How to Re-Hydrate Chiles

  • 01 of 06

    How to Re-Hydrate Chiles

    Dried Chiles
    Lew Robertson, Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images

    Usually, when you buy dried chiles you will buy them in a cellophane package or on a rista and sometimes you can buy them in bulk. In either case, you want to use chiles that are whole, not broken or split open. They should be tough, yet slightly bendable with no discoloration or light spots. They should also be uniform in color and evenly dried. Once you have picked out the best possible chiles, it is time to re-hydrate them for use in recipes.

    Here is an example of what your chiles should look...MORE like. These are New Mexico chiles, fairly even in color and no broken pieces or tears.

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  • 02 of 06

    Remove Seeds and Stems

    Dried Chiles and Seeds
    Sliced dried chiles on a colorful plate with seeds. Getty Images

    Next, cut the top off of each chile to remove the stem. Then, cut a slit down the side of the chile to split it open. The majority of the seeds will shake right out. Use your fingers or a spoon to scrape any additional seeds off and pull off any dried veins.

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  • 03 of 06

    Roasting the Chiles

    Chiles on a Griddle
    Four charred red chiles on a black griddle. Getty Images

    After discarding the seeds, place the chiles on a medium/hot comal (or griddle) and roast them for three to four minutes. Turn them often to prevent burning. If they do burn, they will need to be discarded as they will impart the burnt flavor to anything you make with them.

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  • 04 of 06

    Soak the Chiles

    Chiles Soaking in a Bowl
    Charred red chiles soaking in a clear glass bowl. Getty Images

    After roasting the chiles, place them in a bowl and cover them with hot water. The chiles will need to soak 20 to 30 minutes depending on how thick they are. Use a spoon to occasionally push them under the water if they float too much.

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  • 05 of 06

    The Soaking Liquid

    Brown Chile Water in a Bowl
    Glass bowl full of brown chile water and some chile remnants. Getty Images

    After you soak the chiles the water will be a brownish color like very diluted coffee. Depending on the chile, it may be bitter or it may have the flavor of the chiles in it, which may actually be similar in flavor to diluted coffee. If the water is bitter, discard it. If the water has a good flavor to it, you can use it in the recipe in place of any water that is called for. Or you can save it and use it to cook meats in or add it to other stews.

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  • 06 of 06

    Puree the Chiles

    Chiles in a Food Processor
    Clear food processor on a plaid tablecloth chopping up red chiles. Getty Images

    In some recipes, you can use the chiles once they have been re-hydrated. You can chop them up and add them as desired. You will most likely need one more step, though. In the old days, rehydrated chiles were ground up using stone tools and then added to the dish. With modern conveniences, we can do this with a blender. (A food processor will do a reasonable job, but may not get it as smooth as necessary. A mini-food processor that has a smaller blade does the job as well as a blender, and...MORE it's easier to clean.

    You will need to add some liquid to the chiles to blend them properly. The liquid will depend on what you're making. For general use, plain water is fine. Or if it is not bitter, you can use some of the soaking liquid. If you are making a sauce with vinegar in it, use a portion of the vinegar from the recipe.

    Blend or process the chiles and liquid into a paste and use as needed. It is also convenient to add your seasoning to the chile paste. Throw a couple of garlic cloves in and you can avoid having to chop the garlic separately.