Basic Chili Paste to Replace Chili Powder Recipe

Photograph: J. Kenji López-Alt

Why It Works

  • A blend of dried whole chilies gives you better flavor than any dried-chili powder.
  • Simmering the chilies and puréeing them eliminates any gritty texture.

Whether you're making real Texas-style chile con carne (no beans, please!); a quick weeknight ground-beef-and-canned-bean chili; or even a vegan or vegetarian version, the best thing you can do to up your chili game is to leave those jars of pre-ground chili powder on the shelf. Starting your chili with real, honest-to-goodness whole dried chilies will save you money, while adding layer upon layer of complex flavor that you never thought was possible.

Recipe Facts



Active: 10 mins
Total: 15 mins
Makes: 1 quart

Rate & Comment


  • 3 whole sweet fresh dried chilies, such as costeño, New Mexico, or choricero, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 small hot dried chilies, such as árbol or cascabel, stems and seeds removed
  • 3 whole rich, fruity dried chilies, such as ancho, mulato, negro, or pasilla, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 whole chipotle dried chilies canned in adobo sauce, plus 2 tablespoons (30ml) sauce
  • 1 quart (950ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock


  1. Place chilies on a microwave-safe plate and microwave on high at 15-second intervals until hot, pliable, and toasted-smelling, about 30 seconds total.

  2. Combine all chilies in a medium saucepan and add chicken broth. Simmer over medium-high heat until chilies are completely tender, about 10 minutes. Alternatively, place chilies and chicken broth in a 2-quart microwave-safe container, cover with plastic wrap, and microwave on high power until liquid is simmering, about 5 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes. Transfer to a countertop blender or hand blender cup and blend until completely smooth.

  3. Store chili paste in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Alternatively, divide paste into ice cube trays, freeze, and transfer frozen chili paste cubes into freezer bags to store in the freezer for up to 6 months.

Special equipment

Countertop blender or hand blender


Chili purée can be substituted about 4:1 for chili powder (i.e., use four tablespoons of purée for every tablespoon of powder called for in a recipe). It can be stored by freezing it in an ice cube tray, popping out the cubes, and placing them in a freezer bag for up to six months.

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