A Guide to Different Types of Chillies & How to Use Them

Many people shy away from using chillies as they don’t like hot or spicy foods however, there’s a lot more to the humble chilli than just heat. There are so many different varieties of chillies from various corners of the world all with different heat ratings.

At the top of the spectrum, there’s the blow-your-head-off-hot scotch bonnet from the Caribbean with a heat rating of a whopping 40,000-800,000 Scoville units; for those playing at home that is unfamiliar with that unit of measurement, comparatively, the Jalapeno only has a heat rating of 2,500-8,000 on the Scoville scale. Then towards the bottom of the spectrum are your classic long red chillies that are far milder for the average palette.

Powdered vs. Fresh vs. Dried Chillies

Chilli Powder:

The most commonly available form of chillies is in its powdered form. However, it is also easily adulterated. So, when you are buying chilli powder, make sure you do it from a reliable store.

Don’t be surprised if you find kernels of cumin or a dash of oregano in your chilli powder. This is the reason you must read the label properly before buying to get the purest form. They are often used in foods that are cooked for long such as stews. This allows the chilli powder to release its flavour completely and makes the dish taste better.

Fresh Chillies:

Fresh chillies are used in quick-cooking dishes such as salads, pickles, stir-fried foods, salsas, infused vinegar etc. A dash of chillies will give you a burst of flavour and prevent the slow burn like its dried form.

Dried Chillies:

Dried chillies are used in things like broth, stock, cream, and pasta water. You can also rehydrate the dried chillies and then blend them together to make a spicy salsa and other things. They have a slower burn than the fresh chillies.

However, they should be toasted before using them because it brings out their flavour more and makes them taste better. To use your dried chillies, simply rehydrate in hot for about 30 minutes until the chillies soften and become plump.

Chilli Flakes:

Chilli flakes is not the same as dried chillies. They are perfect for sprinkling when you need a certain amount of dried chilli in your food. If you add them to a dish in the beginning, it makes everything too spicy.

However, adding them at the end works better because it gives you a nice pop of hot flavour. But the only problem with chilli flakes is that you can never really know how old they are. While old flakes are milder, the new ones can be very spicy. So, use the flakes with caution in your dish.

Different Types of Chillies

Interestingly, the origin of chillies in cooking was not about adding heat at all. In Mexico, they used different chillies to add flavour and to also thicken stews before corn was incorporated into their diets. Hence why we have fallen in love with Mexican chillies today as they are generally not hot and add a wonderful depth of flavour to a dish.

When describing chillies, I like to compare them to wine – each one brings something different to the table and pairing them with the right ingredients will enhance the experience tenfold. If you aren’t versed in the complex world of chillies it can be difficult to know which ones are right for your palette or the dish you’re making so we’ve put together a little guide on our chilli range to help you grasp them a little better.

*Click of the product titles to read more about them and find links to great recipes and ways to use them.

Mexican Chillies:

As the home of the chilli, Mexico is the mecca for chilli lovers with so many different varieties all ranging in heat and flavour. From the rich, chocolatey flavours of the Mulato Chilli to the smoky, fruity notes of the Guajillo, there are so many great ones to explore and get experimenting with so here’s a basic rundown of each one.

Chilli Ancho Ground and Whole

Ground mild fruity flavoured chilli with undertones of plum, raisin, tobacco and a slight earthy bitterness.

Chilli Habanero Whole

The hottest of the Mexican chilli family with a fruity and floral aroma, adding a spicy citrusy kick to any dish.

Chilli Guajillo Whole

A large chilli mild in the heat with a fruity, smoky flavour and undertones of floral green tea.

Chilli Chipotle Smoked Whole and Ground

Smoked, dried whole Jalapeno chillies with medium heat and rich smoky flavour with nutty, earthy notes.

Chilli Mulato Whole

A mild chilli with a sweet and fruity taste and hints of smoky chocolate, cherries, coffee and licorice.

To reduce the heat slightly by infusing some sweetness why not try rehydrating your chillies in apple juice, the sweet tang of the juice balances the heat of the chilli out well. Another tip for reducing the heat of your chillies is to remove the seeds. Majority of the heat lives in the membrane and seeds inside the chilli so once removed, you’re left with pure deep chilli flavour.

Asian Chillies:

From another continent most famous for their chillies, we use a large variety of Asian chillies including ones from South East Asia, China and India. Asian chillies are characteristically quite different to that of the Mexican and have a very different flavour.

All varying in heat intensities, these unique and flavoursome chillies will add the authentic, warming flavours of India to your curries and an aromatic spicy kick to your Chinese stir-fry.

Chilli Angel Hair

Delicate threads of sun-dried red chilli make for a stunning garnish or aromatic addition to any dish. With an extremely mild and fruity flavour, this unique and exotic chilli can be soaked, roasted or used as is to add a subtle, elegant depth of flavour.

Chilli Birds Eye Whole

One of Thailand’s hottest variety of chillies, these may be small in size but they pack a punch in heat. Beginning with an aromatic chilli flavour, the heat of these little chillies builds and intensifies as you eat. The perfect addition to any Thai curry when you want to add a little kick!

Chillies Crushed

The customary flavours of the classic red chilli with a caramelized, more complex flavour from the drying and crushing process. This value bag will be your staple go-to when wanting to add a warming chilli flavour and kick to your Asian dishes.

Chillies Kashmiri Ground

Known for its intense red colour, the Kashmiri chilli is medium in heat and adds a deep, rich hue and aromatic chilli flavour to curries and Indian dishes. The perfect addition to butter chicken, tandoori and Rogan josh curry; the Kashmiri chilli can be used whenever a recipe calls for chilli powder.

Chillies Indian Whole

With a richer, more caramelized flavour than its fresh counterpart, the Indian chilli is a classic staple go-to with a hot, fiery kick. Add to curries or any dish that calls for chilli to your heat liking; if you like things a little less hot try removing the seeds before using. Simply soak in boiling water for 20 minutes to rehydrate for optimal flavour.

Chilli Sichuan Salt

The perfect seasoning to add a hit of flavour instantly to any Asian stir-fry. With the warming hum and citrus notes from Chinese Sichuan pepper mixed with a little salt, a sprinkle of this will bring your ingredients to life.

Cayenne Pepper

Made from a variety of red chilli powders, Cayenne Pepper is one of the hottest chillies available. 1/8 or ¼ of a teaspoon is all you need to add a zesty zing and kick of heat to your curry, stir-fry or slow-cooked dishes.

Final Note

Before you go to buy chillies, it is important to know the purpose to be able to get the right ones. You can always stock your panty with dried and powdered ones. But the fresh chillies must not be too old as they can take away the flavour and crispiness.

Now that you know how each of these chilli variants is used, you can add the right amount of spiciness to your food with various kinds of chillies available for you.

So, don’t be afraid of the word chilli, just read the heat rating and have some fun experimenting with new flavours, you’ll find many are no hotter than a sundried tomato and they may just become your new favourite flavour!

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