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Chili vs. Chile Powder

Q:

On my grocery shelf, I see bottles of chili powder and chile powder. What’s the difference and when should I use each? Do I need to buy both?

Timothy Martin, Cookeville, TN

A:

The terms “chili” and “chile” are often used interchangeably across North America, but they don’t always mean the same thing. Chili powder is usually a blend of ground chile pods and other spices like cumin, peppercorn, and salt. Chile powder most often refers to pure ground chile pods with few or no additives; the only way to tell is to read the ingredient label. For most dishes I prefer pure ground chile powder, as it allows me to blend (or not blend) it with the particular spices I want for each dish.


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