For those who’ve ever over-spiced a recipe with a little too much chilli will know that this is one very warming ingredient. It may be a small plant, but it certainly packs a punch in the flavour and heat department. But, not all chilli makes your tastebuds tingle or mouth feel as though it’s caught fire – there are a wide variety of chilli peppers to try cooking with. From the mild and flavoursome to the eye-watering hot, chilli is a versatile ingredient to add to your favourite dishes. Belonging to the capsicum family, chilli is a spice that blends wonderfully in Asian and Mexican cuisines, among many others.
Next time you’re perusing the grocery aisle, consider the following tips for choosing chilli.
How to turn up the heat with chilli this season
- Get to know your chillli varieties: although there is a seemingly endless number of chilli types, there are a small selection that commonly appear in supermarkets. You can buy dried, flaked, powdered (like cayenne), jarred (think chipotle) or pickled chilli; or, instead, opt for fresh chillis that can be great for cooking across many cuisines. Here are some of the most common chilli types you’re likely to come across:
- Bird’s eye: fantastic for Asian-inspired dishes, these little (2-4 centimetre) chillis are most often mild to medium in heat, and are stocked in supermarkets and grocers all over Australia.
- Serrano: sweet, crunchy and great to eat when chopped up raw to toss through a salad, Serrano chilli looks like a combination of a small bird’s eye with the rounded end of a jalapeño chilli.
- Jalapeño: lovers of Mexican dishes will know the green, thick-skinned jalapeño chilli, with its slow-burning heat. These chillis are generally 5-10 centimetres in length and are great whether they’re cooked, pickled or raw.
- Long chillis: one of the more commonly available and consumed chillis in Australia are the long chilli (approximately 15 centimetres). This chilli changes spice levels based on the seasons and suits a wide range of recipes.
- Learn your limits: remember to test the heat level in your chilli before adding a heaped helping of it to a dish, to determine if you’re happy with the spice. Wait a few minutes after consuming to see if the burn grows or subsides. (It’s a good idea to have a little dairy on hand to cool your tongue if it’s too strong!). You don’t need a lot of chilli to flavour a dish, and you can always start with a little and add more later on. If you’re cooking for others, remember that every body’s tolerance for chilli is different and your fellow diners may not love chilli as much as you do – or vice versa.
- Take care with chilli: always wash your hands with soap after cutting chilli – the last thing you want to do is accidentally rub your eyes after handling a hot chilli. You’ll only make that mistake once! Make sure you don’t leave chilli lying around on your bench tops and on your utensils, just in case dinner guests or little hands come into contact with traces of this spicy ingredient.
- Have fun experimenting: there is so much you can do with chilli in your kitchen – whether it’s a deliciously warming chilli con carne for dinner, a little dark chocolate with chilli for dessert, or a spicy sprinkling on your lunch – the options are endless.
Feel the heat with these chilli recipes
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