Have you ever been in a pinch for pasilla peppers?
Whether it’s for your family’s favorite chile relleno recipe or a special dish for your next gathering, finding the perfect substitute can be tricky.
You don’t want to miss out on the flavor and texture you’re familiar with.
That’s why we’ve put together this list of the 5 best substitutes for Pasilla Peppers.
What’s Pasilla Pepper?
Pasilla peppers are a type of chile pepper belonging to the species Capsicum annuum.
It is very similar to an ancho pepper and the two are sometimes confused.
However, pasilla peppers are far rarer than ancho peppers and have more intense flavor.
The name “pasilla” comes from the Mexican word for “little raisin,” referring to their dark color.
Pasilla peppers also go by other names like chilaca and negro, which roughly translate to “bird chile” and “black” respectively.
These long, curved peppers range in size from about 5 to 10 inches in length and ripen from a bright green color to a dark brown or black on the plant.
Pasillas can be used fresh or dried, and the dried version has more intense heat.
Pasilla peppers usually register between 1,000 – 2,500 on the Scoville scale (which measures pungency or heat), meaning they don’t provide much heat but instead bring smoky depth to recipes that require them as ingredients.
5 BEST Pasilla Peppers Substitutes to Consider
When it comes to finding the best substitutes for these peppers, there are several options to consider.
Though they may not have the same flavor as pasilla peppers, they provide some of the key qualities that make these chile peppers so popular.
Here are 5 substitutable dry chili peppers to consider when you’re in need of a swap-out option:
1 – Ancho Peppers
Ancho peppers are the dried form of poblano peppers, and are perhaps the most common substitute for pasilla pepper.
Ancho peppers carry a mild spice that is usually described as having a smoky, sweet flavor.
It has a heat level anywhere from 0 to 1,000 Scoville heat units but usually hovers around 500 SHU—a third of the Pasilla pepper’s rating on the Scoville scale.
As its sweet flavor profile becomes more noticeable with prolonged cooking, ancho peppers are best used for dishes such as chilis, soups and sauces that cook for longer periods of time.
2 – Guajillo Peppers
Guajillo peppers are similar to pasilla peppers in that they are both dried forms of chilaca peppers and have a mild heat level.
Guajillo peppers actually measure higher on the Scoville scale that pasilla peppers, with a range of 2,500 to 5,000 SHU.
However, guajillo peppers are a bit more tangy in flavor and not as sweet as pasilla peppers.
To use guajillo peppers as a substitute for pasilla peppers, simply remove the stems and seeds before using them in your recipe.
If you find their flavor is too strong or too spicy for your dish, you can soak them in hot water prior to using them for about 30 minutes to reduce their heat level.
3 – Mulato Peppers
Mulato peppers are a popular substitute for pasilla peppers due to their similar flavor and heat profile.
Many cooks familiar with Mexican cuisine say that the flavor of mulato peppers is sweeter than pasilla, but they still have enough heat to be considered a suitable substitute.
Mulato pepper plants have dark green leaves and reach up to two feet in height.
They turn midnight black when ripe and have a mild and sweet smoky-chocolate like flavor.
Mulato peppers rate between 2,500-3,500 Scoville Heat Units (which is slightly higher than pasillas).
You can find dried mulatos in Mexican markets or online.
When substituting dried mulatos for fresh pasilla peppers, keep in mind that 1 teaspoon of ground dried mulato pepper can replace one fresh pasilla pepper in most recipes.
4 – Chipotle Peppers
Just as pasilla peppers are dried chilies, chipotle peppers also take a dried form, however they are smoked jalapeno peppers.
Incredibly spicy and smoky in flavor, they will add a unique taste and heat to any dish.
Chipotle peppers can be bought whole or ground into a powder or paste.
You can substitute pasilla peppers with one large or two small chipotle pepper which have been finely chopped and roasted, adding the desired smokiness to your dish.
When substituting 1 pasilla pepper for 1 chipotle pepper, use half of the amount that the recipe calls for when using ground chipotles for more mild recipes.
5 – Habanero Peppers
Habanero peppers are considered to be one of the hottest of all chili peppers.
They range from 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), which is much higher than pasilla peppers.
This makes them one of the best substitutes for pasilla peppers if you’re looking to add a bit of heat to your recipes.
Habaneros come in a range of colors, including yellow, orange and red.
When purchasing fresh habaneros, look for fruits that are firm and brightly colored — avoid any with blemishes or soft spots.
For safety reasons, it’s best to wear gloves when preparing these peppers as their capsaicin-filled seeds can cause skin irritation if touched directly.
Habanero chilies work well when used in salsas, sauces or marinades and make an excellent substitute for Pasilla peppers in stews and other Mexican dishes that require a bit of extra heat.
In conclusion, if you’re looking for a substitute for pasilla peppers, then you have many choices depending on what flavors or heat levels you desire.
If you want a mild flavor with smoky tones, then Anaheim peppers or Poblanos are the best choices.
For something slightly spicier while still maintaining that smokiness, jalapenos are the way to go.
For citrusy flavors plus some heat, serranos are your best bet.
And finally, habaneros provide intense heat but don’t have any smokiness that pasillas possess.
Whichever substitute you choose for your recipe will depend on your taste preferences and the final dish that you’re making.
If you’re ever in doubt, just ask yourself – What is the flavor profile I need to complete my dish? – and select a pepper accordingly.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is a Pasilla pepper?
A Pasilla pepper is a type of Mexican chili pepper.
It is milder and larger than other chili peppers and has a sweet, smoky flavor.
What is the difference between Pasilla peppers and other chili peppers?
Pasilla peppers are milder and larger than other chili peppers and have a sweet, smoky flavor.
Other chili peppers are usually spicier and smaller in size.
Carrie is a food writer and editor with more than 15 years of experience. She has worked for some of the biggest names in the food industry, including Bon Appétit, Food & Wine, and Martha Stewart Living.
As the Editor in Chief of IntroChicago.com, Carrie oversees all of the content on the site. She also manages the team of contributing writers and editors, who help to create delicious recipes, helpful tips, and informative articles that you’ll find on the site.
A native of the Chicago area, Carrie is passionate about all things food. She loves trying new restaurants and experimenting with new recipes in her kitchen. She’s also a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America, so she knows a thing or two about food!