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  • Writer's pictureSanah Alban


The first thing that comes to mind when we think of spices is normally chilies, so let's talk about them!⁣

What are chilies?

Chili peppers are fruits of the plants from the genus Capsicum. Capsaicin and related compounds known as capsaicinoids are the substances in chili peppers that give them their intensity. There are many varieties of peppers with varying heat intensity. This is commonly measured in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) which relates to the capsaicinoid content of the chili pepper. So as an example a bell pepper has 0 SHU, whereas a Habanero, Scotch Bonnet and bird’s eye chili can have 1-3.5 mil SHU.⁣

What are chilies used for?

Chilies are used globally across many cuisines. Besides food, capsaicin (the chemical that makes chili peppers hot) is used in medicine as an analgesic in topical ointments, nasal sprays, and dermal patches to relieve pain, and unfortunately as chemical irritant in things like pepper spray and tear gas. Red chilies contain large amounts of vitamin C, while other species contain significant amounts of provitamin A beta-carotene. In addition, peppers are a rich source of vitamin B6.⁣

How do I use chilies?

Chilies can be used fresh, dried, dried and then crushed into flakes or grounded down to a powder. I use different types of chili depending on what I’m cooking. For example:

  • I use chili powder when making curries, sauces and marinades, when I want heat that is also controllable, that will not add to the texture and will give some color.

  • I normally use chili flakes as a garnish for foods like stir fries, certain sauces, in appetizers like kebabs, aloo tikkis.

  • Fresh chilies can be a bit unpredictable as the heat intensity can vary even between a batch. Nonetheless, they are great for foods like spicy salads, appetizers like kebabs, aloo tikkis, samosas, blitzed into sauces/marinades/chutneys, and adding heat to curries. Fresh chilies have a level of tanginess/acidity which makes them great for chutneys or salads to be eaten raw.

As I’m based in the US, I use serrano peppers for recipes that call for fresh green chilies. If you’re like me and only use fresh chilies occasionally, you can freeze the batch and thaw in a mug of warm water when needed.⁣

What’s your favorite way of having chili?

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