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Chilli/Chili Powder vs Cayenne pepper


infernooo
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Hi everyone!

I've got a quick question regarding the use of "chili/chilli/cayenne powder" in US food terminology. Here in Australia, if a recipe calls for chilli powder, it means pure ground chilli powder (quite hot), and we also have cayenne powder which is a slightly hotter version.

However, whilst watching Americas Test Kitchen and reading numerous recipes, there seems to be a distinct difference between our definition of chilli powder and that used in the US.

Would I be correct in saying that cayenne powder as used/talked about in the US is what we pretty much call chilli powder (just ground chillies), whereas in the US, when chili powder is used in a recipe, it is often referring to a blend containing chillies, paprika, oregano, cumin, garlic, onion powders (and sometimes, salt/pepper, masa harina) ?

The other reason I assume that chili powder in the US is referring to a blend is that many chili recipes (as in the beef stew), call for 4+ tablespoons of chili powder for a 4 person batch of chili, which would be inedible if it were cayenne/pure hot chilli powder.

Anyways, thanks in advance for any clarification!

p.s. please forgive my interchangeable use of "chili" and "chilli" - I loved that episode of Good Eats but can't be stuffed making sure all of mine are correct

Edited by infernooo (log)
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The world of chili powders and powdered chiles (another spelling!) is a vast and wondrous one. For me, chili powder means giving up too much control to the blender, but I love to use pure chiles ranging from completely mild to so hot you shouldn't even look at them. For an idea of what's out there, Pendery's is an amazing Texas merchant of some 137 years' standing, with which I'm not affiliated except as a customer. www.penderys.com. They claim to have invented chili powder, and the quality of their whole and ground chiles is mighty high. Their pico de pajaro chiles are one of my favorite seasonings ever.

C

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This would be generic chili powder called for in an American recipe

http://www.mccormick.com/productdetail.cfm?id=6413

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Just a related note: in many of the southwestern recipes I've been reading, they make the distinction with spelling. "Chili powder" is the blend with ground chiles, cumin, garlic, and what have you often used to make the dish called "chili".

"Powdered chiles", "ground chiles", or most commonly, "ground (insert specific name of chile here) chile" are used to denote the dried and ground/powdered form of a single chile pepper variety. As mentioned earlier, they range from dead mild to hot enough burn off the soles of your feet from the inside. The best recipes also tend to give a hint about how hot a pepper they have in mind if you can't find the specific variety, such as "ground Chimayo chile or other mild chile powder".

(I once ended up with a dish that was very tasty but a wee bit hotter than traditional because I didn't know the heat of the specific variety the recipe called for which I couldn't find!)

Cayenne pepper is always called out as "cayenne pepper". I can't imagine using 4 tbsps of that...I'm VERY sensitive to cayenne, so I almost never use more than 1/4 tsp per dish, and that's more than hot enough for me!

Marcia.

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Hi,

The spelling, "chille" is commonly used in Springfield, Illinois. Supposedly, there was an incorrect spelling on a sign for the Den Chilli Parlor in 1909. The new spelling stuck.

The Den is still serving their suet/hamburger based chilli. You get to put your name on the wall if you eat a bowl of the "firebrand".

Tim

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Nifty thread, and a point I've pondered often. FWIW, I have three kinds of chile/chili/chille/chilly (just kidding on the last one) in my cupboard:

One is a Mexican dried chile powder, a dark reddish brown and the kind of beasty you'd find in a (wait for it) tasty vat of chili to add a bit o' smoky flavour and a more mellow heat. You might be putting in tablespoons of this, as opposed to 1/8 tsp or less (see two and three).

Two is cayenne pepper, a bright reddish orange superfine powder that will blow your head off it you accidentally put too much in whatever you are making, and doesn't add a whole lot of flavour with the fire.

Three is ground chiles, a product I was only able to find in that most excellent area known as Punjabi-town here in Vancouver. I discovered a recipe that called for it when I was living in Toronto and it was easy to find there -- redder than both one and two, hotter than the hubs of Hades and yet also tasty. Eureka! I substitute this one for nearly all my hot dry spice needs now, unless the more earthy "Texan smoky" style that goes so well with cumin and other Southwestern spicy things is called for. But come to think of it, I use a lot of whole cumin when cooking Indian and then it's the ground chiles I reach for...

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Right that in the States, it's largely a matter of spelling and you have to look closely.

Of course, this distinction is impossible to determine from the pronunciation.

"Chili" is name of the regional dish to which we are accustomed. It's a mixture of some sort of liquid, often with tomatoes, some sort of meat, usually beef with some pork for flavor, and then the big fuss about beans or no beans. The seasoning for chili usually involves chiles (with an e) and some other herbs, spices, etc. So if you buy chili (with an i) powder, you can expect it to have other seasonings besides chiles; most often, cumin, but also sometimes oregano, garlic, etc.

If you see "chile powder," that's ground chiles, usually with nothing more added. Cayenne is ground red chiles, usually with nothing more added.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Hi Folks,

Interesting thread. I was actually contemplating posting this same question a month or two ago. I am in the US and was having a conversation with my sister in the UK. I had her check her bottle of chili powder, and it only contained chili peppers, whereas mine contained the same as infernooo mentioned.

So, just to get this right, if I use a recipe from the UK and it calls for chili powder, I should actually be using dried ground chillies, or perhaps cayenne?

I recently purchased a bag of dried chillies from an Indian grocery, so I'm guessing I could just grind those up and use for a UK recipe with chili powder.

I don't post too often here, I'm more of a lurker, but you just learn so much. What a great place.

Thanks,

Rob.

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Typical "flavoring" chilis are ancho, pasiella, and guajillo--all dried powders-sometimes sold in combination and including cumin and maybe paprika--not hot. Hot chilis are chipotle and the like or chipotle in adobo (dried smoked jalapeno in a tomato sauce) and the like. Chili's are not always hot--the heat could come from cayenne, jalapeno, tabasco, habenero, etc. Read the label--the first named chilis are the ones in "chili con carne"--add heat to your liking.

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Nice thread. I actually did a whole paper in my culinary arts class about Cayenne Pepper. To add to the "confusion" :smile: , what I found out is that (agreeing with most of the posters) cayenne pepper is not a blend of other spices with chiles (like Chili Powder), but solely ground chiles...but not always only cayenne chiles. It can be a blend of chiles and is usually distinctive because it's ground very fine.

And FWIW, for Chili Powder, I really like Gebhardt's if I use premade

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...

So, just to get this right, if I use a recipe from the UK and it calls for chili powder, I should actually be using dried ground chillies, or perhaps cayenne?

...

No.

Here in the UK "chili powder" (one L) should mean a seasoning blend.

"Powdered chilli" (or chillie, anyway two L's) should mean nothing but ground, dried, hot peppers - and Cayenne is one of the few specific named varieties of dried hot chilli on the typical supermarket shelf. And if that's what its claiming, in the UK, that's what it must, by law, be.

I said "should mean" because of inevitable typo's, sub-editors, general ignorance, etc... :rolleyes:

As a backup, you might well be able to determine which is which by the context and quantity. If its a really large quantity, hopefully it isn't cayenne or other pure chilli ... :huh:

The thing I always find myself evaluating is when a recipe mentions "cocoa powder". Does this guy mean pure cocoa, or does he actually mean drinking chocolate powder? Depends on the author... Again, phrasing it as "powdered cocoa" should remove all ambiguity.

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Here in the UK "chili powder" (one L) should mean a seasoning blend.

Thanks for the clarification dougal. Do you have a bottle of "chili powder" in your cupboard? Could you have a look and tell me what is in it?

Come to think of it, when my sister told me the ingredients, I cannot remember whether she referred to it as chili powder or powdered chilli. I'll have to ask her again to be sure.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Here in the UK "chili powder" (one L) should mean a seasoning blend.

Thanks for the clarification dougal. Do you have a bottle of "chili powder" in your cupboard? Could you have a look and tell me what is in it?

Not currently... so I actually looked on a couple of shop shelves before, ... doh! The interweb thingy!

This should illustrate that things, in reality, are actually rather inconsistent.

Note the spelling in the page title and in the description - just one L

But the pack label has two Ls ... :rolleyes:

http://www.schwartz.co.uk/productdetail.cfm?id=5153

Anyway, it gives you a list of all the ingredients (in decreasing weight order)

The 'mild' is 10% Cayenne (hot is 20%) plus another mixture, called, yep, double L "chilli powder" :rolleyes: (there's a callout of its ingredients) - but it does seem fair to say that you shouldn't rely on spelling alone!

Hope that helps! :wink:

"If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch ... you must first invent the universe." - Carl Sagan

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