Poblano Vs Pasilla – What’s The Difference?
Unless you’re a chili connoisseur, you may not realize how wonderfully complex the world of chili peppers can be. These innocent-looking peppers come in a myriad of flavor profiles that can change the taste (and heat level) of any dish.
So, what’s the difference between poblano vs. pasilla chili peppers? Both peppers are relatively mild with a similar level of spiciness. Poblano is a much larger chili, similar in size to a bell pepper, and is sold fresh. Pasilla pepper is a small, thin chili and is normally sold dried.
These two peppers are commonly confused with each other, so many people think they are interchangeable. However, there are some key differences between these two chilies, which means they should not be used as a substitute for each other.
Let’s find out everything you need to know with our poblano versus pasilla comparison!
Are Poblano And Pasilla The Same?
Okay, so the first thing we need to address is the reason for the confusion around poblano and pasilla chilies. These are two distinctly different types of chili pepper, but many people think they are the same thing.
The reason for this is that in the United States, Canada, and northern Mexico, the poblano can sometimes be known as the pasilla chili. This misnaming makes it easy to see how the confusion has arisen!
Pasilla is the name of a chili pepper in its own right, normally used to refer to the dried fruit of the chilaca pepper plant.
Poblano peppers are a completely different type of chili and come from a plant of the same name. Just to add to the confusion, dried poblano peppers are sometimes also called an ancho.
So now we know that poblano and pasilla chilies are not the same thing, let’s find out the key differences between the two!
What Is Poblano Pepper?
The poblano is a large, heart-shaped chili pepper named after the central Mexican state of Puebla where it originates.
These are one of the largest types of chili pepper, growing up to four inches long.
These large, wide peppers have a thick skin that holds its shape well when cooked, making them ideal for stuffing.
When fully ripe, the skin ripens to a rich, deep greeny-brown hue. However, they are normally harvested when they are still bright green before they are fully ripe.
Like most chili peppers, poblanos become hotter the riper they are. If harvested whilst still green, they have a very minimal level of heat, but still have the characteristic warm flavor of chili pepper.
If a poblano chili is left to fully mature on the plant, its flavor profile becomes much more complex and developed, gaining a rich, deep, smoky taste.
The poblano chili pepper is often regarded as the most flavorful variety of mild pepper available and is incredibly popular in both North America and Mexico.
As well as being the perfect pepper for roasting and stuffing, these chilies also taste incredible when peeled. They are often served this way inside a tortilla wrap, along with guacamole and refried beans.
You may also hear poblano chilies referred to as Capsicum Annum, as this is the official name for the plant which bears the poblano fruit.
Dried poblano peppers are also known as ancho or chile ancho. But remember, a poblano pepper is not the same thing as a pasilla pepper!
What Is Pasilla Pepper?
Pasilla, or chile pasilla, is the name used to describe the dried form of chilaca pepper.
Interestingly, the name translates as ‘little raisin’, which should tell you a lot about what this pepper looks like!
In their fresh form, pasilla peppers are very long, growing up to 10 inches in length. However, they are very thin, and you would be hard pushed to stuff one of these skinny little chili peppers!
A fresh pasilla chile is also known as pasilla bajio, chile negro, or ‘Mexican negro.’ This is because when the fruit is ripening, it turns from a dark green color to deep brown.
However, if you ever see fresh chilies being sold labeled as pasilla chili, this is incorrect! This name should only ever be used to describe the dried fruit of the chilaca pepper.
Dried pasilla peppers can be bought whole or ground in chili flakes or powder. They are popular in Mexican sauces such as moles, table sauces, and salsas.
When combined with ancho and guajillo peppers, the pasilla chili is referred to as being one of the holy trinity of Mexican chili peppers.
Poblano Vs Pasilla Comparison
Now that we know the backgrounds of these two chili peppers, let’s learn more about what makes them unique!
One of the most visible differences between the poblano and pasilla chili pepper is their appearance. These are both relatively large peppers, but have very different shapes and sizes.
The poblano is a short wide pepper, around 4 inches long and up to 3 inches wide. Their bulky size resembles a bell pepper and means they can often be used as the main ingredient in a dish.
Poblano peppers are ideal for stuffing and baking in the oven, and also skinning for use in tortilla wraps.
Pasilla chiles are long, thin peppers. They can be up to 10 inches long but are very thin. Because of this, pasilla peppers are only really ever used as a flavoring rather than a primary ingredient.
There is one aspect to the appearance of these two chili peppers that can lead to confusion: at certain stages of ripening, these peppers can be exactly the same in terms of color.
When unripe, both are bright green and this will slowly turn into a dark green as they begin to ripen. Both peppers will become dark brown when fully ripe, but it is unlikely that you will ever see either in this form.
Poblano peppers are typically harvested whilst they are still bright green and unripe. Pasilla peppers are dried out and will have a dark brown color.
In terms of flavor, the poblano and pasilla chili peppers are worlds apart! This is one of those times when we get to explain to you how wonderfully diverse and exciting the world of chili peppers really is.
Yes, these two peppers come from the same family of plants, but they are unique in terms of flavor and are used in very different ways.
The poblano pepper is normally harvested when green and unripe. This is before it fully develops its heat, so it will only have a mild spiciness. In this state, most people can eat a poblano pepper, either raw or cooked, without any problems.
In terms of flavor, poblano peppers are more like green bell peppers than any other type of chili. They have a delicious fruity flavor, with some punch and zinginess from the chili, and a mild sweetness that intensifies when cooked.
In contrast, a dried pasilla chili has a smoky, fruity, and earthy flavor. People often compare the flavor of pasillas to dried fruits and berries, such as raisins. This may be where they got their name, which translates as “little raisin.”
These dried chilies are less sweet than poblanos, although they do share a similar level of fruitiness.
Interestingly, the flavor of pasilla chilies is most often compared to ancho chilies, which just happens to be the dried form of poblanos! However, even when these two chilies are both dried, the poblano definitely has a sweeter flavor.
Pasilla chilies are more earthy and intense than poblano or ancho chilies.
Now, let’s get to the question most people want the answer to when we are talking about chili peppers: the heat level!
While we agree that the level of heat and spiciness is important, try not to overlook the important flavors that can come from adding chilies to your food.
There are so many different types of chili pepper, all with a myriad of flavor profiles, that this can make a huge difference to your dish.
So, back to the heat question – how do poblano peppers compare to pasilla peppers?
The heat of chili peppers is measured on something called the Scoville scale.
To give you an idea of how this scale works, a relatively mild chili such as the jalapeno scores around 5,000 points on the Scoville scale. This is generally mild enough for most people to handle without any problems.
Comparatively, the terrifyingly-named Trinidad Moruga Scorpion chili weighs in at a whopping 1.2 million points on the Scoville scale – this is a pepper you would not consider handling without gloves, let alone eating raw!
How do our two chili peppers in question fit into this scale?
Well, the poblano is a very mild chili, scoring just 1,000 to 2,000 on the Scoville scale. This means they are mild enough to just give a slight tingle or zinginess, without causing any burning sensation.
Remember that poblano chilies do get hotter as they ripen, so they may well be a bit spicier if left on the plant for longer!
Pasilla peppers are slightly hotter than poblanos, measuring 1,000 to 2,500 on the Scoville scale. This is still very mild, and they are prized more for their earthy, fruity flavor than their heat and spiciness.
The other thing to remember is that pasilla peppers are sold dried, either whole or as flakes or powder. This means the heat and flavors are much more concentrated.
A dried pasilla pepper will not be hot enough to cause a burning sensation, but it would still be advisable not to exceed the amount recommended in your recipe.
Another way in which the differences between poblano and pasilla chili peppers become apparent is how they are used.
Poblano peppers are exclusively used in their fresh form. They are mild enough to be eaten raw and can be used as a zingy alternative to bell peppers in salads or as crudites.
However, when poblano peppers are roasted, they really come into their own. This is the best way to bring out the sweetness and delicate heat of these mild peppers. They are also one of the most common chilis used for stuffing.
The poblano pepper is normally sliced in half lengthways or, alternatively, the top is cut off. The inside of the pepper is then stuffed with ingredients such as rice, tomatoes, and chorizo, and the entire dish is baked in the oven.
Drooling already? Check out this recipe from Average Guy Gourmet on YouTube:
This is not the only way in which roast poblano peppers can be used. When poblano peppers have been roasted, the skin can be easily peeled away from the delicately sweet flesh, which can be used in a variety of different dishes.
The roasted flesh of poblano peppers can be blended and used to make a delicious dressing for salads, or added to guacamole, pesto, or relish.
It is also hugely popular as a flavorsome filling for tortilla wraps alongside refried beans, guacamole, sour cream, and cilantro.
Pasilla peppers are used in a very different way from poblano peppers. They are used in their dried form, either whole or crushed into flakes or powder.
Their rich, earthy flavor perfectly complements sauces, soups, casseroles, and stews, particularly when combined with tomatoes and paprika.
Pasilla peppers are also great for people who like the flavor of chili dishes, but without the heat. They can be used instead of chili flakes or powder to bring a fruity flavor to the dish without the spiciness.
Which Pepper Is Better?
When it comes to poblano versus pasilla chili peppers, there is no clear winner! Each of these mild chili peppers is very different in the way it is used, so the type you choose will depend very much on the recipe you are cooking.
Both poblano and pasilla chili peppers are similar in terms of heat and spiciness, but the dried pasilla pepper also brings some fruitiness to your dish. Poblano will add a similar flavor to bell peppers, but with a pleasant spiciness.
If your recipe asks for whole fresh chilies, then poblano is undoubtedly the one you should choose. These delicious, large chili peppers add both juice and texture to your dish.
In fact, the poblano is one of the ultimate types of chili pepper for stuffing or using whole. If you’re making tortilla wraps or stuffed peppers, then the poblano is the winner, every time!
For recipes that list dried chili as one of the seasonings, then opt for pasilla chili peppers. These will add flavor and spice, without the juiciness that you get from a fresh chili.
The great thing about pasilla is that, because it is not too spicy, you can add a bit more of it to your dish. This gives you the great flavor of dried chili pepper, without creating a dish so hot that it makes your eyes water!
Can You Substitute Pasilla For Poblano?
The main reason why you cannot substitute pasilla for poblano, and vice versa, is because one is a dried chili whilst the other is fresh. Poblano is frequently used as the main ingredient for a dish, whilst pasilla is a flavoring.
If you’re looking for a good alternative to a fresh poblano pepper, then there are some great options available.
These include the closely-related Mulato chili, which is darker in color, sweeter in flavor, and softer in texture. Other alternatives include the Anaheim pepper, the Ancho Ranchero pepper, and the Corno di Toro Giallo Pepper.
If you need a replacement for dried pasilla, the best place to start would be with ancho. Ancho is poblano pepper in its dried form and has a very similar flavor profile to pasilla.
Both ancho and pasilla are very mild, dried chili peppers that can be used to add chili flavor without excessive heat and spiciness.
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