I get loads of questions about roasting dried chiles, so I just wanted to quickly go over your two best options if this step isn't part of your routine yet.
There's also a third option that I hope you never ever use, but more on that in a bit 🙂
How To Roast Dried Chiles
Roasting dried chiles is the ultimate secret weapon and I never skip this step. The science will say that applying sustained heat activates dormant oils in the chiles, but your palate will be content with a simpler explanation...
It makes them taste better 🙂
If you've got a big batch of chiles to roast then I think the oven works best.
Start by wiping off any dusty crevasses on the chiles, then de-stem and de-seed them. Put the chiles pieces on a baking tray and let 'em roast in a pre-heated oven (400F) for about 2 minutes.
But don't leave them in there too long!
Ideally they are warm, fragrant, and still pliable after a 2-minute oven visit. They'll turn brittle if you cook them much longer, like this forgotten beauty that I left in for about 10 minutes:
When they get rigid and crumbly their flavor will turn bitter. There's no saving them at this point and it's usually best to just start over.
Most of the recipes on this site will recommend 1-2 minutes in the oven (400F). Fresh, pliable dried chiles can handle the full 2 minutes, but older chiles that are less pliable will turn brittle faster, so I tend to give them a healthy minute in the oven and then take a peek to see how they're doing.
Your second option is to use the stovetop to roast your dried chiles. This works best for smaller batches, or when you don't want to turn on the oven!
Simply heat up a comal or skillet to medium-high heat. Then use a spatula to give your chile pieces about 15-30 seconds per side.
Pressing down with a spatula will help apply the heat evenly to the chiles.
Similar to the oven, you'll know if you've gone too far if your chiles start to crumble or break apart! Ideally, they are warm, fragrant, and still pliable after you roast them -- this should be around 15-30 seconds per side.
And now the dreaded third option that you'll occasionally see people use...
Since most recipes will call for you to rehydrate your roasted chiles in some hot water, some folks will take a shortcut by combining the two steps and letting the chiles rehydrate in boiling water.
This sounds good on paper as it still applies sustained heat to the chiles, but I did a test on this a couple years and was disappointed with the results.
So the bowl on the right in the above pic has stovetop roasted dried chiles that were rehydrated in warm tap water and then blended.
And the bowl on the left is dried chiles that were roasted/rehydrated using the boiling water method. Both are Mulato chiles even though the boiled version has a darker color.
The taste difference was substantial, with the stovetop roasted chiles being a clear winner. They were potent and significantly more flavorful. The boiled chiles still had the essence of the chile, but they were dull and mild compared to the stovetop version and it wasn't even close.
This was eye-opening but kinda makes sense in retrospect. Boiling water maxes out at 212F, whereas the oven and stovetop (medium-high) are upwards of 400F. That extra 200 degrees makes a big difference and really pulls out the full potential of the dried chiles.
So no using the boiling water method please!
Stick to the oven for big batches of chiles, and the stovetop for smaller batches, and you'll be extracting the maximum from your dried chiles.
Note that most recipes will ask you to reconstitute your chiles after you roast them. This makes them more amenable to being ground up and helps diffuse their flavor into your dishes. I typically put them in a bowl with the hottest tap water available and let them rehydrate for 20 minutes or so. More info on reconstituting dried chiles.
And if you're getting hungry after all this flavor talk, here are my favorite recipes on the site that use dried chiles 🙂
Okay, let me know if you have any questions about roasting dried chiles. It's super easy and it will make a huge difference in your home cooking.
How To Roast Dried Chiles
- 2-10 dried chiles (Ancho, Guajillo, New Mexican, etc.)
- Wipe off any dusty crevasses of the dried chiles using a damp paper towel. De-stem and de-seed the chiles, discarding the seeds and stems.
- Preheat the oven to 400F.
- Add the chile pieces to a baking sheet and roast for 1-2 minutes. When using fresh, pliable chiles you can give them the full 2 minutes. Older chiles that are less pliable will turn brittle quicker so I tend to give them a healthy minute in the oven and then take a peek at them.
- Ideally your chiles are warm, fragrant, and still pliable after roasting. If they have turned brittle or crumbly they will take on a bitter flavor.
- Alternatively, you can preheat a skillet or comal to medim-high heat. After de-stemming and de-seeding the chiles you can add the chile pieces to the skillet and use a spatula to press them down into the heat, giving them 15-30 seconds per side.
- Note that most recipes will ask you to reconstitute your chiles after you roast them. I typically put them in a bowl and cover them with the hottest tap water available, letting them rehydrate for 20 minutes or so. More info on reconstituting dried chiles.