends, barbecue sauces, chili, and Tex-Mex dishes. Its sweet-tart taste even pairs well with chocolate in mole recipes.

Tips for Cooking with Guajillo Powder

Here are some tips for incorporating guajillo powder into your own recipes:

  • Start with a small amount like 1⁄4 teaspoon, and add more to taste. A little goes a long way.
  • Toast the powder briefly to intensify the flavor.
  • Rehydrate dried guajillo peppers, then blend them into a paste to add bold flavor.
  • Mix guajillo powder with lime juice and cumin for a chili-citrus marinade.
  • For less heat, combine with a mild ancho or pasilla powder.
  • Add a pinch of guajillo powder when baking to give cakes, cookies, or hot chocolate a kick.

With its sweetness, mild bite, and complex flavor, guajillo chili powder is essential for Mexican cooking. Start exploring recipes using a little of this flavor-packed powder.

How to Select and Store Guajillo Powder

When shopping for guajillo chili powder, look for products made from 100% dried guajillo peppers with no extra additives or seasonings. The powder should have a deep burgundy color.

For the freshest flavor, buy whole dried guajillo chiles and grind them yourself in a spice grinder. Store guajillo powder in an airtight container away from light and heat to preserve the flavors. It will keep for up to 1 year.

If you can find them, whole guajillo peppers can also be toasted and soaked to make homemade chili pastes and sauces.


What do whole guajillo peppers look like?

Whole dried guajillo peppers are long and slender, about 3-5 inches in length and 1 inch wide. They have smooth, deep burgundy skin that wrinkles a bit when dried. Fresh guajillos are green at first before turning red.

What's the difference between guajillo powder and flakes?

Guajillo chili can be ground into a fine powder or left in coarser flakes. The powder offers a smooth texture, while flakes provide bursts of flavor. Use whichever matches your recipe needs.

Does guajillo powder go bad?

Properly stored in an airtight container away from heat and light, guajillo powder lasts up to 1 year before losing its potency. Check for faded color or dull flavor as signs it may be past its prime.

Can I substitute guajillo for other chile peppers?

You can substitute guajillo powder for milder chile powders like ancho or New Mexico. While not exactly the same, they offer similar mild heat and sweetness.


With its complex fruity flavor, mild spicy kick, and uses in classic Mexican dishes, it's easy to see why guajillo chili powder is a beloved staple. This versatile spice brings the taste of Mexico to meats, sauces, salsas, stews, and more.

Give your cooking an added punch by exploring the unique taste of guajillo powder. A little of this flavor-packed powder goes a long way, so start experimenting to find your perfect blend.

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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