Drying and grinding your own chili powder is one of the easiest ways to preserve hot peppers. If you’re a spice lover, you know how important the freshness of your ground spices can be. So knowing you can have a good quality supply of chili powder straight from the garden is the best. Grinding chili powder yourself also means you can have different varieties of powder based on the chili types you buy. Or you can make your own blends!
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Every year for the past 4 years or so I’ve been seeking out different types of hot peppers, some extreme and some more mellow and classic. But all of the peppers bring their own flavours to the table. Some of them go into salsas and hot sauces, and occasionally I’ll freeze them. But I have found that in the peak in harvest season, drying and grinding peppers can allow me to reap the best of the season, without piling even more onto my busy plate.
I dry my peppers in a dehydrator like this one. Though you can use your oven as well, if your oven can be set at very low temperatures (140-175F). If you dry the peppers whole, they will take slightly longer. And if you dry them with the seeds in them, they will give you a hotter powder.
Setup your space by prepping your dehydrator with clean racks, and in a spot where it can sit undisturbed for about 12 hours. For oven drying, make sure you can sacrifice oven use for the same amount of time. Also for the oven, prepare a few trays lined with parchment paper.
Prep The Peps
For smaller peppers like the small Thai Chilis I dry them whole, with the stems removed. For larger peppers like Jalapenos, or the very pretty Sugar Rush Peaches, I remove their stems and cut them in half. When prepping your peppers, try getting them into similar sizes so that all varieties dry in roughly the same amount of time.
Lay the chilis cut side down onto your racks or trays. You don’t need to leave too much space between them, but they shouldn’t be crowding each other either. Within the first 6 hours or so, they will give each other some room.
Set your dehydrator to 145F (or your oven to as close to that as you can) and place your chili laden racks inside. For oven drying, you will want to prop the oven door open slightly with a spoon or metal tongs, to allow airflow. Dry the peppers for about 12 hours, or until they are crisp.
Be sure to check that all of them are dry before you begin to grind them. Slightly chunkier peppers will take slightly more time, but you can remove them as they become ready. And then grind them all once they’re done.
Grinding the Chili Powder
It’s important to have a small coffee or spice grinder (like this one) to do this. You can of course take the time to do it with a mortar and pestle if you want. But it’s much more time consuming, so if you’re busy during this time of year like I am, you may want to get a grinder.
Decide on which (if any) blends you’d like to make, and gather enough tight sealing jars to match. This year, I did a pure jalapeno powder and also a mix of the Thai Chilis and the Sugar Rush Peaches. The sugar rush chilis are a bit sweet (as well as rating around 80,000 on the scoville chart) and they have a fruity, tropical smell. The combo of that with the heat of the Thai chilis is going to be great.
Grind your peppers, one small handful at a time. Try not to inhale the powder when you open the grinder. And store the powders in airtight containers or jars.
Storing your Chili Powder
Store the powders if possible in a cool dry place, to maximize how long they last. Usually I go through the powders in about 4-6 months, and they haven’t gone stale in that time period. So it’s safe to say your shiny new powders will be good to use for 6-8 months.
Now that you have some tasty new homemade chili powder, why not try it out! This Tomato Salad is awesome and can have the fresh chili replaced with a good powder. And my BBQ Tandoori Style Chicken will always benefit from an extra chili powder kick!