The pasilla pepper and the poblano pepper are both chili peppers grown in Mexico.
They’re both hot, too—the pasilla is hotter than the poblano, according to the Scoville scale.
But despite their similarities, they look very different. Pasillas are long, skinny and wrinkled; poblanos are rounder and wider.
But what about taste? There’s no question that the two peppers are related.
Both come from the same plant species, Capsicum annuum. Both are red, and both have seeds inside.
So why do grocery stores and restaurants label one as poblano and the other as pasilla?
Here’s our guide to poblano vs pasilla: what’s the difference?
If you’ve ever bought a pasilla, chances are it came labeled “poblano.”
You probably assumed that meant it had been dried. But we now know that’s wrong.
Pasillas aren’t simply dried peppers; they start out fresh and become much wider and taller during drying.
This makes sense, because the thicker skin helps retain moisture better.
And since the poblano is almost twice the width of a bell pepper, it’s easy to see how someone could mistake one for another.
You may be interested to know that as soon as you dry a fresh chilaca, it turns into a poblano. The same goes for the habanero and jalapeño.
All three are actually poblanos. They just don’t look like it initially.
The same thing happens to the pasilla. Once you dry it, it looks nothing like the fresh version.
Instead, it’s a very large, thin, dark red pepper that resembles a long green chili.
So next time you buy some dried peppers, make sure you check the label. You might find yourself buying something different to what you actually want.
The differences between poblano and pasilla pepper varieties are subtle, but noticeable.
As we’ve already mentioned, Poblano peppers are slightly longer and wider than pasilla peppers. They tend to be lighter in color, too.
However, both types of peppers look similar — except for one thing: their shape.
You’ll notice that poblanos peppers are heart-shaped, while pasilla peppers are elongated. This is because poblano peppers grow straight up, while pasilla peppers grow sideways.
So, if you want to eat a pasilla pepper, you’ll have to cut it off the vine. If you want to enjoy a poblano pepper, just slice it into pieces
Which Is Hotter?
Which pepper is hotter depends on how you measure hotness.
The difference in heat between a poblano pepper and a pasilla pepper is about four times greater than the difference between a jalapeño and a habanero.
But there are some things to consider. First, we’re talking about different types of peppers here.
A poblano is a large green bell pepper that cooks down into a dark brown, fleshy fruit.
A pasilla is a small, round, bright orange pepper that cooks down into something similar to a tomato.
Second, we’re comparing whole peppers.
When measuring the heat of individual ingredients, such as jalapeños, it makes sense to use the number of Scoville heat units (SHUs), because each ingredient contains just one type of capsaicin.
However, when comparing the relative intensity of different peppers, we want to look at the amount of capsaicin per gram of dry weight.
So, when we talk about “the hottest chili,” we mean the most concentrated source of capsaicin.
To find out how much capsaicin we’re talking about, divide the Scoville rating of the pepper by the size of the pepper.
For example, a poblano pepper rated at 5,000 SHUs is equivalent to five habaneros.
If you’re looking for a super spicy meal, choose a poblano over a habañero.
If you’re wondering why the numbers don’t add up, remember that the Scoville scale isn’t linear. You can’t say that a jalapeño equals three habaneros.
Instead, the scales work logarithmically, meaning that doubling the number of Scovilles doubles the amount of capsaicins.
This is why a poblano pepper is roughly four times hotter than a jalapeño.
But even though the numbers don’t always add up, they do provide useful information.
For example, a single poblano pepper contains about half the amount of capsaicin found in five habaneros.
That means that a poblano pepper packs approximately twice the punch of a habanero.
Do They Taste Different?
While the peppers may look similar, they taste completely different.
They’re actually part of the nightshade family, along with tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and tomatillos.
As mentioned, when the poblano is ripe, it starts producing a chemical called capsaicin, which gives it its characteristic spicy flavor.
When you bite into a poblano, you’ll notice a slight burning sensation. If you want to make sure you don’t burn yourself further, wait about 30 minutes before eating another one.
On the flip side, the pasilla is picked when it’s still green, and is left on the plant for several weeks longer than the poblanos.
As a result, it picks up much more heat. You can tell by looking at the seeds inside the fruit; the pasilla seed looks like a little red ball, whereas the poblano seed looks more like a tiny black dot.
But even though the poblano is less hot, it does have some advantages over the pasilla.
For example, the poblano is easier to grow because it doesn’t require a lot of water. And unlike the pasilla, it won’t turn brown once it ripens.
Both peppers are great additions to salsa verde, but the poblano is perfect for making salsas de guajillo and chipotle sauces.
The pasilla, meanwhile, goes well with tomato sauce, especially if you add a dash of vinegar.
The difference between the poblano and pasilla pepper becomes even clearer when you look at what they do well.
While both types are great in salsas and stews, there is a distinct flavor profile that each offers up.
For example, poblanos are excellent when roasted, while pasillas are better for pickling. When it comes to pairing dishes, you want to think about what type of flavors work together.
Which Is Better?
Deciding the best one between poblano and pasilla chili peppers can be tricky.
Both types of chili peppers are unique in what they are used for, so which chili pepper you choose is dependent on what meal you’re making.
Each of these chili peppers have different amounts of spiciness and heat, but the dried pasillas pepper tends to be slightly sweeter and will bring out a similar sweet flavor in your dish.
If your recipe uses whole fresh chilies, then poblano will work better. The poblano is super tasty and is large enough to add texture and juice to any dish.
Substitute One For Another?
The main reason why you cannot replace pasilla for poblano, and vice versa, stems from the fact that one is a dried chili, while the other is a fresh pepper.
This is due to the fact that both chilies come from different parts of the plant. Dried chilies originate from the pods, whereas fresh ones come from the seeds.
If you want to use a similar spice, then try substituting it with mulato peppers, which are slightly larger than poblanos.
They also tend to be less hot, making them easier to handle. Alternatively, you could go for ancho or cornillo peppers.
Both of these types of peppers have a milder taste, making them suitable replacements for poblano.
You can find both poblano and pasilla in the supermarkets. However, it’s a much easier task finding fresh poblano peppers, while pasillas are more readily available in dried forms.
Store unwashed, whole poblanos in the crisper drawer for up to two or even three weeks.
If you want to use them sooner, wash them just before using. You can roast them, peel them, dice them, freeze them, or dehydrate them.
They are great in soups, stews, chili, and sauces. It’s best to store them in an airtight container for about three days, and then transfer them to freezer bags for longer storage.
As well as roasting, both peppers can also be chopped or sliced into strips and left raw or cooked briefly in boiling water to soften them slightly.
They are often left whole or halved lengthwise and filled with a wide variety of ingredients including cheese, meats, and beans — or even just salt, pepper, and oil.
Poblanos can be stuffed with anything from goat cheese to chicken salad to beef stew.
Chiles en Nogada, one of the most popular dishes in Mexican cuisine, is a colorful plate full of roasted chilies stuffed with meat, fresh fruit, nuts, and spices, and served over a creamy sauce and garnished with pomegranate seeds and cilantro leaves.
You can find recipes online for traditional versions.
If you’re looking for something extra spicy, then either poblano or pasilla would work perfectly, and there are a plethora of online recipes to follow.
The difference between the two is mainly down to availability and ease of cooking.
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