Dried Red Chile Sauce

As the end of February creeps closer, I’ve been poking through the pantry and the freezer thinking of ways to use up my winter stores: before we know it, the tender shoots of Spring will be appearing in the fields, yards, and farmer’s markets near me, and the dried & frozen fruits and vegetables that have been so wonderful all winter long will lose their appeal.

I collect dried chiles like other people collect Fiestaware: for a chile-head like me, a new or intriguing variety is nearly impossible to resist, no matter how many I already have stashed in the pantry. Dried chiles don’t really go bad, but like other dried spices, they do lose their zing after a while: I try to use them up within a year. When I want to use up a bunch at a time, I make a big batch of this red chile glaze, slightly adapted from Mexican Red Chile Sauce by Elise at Simply Recipes. Elise uses ancho chiles, which I was (inexplicably) out of, so I chose a mix of guajillo, chipotle and medium-hot local red chiles from Madura Farm (closest variety would be an Arbol chile). My version came out smoky, quite spicy and with just a hint of bitterness: I’ll sweeten it up with a touch of honey for a grilled chicken glaze, or toss in some fresh oregano & chopped red pepper for a quick taco sauce. Once you have a jar of this in the fridge, you’ll find lots of uses: scrambled eggs, sandwiches, dolloping in soup or on roasted potatoes. Before you know it, you’ll find yourself back at the market, gleefully perusing the dried chile section.

Adapted from Mexican Red Chile Sauce by Elise Bauer at Simply Recipes


Dried Red Chile Sauce


  • about 2 oz mixed dried red chile peppers (this version contained 6 guajillo, 6 small red chiles and 4 chipotles)
  • boiling water
  • 1 large clove garlic, coarsely chopped
  • large pinch ground cloves
  • a few grinds of black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp salt, or more to taste
  • olive oil


Note: Wear gloves, or wash your hands frequently, when working with hot peppers, even dried ones. Be very careful not to touch your eyes or face! 

  1. Tear the stem off of dried chiles: pour out seeds and ribs, reserving in a small bowl. Coarsely tear large chiles into pieces. Transfer chile pieces to a medium skillet or saucepan. Heat over low flame for 1 – 2  minutes, just until chiles become fragrant. Pour boiling water over chiles, just to cover, then cover pan and allow chiles to steep for 15 minutes.
  2. Strain chiles, catching the soaking liquid in a heat-safe bowl. Add chiles, garlic, cloves, pepper and salt to a food processor. Taste the soaking liquid: if it is bitter, use plain water to make the sauce. Add 3/4 cup of soaking liquid or water to the food processor; process for a few minutes, until very smooth. Taste and adjust spices, adding in some of the reserved chile seeds for greater heat if desired.
  3. Strain the sauce, pushing through the sieve, back into the skillet or saucepan. Add 1 tbsp of olive oil and bring sauce to a simmer, then reduce heat and simmer gently until sauce thickens, about 10  minutes. Taste and adjust any seasonings: use immediately or store refrigerated.

Yields about 1 cup.


  1. This is a basic sauce recipe and I suspect any chile peppers will work: ancho peppers are larger and meatier than what I used, so likely result in a thicker sauce. Add more (or less) cooking liquid, or pure water, to your sauce in order to achieve the desired consistency. The recipe can also easily be doubled.
  2. This sauce works wonderfully with chicken, turkey or pork.


Refrigerated for up to 2 weeks.




  1. Kate @ Snowflake Kitchen

    Hey Kaela – where do you get your dried chilies? Our co-op sells “Dried Red Chiles” in the bulk spice section (so not helpful) and many of our farmers do the same thing. I know World Spice has a selection, but I was hoping for something closer. Plus, I’ll be back in the Ridge for easter – so I’m really hoping you say Nature’s Temptations 🙂

    • Sorry, Kate: mostly I order from Penzey’s online, particularly if I need a specific chile, like guajillo or ancho. The “small red chiles” in the recipe I bought fresh in the Fall and dried myself in the dehydrator. I do that quite a bit while they are in season, but most often don’t know what they are: as you said, just “chiles.” I know Tigress likes Tierra Vegetables chipotle powder and chile, and there is another, organic place in New Mexico that people rave about, but of course I can’t remember the name. I think someone left it as a comment here somewhere, so I’ll do a search and see if I can find it.

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