Ancho vs. Poblano (What’s the Difference?)

Most likely, you know that both ancho and poblano are names of chili peppers. You might even have grown poblano peppers in your garden. But do you know the difference between ancho and poblano peppers?

Actually, both ancho and poblano peppers are the same plant. The only difference is that ancho peppers are actually the dried version of the poblano. These are normally red, while poblano peppers that are used fresh are picked when they’re still dark green.

So, the main difference between the ancho and poblano peppers is that ancho peppers are red while poblano peppers are green. However, once dried, the ancho peppers are almost black. But essentially, they’re the same plant.

Here are some additional differences between ancho and poblano peppers.

Ancho Peppers are Dried while Poblano Peppers are Used Fresh

As you now know, ancho peppers are the dried version of the poblano pepper. Once dried, ancho peppers are usually ground into chili powder, and it is this powder that is most commonly used in cooking.

On the other hand, poblano peppers are normally used fresh in a whole variety of Mexican dishes. They are picked when still green and chopped up, and thrown into the cooking.

Poblano peppers

Ancho Peppers and Poblano Peppers are Picked at Different Stages

A poblano pepper is picked while it is still green and before it has matured completely. This is the ideal time to pick these peppers because they will be crunchy and full of flavor.

However, to create ancho peppers, the poblanos are left to mature on the plant until they turn red. At this stage, they can be picked and dried. Bear in mind, though, that once dried, the ancho peppers will turn a much darker color and will be almost black.

Poblano and Ancho Peppers Vary in Taste

While fresh green poblano peppers are quite a mild, sweet chili with an earthy flavor, dried ancho peppers tend to have a smokier flavor due to the maturing and drying process.

Poblano peppers are usually sweeter and milder than anchos. This is because the ancho has been left on the plant to mature for longer. This has resulted in the pepper developing a little more heat.

Is it Possible to Substitute a Poblano Pepper for an Ancho?

Because poblano and ancho peppers are the same plant, it is possible to substitute one for the other in a recipe. However, the end result will be slightly different. This is because ancho peppers are a little hotter, and they also have a smokier flavor.

Ancho pepper, CarstorCC BY-SA 2.5, via Wikimedia Commons

Poblano Peppers Produce Two Varieties of Dried Chilis

To add even more confusion, there are actually two different versions of dried poblano peppers with different names. Here’s a quick explanation:

  • Ancho chilies are picked when the poblanos are almost ripe and red in color.
  • Mulato chilies are picked when the poblanos are fully ripe and brown in color.

Both of these varieties are dried and used extensively in Mexican cuisine. The mulato chili has a slightly chocolaty flavor.

What are Ancho Chilies commonly Used for?

Ancho chilies can either be ground into a powder, or they can be reconstituted and used to make sauces or marinades. Interestingly, the powder derived from grinding dried ancho chilies is slightly milder in flavor than the actual chili itself.

To reconstitute an ancho pepper, all you have to do is soak it in hot water for around 15 to 30 minutes. It can then either be chopped up and added to your cooking, or it can be pureed before adding.

Both chopped up or pureed, the ancho chili has a mild to medium heat somewhere between 1,000 and 2,000 Scoville heat units. When you compare this to a jalapeno that averages at around 5,000 SHU, you’ll understand why ancho peppers are so popular.

Are Poblano Peppers Eaten Raw?

It is possible to eat poblano peppers raw as they are just mildly hot. However, their flavor is much better when they are cooked and added to your favorite Mexican dishes.

So, although poblano peppers are used fresh, they are generally incorporated into the cooking rather than eaten raw. One of the most common ways that poblano peppers are used is by stuffing them and adding them to certain Mexican dishes.

Are Roasted Poblano Peppers Similar to Ancho Peppers?

Even roasted, poblano peppers will not have the same depth of flavor that ancho peppers do. Because ancho peppers are dried, they have a much more concentrated flavor as the drying process does help to concentrate the flavor of most fruits and vegetables.

Can you Make your Own Ancho Chilies from Poblano Peppers?

If you’re growing poblano peppers, it’s entirely possible to make your own ancho chilies as well as chili powders. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Leave the poblano peppers on the plant to semi-mature until they turn red.
  • Once they’ve turned red, you can pick the peppers and get them ready to dry.
  • The best way to dry them is in a food dehydrator.
  • Set the temperature to 130 degrees Fahrenheit (54 degrees Celsius).
  • Place the peppers in a single layer on your dehydrator trays and dry them for around 12 hours. Depending on the size of your peppers, this drying time may vary a bit.
  • Alternatively, for a slower drying process, you can string your pepper together and hang them in a warm, dry spot for around a month. This is the traditional way of drying poblano peppers to make ancho chilies.

Here’s how to make chili powder from your ancho peppers:

  • Once the peppers are fully dry, remove the seeds.
  • Put the dried flesh into a grinder and pulse until a fine powder is produced.
  • Avoid using your coffee grinder for this because the chili flavor is hard to remove from the grinder.
  • Only grind up enough of the ancho flesh for what you need because chili powders will have the best flavor when they’re freshly ground.