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Poblano vs Pasilla: The 5 Differences You Need to Know

If you are looking for the perfect pepper to add to your Mexican dishes you might find Pasilla or Poblano as one of the top recommendations. But, is this the same pepper? And if not, what is the difference between a pasilla pepper and a poblano pepper?

We have researched the topic and consulted our top chefs to bring you the best information on the whole Poblano vs Pasilla showdown. 

So, keep on reading to find out what makes these two peppers so unique and different and why people have the tendency to mix them up. 

Let’s get started on another delicious and spicy journey together.

What are Pasilla peppers?

Pasilla peppers are dried chili peppers from Mexico derived from the not-so-famous chilaca pepper. They are also known as pasilla bajio, Mexican negro, or chile negro when they are fresh but once the pepper is dried the name means “little raisin”.

This is a completely suiting name for the pepper we are talking about because besides looking like a dried fruit this amazing plant has a sweet and fruity undertone that comes up when you use it in recipes.

This little pepper is thin and very popular in Mexico, so much so that is considered one of three main chili peppers used in most recipes. 

How do Pasilla peppers look?

Pasilla peppers have long stems and are almost black in color. While the plant is young and fresh the pepper will have a dark green hue, but once it’s ripe for picking the color will turn dark brown or almost black.

This is just one of many varieties of chili peppers in Mexico and fresh Pasilla pepper is not used so much as the dried version. 

Although many people around the world will not notice the difference between dried peppers, if you find yourself in a Mexican store or market you will notice how passionate they are about the difference between Poblano and Pasilla.

How to cook with Pasilla peppers?

Cooking with dried Pasilla pepper is a staple in Mexican cuisine. There are many recipes that call for this particular pepper or combination with other chilies. 

You can make soups, moles, and sauces with added spice and fruity flavors. Even though the pepper is dry, it will re-hydrate quite nicely once it’s incorporated into liquid and leave a lingering taste that will captivate your senses.

If you want to use Pasilla peppers all the time you can grind them up into fine chili flakes and add them to dishes that need a bit more flavor. This will reduce the spiciness but will add that earthy tones that dishes need to be considered truly Mexican.

What are Poblano peppers?

Poblano peppers are Mexican fresh peppers that originated in the state of Puebla. 

This is one of the most popular fresh peppers used in Mexican cuisine and a lot of people compare it to bell peppers and Anaheim peppers. This is not surprising considering it has thick and meaty flesh, but the taste is fuller with hints of spice.

Poblanos can also be dried and they are known as anchos. This is one of the main reasons why people and even the stores have the tendency to confuse them with Pasilla peppers, although they are completely different. 

How do Poblano peppers look?

Poblano peppers are famous for their big, green, and meaty look. They are one of the easiest peppers to recognize in the store because only bell peppers can be that big.

This unique pepper is green from the start and only becomes a deeper green color as it ripens. The taste also changes from mild and zesty to pretty hot when ripe. Farmers in Mexico usually pick the pepper before it’s fully ripe because it tastes the best then. 

This pepper also has a thick skin that needs to be removed before cooking, and the seeds are no joke either. Since the pepper is sturdy and resilient, it is one of the most grown plants in Puebla.

How to cook with Poblano peppers?

Poblano peppers are an amazing addition to many Mexican dishes because they are so versatile.

While this mild pepper can be used fresh, it’s processed with heat most of the time. Mexican recipes often describe the process of grilling and pealing the tough skin and removing the seeds to have the best taste of this gentle giant.

You can use Poblano peppers for stuffing because they will remain whole even under high heat. They are also often used for posole, soups, and pesto. 

One of the most famous dishes with Poblano peppers is when you grill or broil the pepper, remove the skin and add cheese as filling. To top it all off, Mexicans will often coat the peppers in eggs and flour and fry them for that delicious crispy finish.

What is the difference between a pasilla pepper and a poblano pepper?

Now that we are familiar with both Poblano and Pasilla peppers you might wonder what are the differences. While it might sound obvious to people from Mexico, a lot of Americans will confuse the two in the store for various reasons.

This is why you need to pay attention to the following differences and make sure you are using the right ingredient in your recipes.

1. Taste

As we mentioned before one of the biggest differences between Poblano and Pasilla is the taste

Considering that these two peppers are completely different when it comes to consistency and texture, you can expect the taste to be different too. 

Dry and fruity Pasilla will leave your dishes tasting like you added some spice and fruit, while mild and meaty Poblano will add a fresh and zesty feel. They can be used in the same dishes, but not to replace one another.

If you are looking for the best substitute for Pasilla you will need a dried Poblano. It’s usually called anchos, but considering that stores often mislabel these peppers, you need to check twice.

2. Hotness

Both Pasilla and Poblano are considered mild peppers that the entire family can enjoy, however, there is a slight difference in the hotness too.

Poblanos are picked while they are not ripe and as such represent one of the mildest peppers you can use. For comparison, this pepper ranges from 1,000 to 1,500 on the Scoville scale that shows the hotness. This might sound like a lot, but in reality, it’s mild.

Keep in mind that Poblano will get hotter as it matures, so if you don’t like too much spice you need to cook with unripe peppers. 

On the other hand, the green Pasilla pepper ranges from 1,500 to 2,000 on the Scoville scale. This makes it hotter than Poblano, but it’s still milder than most chili peppers made in Mexico.

3. Appearance

One of the most confusing things about the mistakes that people make about Pasilla and Poblano is the appearance. It’s highly unusual to confuse dry and fresh peppers but somehow this happens all the time.

Poblanos are sold as fresh and green peppers. Although there is actually an orange Poblano pepper, it’s still sold as fresh, unlike the dry Pasilla pepper. 

In order to make sure you are choosing the right pepper for your next meal remember that Poblano is fresh and Pasilla is a dry pepper. The only thing you need to worry about is the fact that some stores will sell dried Poblano as Pasilla peppers.

But even if this happens you can still distinguish them, because Pasilla will be darker pepper with almost black skin. On the other hand, dried Poblano or anchos will have the same green color and it will be considerably bigger.

4. Cooking

Now that we are familiar with the most obvious differences it’s time to get to our favorite part and that is using these amazing peppers in your kitchen. Cooking with Poblano and Pasilla peppers is very easy but there are a few different meals you can prepare. 

Poblano peppers are used as a main part of the dish, often stuffed and grilled to have that full taste without the tough skin. On the other hand, Pasilla is mostly used to add spice as a whole pepper or as chili powder.

They will both add a bit of spice to the dish, but if you like your Mexican food extra hot you can always sprinkle a bit more Pasilla chili flakes. 

5. Availability

If you are wondering which one of these two peppers is most easily found, the good news is that they are almost always available in stores. With that being said you will most likely find Poblano peppers, even if the label says it’s Pasilla.

Don’t be fooled by the signs and remember that dried black pepper is Pasilla and the big fresh one is Poblano.

Are Pasilla Peppers and Poblano Peppers the same?

No, Pasilla and Poblano are not the same. While many people will confuse the two peppers out of habit, they couldn’t be more different.

As you know by now, a fresh and green Poblano will be completely different when compared to dry and black Pasilla. One of the reasons people confuse the two ingredients so much is that Mexican food has become increasingly popular, but there’s still not enough information around it.

Both peppers are part of the chili family, but we can only compare the two when Poblano is turned into dried chili anchos. 

These peppers are also incorporated into different dishes, and thanks to this guide, now you know how to choose the best ingredient for your next Mexican meal.

In addition, once you get used to the incredible taste of Pasilla and Poblano you will be tempted to add them to various recipes you already love.

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Passionate chef, in love with everything related to food and cooking it to perfection!
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