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Pepper Profile: Pasilla PDF Print E-mail

In Spanish, pasilla means "little raisin," an allusion to the dark brown pods of this type. In California the ancho is sometimes called pasilla, causing much confusion. In western Mexico it is sometimes called chile negro, a term that also refers to the darker anchos. In the fresh form, the pod is known as chilaca.

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Chilaca: Fresh

Chilaca: Fresh

Pasilla: Dry

Pasilla: Dry

The Plant

In Spanish, pasilla means "little raisin," an allusion to the dark brown pods of this type. In California the ancho is sometimes called pasilla, causing much confusion. In western Mexico it is sometimes called chile negro, a term that also refers to the darker anchos. In the fresh form, the pod is known as chilaca.

Pasillas are pod types of the annuum species. The plant has an intermediate number of stems, an erect habit, and grows 2 to 3 feet high or more. The primary branches begin over 5 inches from the lowest stem portion so the pods will not touch the ground. The leaves are ovate, smooth, medium green in color, and measure 3 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide. The flowers have white corollas with no spots. The pods are extremely elongate, cylindrical, furrowed, and measure 6 inches long (or more) by 1 inch wide. Immature fruits are dark green, maturing to dark brown. The growing period is 90 to 100 days, and the yield is 20 pods or more to the plant. This type is not particularly pungent; measuring between 1,000 and 1,500 Scoville Units.


Agriculture

It is likely that the pasilla is the immediate predecessor of the New Mexican type, and it has adapted particularly well to the temperate regions of Mexico. About 7,500 acres of pasillas are cultivated in Mexico, primarily in Aguascalientes, Jalisco, Zacatecas, and Guanajuato, with the annual yield amounting to approximately 3,500 tons of dried pods. The most popular Mexican varieties are 'Pabellon One' and 'Apaseo.' There is no commercial U.S. production, but the pasilla does well in the home garden, and the pods should be allowed to dry on the plant.


Culinary Usage

The pasilla is part of the legend of the origin of mole sauces, which also contain anchos. Because it is very flavorful, the pasilla is a favorite of Mexican moleros, cooks who specialize in preparing unique mole sauces. The pasilla is mainly used in the dried pod or powder form in sauces such as moles and adobos. It adds an interesting taste and color to standard red chile enchilada sauce as well.


Recipe: Roast Pork with Pasilla Adobo Sauce

Adobo is a thick sauce of chiles, vinegar, and spices that is popular in both Mexico and in the Philippines. This roast makes a wonderful entree, sliced and served with a sauce made from the pan drippings. Any leftover meat can be made into tasty shredded pork enchiladas. Accompany this roast with Mexican rice and a salad of avocados, tomatoes, onions, and sweet and hot peppers dressed with olive oil, wine vinegar, squeezed garlic, and a mix-and-match collection of minced fresh herbs such as cilantro, Mexican oregano, mint, basil, tarragon, parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme. Note that this recipe requires advance preparation.


  • 6 pasilla chiles, stems and seeds removed
  • 2 cups chicken broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • ½ teaspoon ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano, crushed
  • 2 tablespoons vinegar
  • 1 cup beer
  • 1 3-pound pork roast

Simmer the chiles in the chicken broth for 5 minutes, or until they are soft.

Sauté the onion and garlic in the oil, add the remaining ingredients, except the pork, and simmer for 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Place the sauce in a blender and puree until smooth.

Make deep gashes in the roast and push the sauce into the gashes. Pour the remaining sauce over the meat and marinate in the refrigerator overnight.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F., place the pork on a rack on the middle shelf, and immediately reduce the heat to 350 degrees. Cook the meat for 30 to 45 minutes per pound or until the internal temperature reaches 185 degrees. Baste frequently with the sauce. Place foil over the top of the roast if it starts getting too brown.

Serves: 6

Heat Scale: Mild

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