Spice It Up: A Deep Dive Into the Role of Chillies in Mexican Cooking

No Mexican dish is complete without a kick of heat, and what better way to add that punch of spice than with chillies? From jalapeños to habaneros, chillies are a staple ingredient in Mexican cuisine, adding a depth of flavor, color, and intensity to dishes.

Below, we take a closer look at the different types of Mexican chilies, and how they’re best incorporated into dishes.


A Brief History of Mexican Chilli

Mexico’s love affair with chillies dates back centuries when they were first introduced by the Aztecs and Mayans who grew and traded them. These spicy peppers were valued not only for their heat but also for their medicinal properties.

Over time, Mexican chilli cultivation and consumption spread throughout the country and became an integral part of the country’s culture passed down through generations.


Types of Mexican Chillies

Currently, Mexico is one of the world’s top producers and consumers of chillies, with over 60 varieties grown and used in various dishes. These six types of Mexican hot chilli are the most commonly used for cooking:

Poblano (Ancho)

Poblanos are dark green, mild peppers with a sweet, fruity flavor similar to a raisin or prune. They are often roasted and used in dishes like Chile Rellenos (which translates to “stuffed peppers”) or added to sauces for a subtle heat.

Poblanos are sometimes sold in dried form as Ancho chillies, which need to be rehydrated in water before use. Be aware that the drying process makes this Mexican chilli pepper more intense in flavor and heat than the fresh version.

Jalapeño (Chipotle)

Jalapeños are a popular choice for adding medium heat to dishes. This Mexican chilli pepper is usually green and slightly smoky, grassy flavor. They can be used fresh or pickled at local supermarkets or canned chipotle or powders at specialty grocers.

Jalapenos are often used in salsas, sauces, and toppings for nachos or tacos.


Serranos are small, thin chillis with a bright green color. They are similar in heat to jalapenos but have a sweet, crunchy flesh that tastes like capsicum. The thick skin of serranos makes them perfect for roasting and adding to dishes like salsas and relishes.


Guajillo chillies are mild to medium in heat with a sweet, berry-like flavor. They are often sold dried and have a deep red color. These chillies are used in traditional Mexican dishes, such as mole or enchilada sauce and can also be rehydrated and ground into a powder to add flavor to soups and stews.


Pasillas, meaning ‘little raisin’ in Spanish, are long and thin chillies with a dark brown color. They have a rich, smoky flavor with hints of berry and licorice. Pasillas pair well with seafood, such as Camaroned Al Mojo de Ajo (Mexican garlic Shrimps), and are often used in moles or sauces.


Considered one of the hottest peppers in the world, habaneros are small, lantern-shaped chillies with a vibrant orange color. They have a fruity, almost tropical flavor and pack a serious punch of heat. Use caution when handling habaneros, as their oils can irritate the skin and eyes.

For a fiery kick, Habaneros are best used sparingly in hot sauces, marinades, and salsas.


Must-Try Mexican Dishes With Chilli

Chilli in Mexico is about heat, flavor, and balance. Here are some must-try dishes that showcase the versatility of Mexican hot chilli:

Spicy Salsa Verde

Fresh jalapeños and serranos add heat to this tangy, herb-packed salsa verde. Roasted jalapeños, tomatillos, and garlic are blended with cilantro, lime juice, and avocado for a creamy, spicy dip that pairs perfectly with tortilla chips or as a topping for tacos.

Camarones al Chipotle

This spicy shrimp dish is packed with flavor thanks to the use of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce. The smoky, spicy sauce pairs perfectly with plump, juicy shrimp and is often served over rice or on top of crispy tortilla chips as a hearty and satisfying meal.

Traditional Enchiladas

Soft corn tortillas filled with chicken or vegetables and smothered in a rich, chilli-based sauce made from dried guajillo chillies. These enchiladas are a staple in Mexican homes and restaurants.

Chiles Relleños

A classic Mexican dish made by stuffing poblano peppers with a mixture of cheese and meat, then dipping them in an egg batter and deep-frying until crispy. These delicious stuffed peppers are often served with a spicy red sauce for added heat.

Pozole Rojo

This hearty soup is made with pork, hominy, and a rich, spicy broth from dried pasilla chillies. It’s best served with toppings like shredded cabbage, radishes, avocado, and lime to add freshness and balance the heat.


Get Your Fix of Mexican Chilli at Benito’s

At Benito’s, we love incorporating different types of Mexican chillies into our dishes to elevate the flavor profile and bring the heat. Delight your taste buds with our range of authentic Mexican cuisine in Texas.


Visit us today or order at (817) 332-8633 for a taste of Mexican chilli in all its fiery glory!