Red chiles are one of the most common ingredients in Mexican food. Chiles grow well in hot climates and they can be harvested throughout the summer in their green state, but some chiles are left on the plant until autumn when they change from green to their final color of yellow, orange, purple or red, depending on the variety. Some varieties get hotter as they turn from green to their final hue.
Red chiles come in thousands of varieties, and are most often dried for easy storage. The dried chiles are sold by weight, or on ristra which is a wreath made out of dried chiles. Dried red chiles are leathery and usually need to be rehydrated before use.
Types of Green Chiles
Anaheim, California Red Chiles or Chile Seco del Norte (Mild)
chile seco del norte
Anaheim and California chiles start out as long, bright green chiles and they turn bright red when ripe. They are then dried, and known as their "green" names as well as chile seco del norte. These chiles are some of the most mild dried red chiles available. These dried red chiles are usually about 5-7 inches in length and 1-2 inches wide.
Guajillo Dried Red Chile (Medium)
Guajillo Dried Red Chile
The guajillo chile is made by drying the mirasol chile. Once dried, the guajillo chile is a deep red and has medium heat, although if you are not used to hot chiles at all, you might even consider them hot. They have a slight fruitiness to their flavor and are excellent in salsas and chile sauces. Guajillos are medium-sized chiles ranging from 2-4 inches in length and they are great in Adobo Sauce
and Chile Colorado
Chipotle Dried Red Chiles (Hot)
Chipotle Dried Red Chile
Chipotle (say chip-OAT-lay) chiles start out as green jalapeños but they are left on the plant until they turn red. Then they are smoked and dried which results in a brownish colored dried chile. Chipotles are hot and have a distinct, strong smoke flavor. You can find them in their dried form, or canned in an adobo sauce. Either of the versions are excellent additions to soups, stews, or anywhere where you want a rich, smoky flavor, such as this Slow-Cooked Chipotle Beef Roast
Cascabel Dried Red Chiles (Hot)
Cascabel Red Chiles
Most chiles flatten out and become wrinkly when they are dried, but cascabel chiles retain their round shape even after drying out. They are smaller chiles that are about 2 inches or less in diameter. Cascabels are hot and provide an earthy, nutty flavor to the dish they are added to and they are perfect for the traditional Mexican dish Birria
Chile de Arbol (Very Hot)
Chile de Arbol
These small red chiles are long and thin, ranging from 2-3 inches in length. Chiles de árbol also maintain their bright red hue, even after they are dried and they are very hot, similar to cayenne pepper. You can find them whole, dried or dried and powdered. If you handle these chiles raw, take great care to not touch your face and make sure to wash your hands thoroughly as the chile oils are hard to remove.