What is a Chipotle Chili?

There is a lot of confusion over what exactly a chipotle chili is. You have the classic “Chipotle” chili, then you have what people call the “Chipotle Morita” chili, and finally, you have the “Chipotle Meco” chili. So, what on earth is the difference? And how are they made? In this article, we will discuss how Chipotle came to be, and what has led to the widespread misunderstandings regarding what exactly a “chipotle” chili is.

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What is a Chipotle Chili?

What Type of Chili is a Chipotle Chili?

A chipotle chili is a dried jalapeño chili. But it is a bit more complicated than just that.

The average consumer knows the jalapeño chili as a green, mild, fresh chili, but when you leave jalapeño on the plant for longer it goes from green to red – and this is critical for the understanding of chipotle chilies.

There are a number of variations on the chipotle chili, simply because there are many varieties of jalapeño and many different techniques and preferences for the dried chipotle.

There are two classic varieties that are the most “normal”, and then some that are not known as chipotles, but are of the same dried chili family:

  • Chipotle Morita: the ripe and red jalapeño is lightly smoked for around half of the time that a chipotle meco is. Traditionally the chipotle morita can be smoked for 1 – 4 days depending on the flavor profile. Since the smoking time is lower, the chipotle morita retains a lot more fruitiness, while the chipotle meco has a deeper smoke flavor.

  • Chipotle Meco (seco, típico): the ripe and red jalapeño is smoked for a long time creating a light brown dried chili with lots of flavor. This type of chipotle is typically more difficult to find in markets outside of Mexico.

  • Non-chipotle “chipotles”:
    • Capones: This literally means the “castrated ones” and is a smoked red jalapeño with no seeds. Capones are quite expensive and rare to find.
    • Jalapeño chico: green jalapeño that is smoked – normally small green jalapeños that could not be sold as fresh chilies.

Origin of the Chipotle Chili

The word chipotle stems from the Nahuatl (native Mexican language) word chilpoctli, and quite literally means a smoked chili pepper.

The Aztecs smoked many foods, such as meat, in order to store them for longer. In the case of chipotle, it is believed that the Aztecs decided to smoke jalapeno to store them because it takes too long to dry them “naturally” – they have thicker walls, which meant the chilies, would often rot before drying appropriately.

In the following part, we will explain more about the differences between the Morita and Meco chile:

Chipotle (Meco)

Meco is the version that has been allowed to ripen longest and is smoked for the longest too. It comes out reminiscent of a shoe sole – light brown in color and with a texture close to that of a dried piece of tree bark. What it lacks in visual appeal it more than makes up for in its ability to add flavor to dishes. The Meco variant is the ultimate smoky powerhouse of the Mexican chiles.

Chipotle Morita

The Morita Chipotle is different from the meco / típico variety in that it is smoked for significantly less time. In this way, it avoids the slightly unappetizing look of the Meco (which looks like a worn-out shoe sole). Instead, it’s a small, more rounded fruit – making it easy to understand why its name translates to “Little Blackberry”.

What is the Difference Between Morita and Chipotle?

  • Chipotle meco is smoked for twice as long as the morita
  • 10 kgs of fresh jalapeño makes approximately 1 kg of morita
  • Jalapeño is named after the city of Jalapa, but is no longer grown there.