What Is Pasilla Chili Powder?

Home cooks are always seeking new ingredients to add excitement to everyday meals. While chipotle and ancho chile powders are commonplace now, a lesser-known Mexican spice is ready to steal the spotlight - pasilla chili powder.

What Is Pasilla Chili Powder?

Made from dried, smoked pasilla chile peppers, this powder packs a flavor punch while remaining mildly spicy. Its deep berry, cocoa, and woody essence take dishes in savory and sweet directions. Pasilla powder brings warmth and spice without completely overwhelming other ingredients.

What Is Pasilla Chili Powder?

Pasilla chili powder is made from ground dried pasilla chile peppers, also known as chilaca peppers. These peppers originate from Mexico and are known for their rich, complex flavor profile that includes notes of dried fruit, plums, berries, and even hints of bitter chocolate or prunes.

Pasilla chili powder is often described as having a mild level of heat paired with a deep, earthy flavor and lingering sweetness. The flavor is quite complex and layered compared to other chile powders. When used in cooking, pasilla powder can add a touch of warmth and smokiness without being overly spicy.

The color of pasilla powder ranges from a deep eggplant purple to nearly black. The dark color comes from the wrinkled, nearly black appearance of the dried pasilla chile peppers before they are ground. The powder maintains the same dark hue.

Flavor Profile of Pasilla Chili Powder

In addition to the mild heat, pasilla chili powder has some key flavor notes that make it unique:

  • Earthy, woody tones - The rich earthiness is a signature of pasilla powder.
  • Sweet with a touch of smoke - There is a natural sweetness paired with subtle smoky undertones.
  • Fruit essences - Dried fruit, plum, and berry notes come through.
  • Hints of chocolate - Some even detect cocoa or bitter chocolate nuances.

The complexity of pasilla chili powder sets it apart from one-dimensional heat powders like cayenne or chipotle powder. The multidimensional flavor profile allows it to enhance dishes without overpowering them.

Culinary Uses for Pasilla Powder

Due to its mild spiciness and rich flavor, pasilla chili powder is extremely versatile in the kitchen. Here are some of the most popular uses:

  • Mole sauces - Pasilla is traditionally used along with mulatto peppers and ancho chiles to make complex, delicious mole sauces.
  • Meat rubs and marinades - Sprinkle on chicken, pork, or beef before cooking for enhanced flavor.
  • Stews and chilis - Add depth and mild heat to stews, chilies, and soups.
  • Salsas and sauces - Mix into tomato-based salsas or enrich cheese/cream sauces.
  • Quesadillas and tacos - Dust on cheese blends for quesadillas or stir into taco meat.
  • Compound butter - Blend with softened butter then chill, slice, and top meats or corn.
  • Desserts - Accentuate chocolate, and fruit flavors in baked goods.

Pasilla chili powder is a versatile spice that can take dishes in savory and sweet directions. Start with a little at a time to gauge the heat level and flavor impact.

Tips for Cooking with Pasilla Powder

Pasilla chili powder may be new to your spice collection, so here are some tips to use it successfully:

  • Start with small amounts like 1⁄4 tsp until you get familiar with its flavor.
  • Combine with other chile powders to make a custom blend. Ancho and guajillo work well.
  • Toast lightly before use to intensify the flavor.
  • Store in an airtight container away from light and moisture.
  • Rub on meats or stirred into dishes during the last 5-10 minutes of cooking.
  • Use in marinades for a touch of fruity heat that permeates meats.

With its mild spiciness, deep smoky undertones, and a touch of sweetness, pasilla chili powder can enhance meats, vegetables, baked goods, and more. This versatile Mexican chili powder deserves a spot in every spice cabinet.


What does pasilla translate to in English?

Pasilla translates to "little raisin" in English, referring to the dark, wrinkled appearance of the dried peppers.

What types of dishes pair well with pasilla powder?

The mild spiciness and sweet, complex flavor of pasilla powder pairs nicely with meats like chicken, pork, beef, lamb, and seafood. It's also excellent in Mexican dishes like mole sauces, salsas, tacos, and quesadillas. Even desserts and cocktails can benefit from the pasilla's touch.

How do you toast pasilla powder to intensify the flavor?

Toasting pasilla powder before use really brings out its essence. Simply heat a dry skillet over medium heat. Add the powder and toast for 1-2 minutes, stirring constantly. Remove immediately once the fragrance intensifies.

What's the difference between pasilla and ancho powders?

While both Mexican chile powders, pasilla is mildly spicy with fruit and cocoa notes while ancho is the dried form of poblano peppers so it has a richer, smokier taste.

Can pasilla powder be substituted for other ground chiles?

Due to its unique flavor profile, pasilla powder has no direct substitute. But you can create your own version by blending mild powders like guajillo, ancho, and smoked paprika.


After learning about the sweet, earthy nature of pasilla chili powder, it's easy to see why it deserves more time in the kitchen. Mildly spicy with hints of smoke and chocolate, this versatile powder livens up meats, sauces, baked goods, and more without overpowering them.

Trust pasilla powder to add intrigue to familiar dishes. With proper storage and smart incorporation, cooks can harness the fruitiness and gentle heat of pasilla to make meals more magical.

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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