Ancho Chiles (pronounced "AHN CHo"), Capsicum Annuum, are also referred to as chile ancho, ancho chili, and ancho pepper. Known as Poblano chiles when in their fresh state, this mild chile is native to the Mexican State of Puebla. In their native region when dried they are called chile ancho which translates to "wide chile". The dried Ancho chile has a more intense flavor profile than the poblano and has been a key ingredient in Puebla cuisine for thousands of years.
Ancho Chiles are the most commonly used dried chile in Mexican cuisine and are one of the famous "holy trinity" of chiles used in Mexican moles, along with the Pasilla Negro Chiles and the Guajillo Chiles. This heart shaped dried pepper is about 3" wide and 4" in length and tapers to a point. They are a deep, reddish brown to black in color and the texture is wrinkled. A top grade Ancho should be clean, pliable, untorn and aromatic with a smell that is a bit like prunes.
The staple chile in authentic Mexican cooking, Ancho peppers are a critical ingredient in red chili, tamales, many moles, enchiladas, salsa, soups and any sauce that may need some extra mild heat. You can add them directly to your recipes - sliced, diced or pureed. The whole dried pod can be ground in a blender (with or without the seeds, depending on your heat and flavor preferences).
For more flavor, lightly toast Ancho Chiles in a hot pan for about 30 seconds per side, just until they start to blister. They can easily be re-hydrated by pouring hot water or broth over them and letting them sit for 10-20 minutes. Don't let them soak much longer than that, as they may become bitter. A puree of soaked Ancho chiles will be reddish brown in color with a rich, mild, almost sweet taste and slightly bitter undertones. We like to save the liquid from rehydrating as it absorbs the great flavor from the softened chiles. Use the liquid in the recipe at hand, or save it to lend flavor depth to braises, soups and stews.
Per ounce, Ancho chile provides more pulp than most dried chiles. The heat of the chile comes from the veins inside the pod and before rehydrating some cooks prefer to remove some or most of the seeds and veins as these lend more bitterness to the finished recipe.
Scoville heat rating (SHU) of 500 to 1,500