What is Chili Powder?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 May 2019
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One of the easiest ways to bring a dish to life is adding a dash or two of chili powder. This tasty blend of spices is used extensively in India for the preparation of curry dishes, as well as being a favorite in Mexico and South America. While many people use the powder in recipes, not everyone knows just what goes into the combination.

Chili powder begins with the use of ground chilies. For the most part, the chilies used for the mixture are red or cayenne peppers. However, there are some combinations that choose to use paprika or green ground chiles instead. A typical blend will also include garlic, oregano, and cumin. As is true with the chilies used, the other three ingredients are ground into a fine powder. Whatever the choice in chiles, they should be dried thoroughly before being ground into a powder.

Beyond this basic recipe, an assortment of other spices may be added as well, such as black pepper, cloves, mace, nutmeg, coriander and cinnamon. The final combination of spices really has more to do with personal taste. One reason so many people choose to prepare their own chili powder is because commercial brands tend to use only the more common and less expensive spices in the mixture. Of course, it is easy to use a pre-packaged blend containing the basic ingredients and add in any of the other spices desired.


When it comes to using chili powder in preparing meals, there are many different applications. As an additive in curries, it has a long standing reputation in India and more recently in England. Like many blends of spices, it can be used as a rub for steak, fish and chicken before broiling, baking, or grilling. The spice blend can also be used in making a spicy hamburger, by including a tablespoon (8 grams) of the powder in the raw meat and kneading it into the meat before forming the hamburger patties.

One of the most common uses for chili powder in the United States is the preparation of chili. As a hearty dish that often includes a basic content of cooked hamburger or steak, red kidney beans and tomatoes, the spice is often the medium that adds that extra kick to the taste. Since this spice is at its best when allowed to simmer and mingle with the other ingredients within the recipe, using a slow cooker to prepare the chili is an ideal method. The end result is a flavorful chili that has a consistently pleasing taste from the first bowl to the last.

As an easy spice selection to purchase ready-made or to prepare at home, chili powder can add a lot of taste to many different types of foods. From an ingredient is a simmering pot to a tasty coating on grilled meats, it comes through every time.


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Post 14

If you are looking for something to open up your sinuses, try chili powder. I eat it on meat and vegetables whenever I have nasal congestion, and it helps me breathe a little easier, if only for awhile.

I like eating fajita steak with chili powder. I use a full teaspoon of it on the steak before cooking it, along with other spices.

I also cook bell pepper and onions in with the steak, so they soak up some of the chili powder, too. The more things in the fajita that have heat, the better off my sinuses will be.

Post 13

@anamur – You can even use dry chili powder for this. My mother had problems with ants coming in around the window sills, and she just sprinkled chili powder on the sills and they stopped coming in.

Post 12

I had no idea that dried chili powder contained cumin. I make chicken tortilla soup a lot, and the recipe calls for both cumin and chili powder.

Maybe this is why the cumin flavor in the soup is so strong. I don't mind at all, though. This is what gives the soup its character.

When I'm making it for my sister, I do go a little easy on the chili powder, though. She can't stand to eat things that are very spicy, and a little bit of chili powder goes a long way.

Post 11

I think there must be paprika in my chili powder, because it tastes slightly sweet. I've always loved the sweetness of paprika, so I'm glad I accidentally bought this kind of chili powder.

This may sound strange, but I like sprinkling it on my mashed potatoes. They are so bland, but the chili powder gives them the kick that they need.

Post 10

I love to sprinkle a little ancho chili powder on top of my eggs in the morning.

Post 9

I learned the hard way that not all chili powder is the same. One day I was at an international market and they had a huge bag of Indian chili powder for a really cheap price. I bought it figuring I could use it in tacos or chili or whatever I would normally use chili powder in.

So a few days later I decide to make this spicy soup that calls for 2 tablespoons of chili powder. When I sat down to eat it I realized that it was almost atomically hot. The entire batch of soup was inedible. Turns out that Indian chili powder is much, much hotter than Mexican chili powder. Now when I cook with it I only use a pinch.

Post 8

I love chili powder because it is so versatile. It can make almost any dish taste better.

One of my favorite simple recipes is to take thick strips of zucchini, season them with salt and a liberal sprinkling of chili powder, and grill them until soft and charred.

The spice of the chili powder really compliments the mild squash nicely.

Post 7

Do you guys want to know something else that chili powder is good for aside from cooking? Getting rid of house ants!

I had a ant problem in my house and I was told by my friend to make a paste out of fresh chili powder by adding water to it. I then used the paste to close in all the little holes in the wall that the ants were going in and coming out of.

It really worked! They left my house for good in just a couple of days!

Post 6

Is it true that people who eat a lot of spicy food made with chili powder seasoning have stomach ailments later?

I read something like this in the news, that people in regions of the world where a lot of spicy food is eaten have the highest rates of stomach cancer.

Post 5

Ground chili powder is one of my favorite spices. I always keep chili powder and turmeric on hand in the kitchen because these two can literally be added to any dish. But the trick is to use a very light hand because if you overdo either one, it can ruin the taste.

I usually use my thumb and index finger to take out only a pinch of both and I add it to vegetable, meat and lentil dishes. I don't like extremely spicy food or bland food and a little bit of chili powder adds enough paunch in my opinion.

I just made lentil soup today and after cooking the lentils in the pressure cooker, I heated some chili powder and mint in olive oil and added it to the soup. It was delicious.

Post 3

thank you! True definition is so tricky in cultural food. I always want to know the basics.

Post 1

There are several varieties of chili powder. Some with flat and bland taste and others that are more smoky and sweet. It is good to try different varieties to get the best results.

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