Take control of your cooking and revel in the difference by making flavor-powered homemade chili powder that's salt-free, gluten-free and better than anything you can buy.
DIY – Why?
Making your own chili powder? It's more than a cooking vanity project. It makes a difference! This savory spice blend has the power to turn a variety of dishes from ‘so-so’ into favorites. Whether you want spicy dishes like 5-alarm chili or the sweet flavor of sweet potato and 3-bean chili, or just a touch of heat in black bean soup, the foundation is chili powder. And, given how easy it is to make, I really don't know why I resisted this so long.
When I started thinking about making my own blend, I started by scanning my spice rack and cache of various prepared jars.
I learned a lot from that bit of research.
Some of those jars amounted to ground chilis (of undetermined varieties). Several of the 'hot' brands were overwhelmed with cayenne pepper and very little else. Some were so hot that any intended flavor was undetectable. And some had added sugar and salt. Finally, chili seasoning should not be mistaken for chili powder. Or, at the very least, be conscientious of the ingredients.
Then I considered the way I was using chili powder. That was primarily for the heat (or because I thought I should). I was then adding to it cumin, smoked paprika, oregano – all sorts of things.
Why? Because I didn’t have the mix ‘right’. That means concocting the best chili powder, using a few easy-to-obtain ingredients.
And now, I’m moving on. Ok, slightly forward. I won’t tell you that you’ll never see another recipe that calls for chili powder (chile powder) and additional spices. Many recipes, including chili, might need a top-up of individual spices or new flavors like cocoa powder. But food will taste better if you start with a great chili powder recipe.
What’s in chili powder?
It depends on who's making it and your intention. This recipe is specifically a Mexican-style spice blend. For some recipes, specifically Indian cuisine, you may want to look for a Kashmiri blend – that's a whole 'nother beast. It’s an entirely different type of chili powder.
Another motivation for making my own - quality control. Homemade means you can make it with or without onion or garlic. Salt, often used in the prepared kind, isn't a feature of our blend.
Here's what I used in my personal chili powder blend. And like all cooking, you can modify this as you like. This is a bit on the spicy side, so you may want to tone it down depending on your preferences.
1 tablespoon of hot smoked paprika
1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
1 tablespoon of oregano (or Mexican oregano)
1 ½ teaspoon of cumin
1 ½ teaspoon of garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
1 teaspoon of ground chipotle pepper flakes
1 teaspoon of ground ancho pepper flakes
It’s critical when you use spices or make blends that you check the expiration dates. Your chili powder is most potent before the expiration of the oldest ingredient. I try to date, not when I made a blend, but that oldest ingredient date. That keeps your spices reliably potent.
If you don’t have (or don’t like) chipotle or ancho chilis, you can always make substitutions. If you find chilis already ground, grab a tablespoon. If you find them as chili flakes, grab a spice grinder and pulverize them. If you find whole, dried chilies, they are best if you toast them first, deseed them if you don’t want too much heat, then grind them.
You could also use this process for the cumin if you only have seeds. If that’s the case, you may want to toast the cumin seeds before grinding them. Toasting cumin seeds will release their flavor.
I used 2 types of paprika, smoked and sweet. Before confusion ensues in front of the store shelf sets in, let’s talk paprika.
There are three basic kinds.
1. Sweet paprika. If you find a jar labeled ‘paprika’, that's the sweet or basic stuff. Sweet paprika has no heat, just a sweet pepper flavor. It's the best for garnishing potato salads, even hummus.
2. Smoked paprika. Sweet paprika is used to calm down the spiciness of a dish. On the other hand, smoked paprika, or smoked Spanish paprika, adds a smoky flavor. The flavor comes from roasting red peppers before drying them and grinding them. Smoked paprika adds a charcoal flavor that can be delightful for foods such as tofu bacon, vegan sausage crumbles, or recipes where you want to deepen the flavor.
Here’s the tricky part and where you want to watch your labels. Smoked paprika comes in three heat waves – mild, medium, and hot. This is an ingredient that might assist in toning down your chili powder. If you use mild smoked paprika, it could offset the chipotle and ancho chili powder. You could also use mild smoked paprika in place of the sweet paprika. The result will be slightly more of a smoky flavor.
3. Hot paprika. If someone mentions Hungarian paprika, chances are, they are referring to hot paprika. This is the good stuff and is more than a color booster paprika. Add it to any dish for a unique, peppery kick.
Tips for Using Chili Powder
Cayenne pepper is not a substitution for chili powder. Nor is paprika.
Most importantly, when using any spicy ingredient (or salt), you want to test it. Put a bit on your finger and taste it. Then start by adding half of what your recipe calls for and give the spice time to mix with your ingredients. Taste it and then adjust with more if desired.
Unless it gets wet, chili powder will last for years; however, it will, over time, lose potency. For this reason, you should always check the expiration date on the bottle. If you make chili powder, note the expiration date of the oldest ingredient.
Not all chili powders are gluten-free. Ingredients containing gluten, such as wheat flour, can be used as filler in some prepared brands. This is another reason why making your own chili powder is a good idea.
If you add too much and your dish is too spicy, there are a few things you can do. First, add more sweeteners, like maple syrup or date paste. Coconut milk or vegan sour cream can also mitigate too much spice. Nut butter such as tahini or even peanut butter can mellow the bite, as can starchy vegetables or beans.
Our Favorite Recipes Using Chili Powder
homemade chili powder recipe
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 0 minutes
- Total Time: 15 minutes
- Yield: 5 Tbsp. 1x
- Category: Essential Ingredients
- Cuisine: Mexican
- Diet: Low Salt
- 1 Tbsp. of hot smoked paprika
- 1 Tbsp. of sweet paprika
- 1 Tbsp. of dried oregano
- 1 ½ tsp. of ground cumin
- 1 ½ tsp. of garlic powder
- 1 tsp. of onion powder
- 1 tsp. of ground chipotle pepper
- 1 tsp. of ground ancho pepper
- Grind the spices. If you buy whole chilies or chili flakes, use a spice grinder to break them down into a fine powder.
- Mix the ingredients. Combine all of the ingredients into a jar with a lid or airtight container.
- Label and date. Date the expiration for the earliest date of any individual ingredient. Add a name label so that you don't mix it up with another spice blend.
- Chili powder can be kept for years, but its potency is dictated by the oldest spice in the mix. This is why it's important to label and date your homemade chili powder.
- Not all chili powder is gluten-free; however, making it yourself ensures that it is.
- Before using chili powder, be sure to give the jar shake so that all the ingredients are equally disbursed.
- Store homemade chili powder in a sealed container in a cool place, away from heat sources (your stove). That will keep it fresher for longer.
- Taste your chili powder before using it and add it a little at a time in dishes to avoid over-spicing. If your food is too spicy-hot, add a sweetener like maple syrup or date paste. Coconut milk or vegan sour cream can help mitigate the spice, as can a starchy vegetable such as potatoes or adding more beans to a recipe.
Keywords: homemade chili powder recipe, chipotle, paprika, ancho, salt-free, gluten-free