Chile Peppers Spicy and Surprisingly Healthy

Did you know that chile peppers are very healthy?  Chile peppers are an ingredient that you may want to cook with more often.  There are many uses for them and they are a nutrient and vitamin-rich food.  They also have carotenoids and anti-oxidants in abundance.

Where do Chile Peppers Originate?

There are a great many varietals of chiles.  At this point of human history, chiles are grown in many countries around the world.  Over a hundred varieties of chiles are grown in Mexico alone.  They normally grow on bushes.  They are quite ancient and were used by the Aztecs and Incas in days of old.

Uses for the Chile Pepper

Generally, chiles are used for both culinary and medicinal purposes.  Some chiles can rid the body of fever and dried chile can be put on some skin wounds as well.  Sometimes, chiles are used in a decorative fashion. They are usually arranged into colorful bunches and hung or gathered into an appealing basket.

Color of Chile Pepper

Since there are so many varieties of chile, it stands to reason that they look different, too.  Chiles present in a wide range of color, including orange, red, yellow and green.  Some peppers are long and thin whereas others are round and fat. They also differ greatly in their “hotness,” with some being quite mild but others that will burn your mouth.

Chiles Are Used Dry or Fresh

Many times, chiles are dried in order to concentrate them into a more potent form.  Chile varietals have a different smell from each other and naturally a distinct taste as well.  Chiles can be served as fried or stuffed and are often toasted.  They are often used as a common ingredient in food such as enchiladas or salsa.

How Chiles Are Prepared

Chiles are prepared by removing the stem and seeds.  Then they must be toasted and peeled.  The toasting technique is different for dried chiles than it is for fresh ones.  Fresh chiles should be lightly toasted in a cast iron skillet.  Dried chiles should be cooked in a saute pan and pressed into the pan in order to get the dry chile really brown.

Use of Chiles in Tapas

Tapas originated in the nineteenth century in southern Spain.  Chiles are a very important ingredient in the tapas dishes of Spain.  Tapas are dishes served in very small portions and there is great variety in the ingredients used.  Many tapas have special sauces and chiles may be used frequently to make tapas more savory.

Chiles in Paella

Chiles are also a frequent ingredient in Paella dishes.  Paella is a rice dish that is arguably the most important dish in Spain.  The rice is prepared with vegetables and rabbit, poultry, chicken, seafood or game.  Although saffron is a very essential seasoning in Paella, much use may be made of chiles for flavoring also.

Chiles in Enchiladas

Chiles are a key ingredient in enchiladas.  Enchiladas are popular in Mexico and around the world and are made with a variety of sauces.  Some of these sauces feature chiles as being of primary importance.  Enchiladas often have red or green sauce with mild or hot chiles.

These are some of the essential attributes of the versatile chile pepper.  Chiles are used in many dishes, including enchiladas, tapas and paella.  Consider expanding your ingredients pantry to add more wonderful chiles to your palate.


Luard, E. The Latin American Kitchen. (2006) Kyle Books: Lanham, MD 20706.


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Written by Andrea