How to Make Chipotles

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If you’ve ever wanted to make chipotles at home, you’re in the right place. All you need are ripe jalapenos, a smoker, and time. They’re easy to make, and store well.

Chipotle peppers in a bowl on a kitchen cloth.

Chipotles are smoked, dried, ripe jalapeno peppers. Two main varieties exist, the chipotle morita and the chipotle meco.

Morita, which means “little mulberry,” are generally smaller, and they come from any number of jalapeno cultivars. This is the chipotle you will see in cans of adobo.

Meco is the king of chipotles. They come from varieties that exhibit extreme “corking” on the skin, which makes the outside look tan. When they are smoked, they very much look like tobacco; some people say cigar butts.

I’ll walk you through how to make chipotles from either kind of jalapeno.

Three fresh jalapenos with the corking needed to make chipotle meco chiles.

Start with Jalapenos

Chipotles are made from ripe jalapenos. Red ones. The vast majority of jalapenos in the United States are sold green, but yes, jalapenos turn red when ripe… or other colors, but those are specialty varieties.

Generally speaking, you will want overripe peppers, ones that have been left on the plant a long time and are even starting to show signs of shriveling.

If you are growing or looking for jalapenos for chipotle meco, know that these varieties — “farmer’s market” is the most common in the US — take a very long time to ripen, so chances are you will only see them at the end of the growing season.

The best way to make chipotles is to grow your own. Six to 10 plants will give you a nice supply. Barring that, go to a Latin market: They often carry red jalapenos. And in late August or September, look in US farmer’s markets.

Holding a handful of both types of chipotles, meco and morita.

How to Make Chipotles

You will need to smoke your jalapenos. In Mexico, you’ll mostly see them smoked over pecan, oak or mesquite, so I’d recommend those woods.

Smoking jalapenos is easy. Just lay them on the rack and smoke away.

Low heat is key. Chipotles are made over the course of several days in Mexico, smoke dried leisurely. This is what you want, if possible. But if not, just be sure to keep the temperature below 200F. You don’t want to cook the peppers in the process.

Some smokers have a hard time working in low heat, and if you can’t keep the temperature below 200F, don’t try to make chipotles at home. I have used anything from impromptu smoking rigs to Traegers and Bradley smokers and so long as you can keep that temperature down, you’re good.

Be patient. Making chipotles at home is a labor of love. You want the peppers to get at least 6 hours of smoke, and I prefer a whole day: I start in the morning and let them smoke until I go to bed.

After this, sometimes the peppers are still not fully dried: You want them hard, leathery at the least, but brittle is actually OK because you will soak them before using. Jalapenos are thick-walled peppers and take a long time to get to this stage, so there is a shortcut.

Once you’ve smoked your jalapenos for at least 6 hours, and 12 to 16 is better, you can then put them in a regular dehydrator to finish. Yes, the room you dehydrate your chipotles in will smell smoky, but I find that delicious…

Dried chipotle mecos.

storing chipotles

Once they’re ready, chipotles will keep in a bag at room temperature for a year or more. My advice: Buy a bunch of those silicone dessicant packets and put a couple in the bag. This will prevent them from picking up moisture over time and molding.

You can freeze them if you want, but in my world, freezer space is at a premium.

If you’re looking for recipes that use chipotles, try my chipotle deer jerky, Mexican meatballs with chipotle sauce, Sinaloan chilorio, a chile-based pork stew, or whip up a batch of my prickly pear BBQ sauce, which is great with chipotles.

Holding a handful of both chipotle mecos and moritas.
5 from 4 votes

Homemade Chipotles

Here's how to make your own chipotle peppers. It's easy, but takes time.
Course: Condiment
Cuisine: Mexican
Servings: 20 servings
Author: Hank Shaw
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cook Time: 12 hours
Total Time: 12 hours 10 minutes

Equipment

  • 1 Smoker
  • 1 Dehydrator (optional)

Ingredients 

  • 40 fresh, red jalapenos

Instructions 

  • Lay the peppers in your smoker in one layer, ideally not touching. Smoke them at 150? ideally, but definitely below 200?. You want slow smoke that barely cooks the peppers, if at all. The goal is smoke drying them.
  • Smoke the peppers at least 6 hours, but I prefer all day, like 16 hours. You can, if you have a cold smoking set up, simply smoke them each day until they're fully dried, which will take a few days.
  • If you want, you can pull the jalapenos at any time after 6 hours and finish them in a dehydrator set on low heat. They're ready when they are somewhere between leathery and brittle. Remember jalapenos are thick-walled peppers, so this takes a while.
  • Store them in a bag at room temperature. They're keep a year or more.

Notes

If you’re wondering, yes you can use this same technique with other peppers, like Fresnos or serranos or similar peppers. 

Nutrition

Calories: 11kcal | Carbohydrates: 2g | Protein: 1g | Fat: 0.1g | Saturated Fat: 0.01g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 0.01g | Sodium: 3mg | Potassium: 90mg | Fiber: 0.4g | Sugar: 1g | Vitamin A: 267IU | Vitamin C: 40mg | Calcium: 4mg | Iron: 0.3mg

Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.

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About Hank Shaw

Hey there. Welcome to Hunter Angler Gardener Cook, the internet’s largest source of recipes and know-how for wild foods. I am a chef, author, and yes, hunter, angler, gardener, forager and cook. Follow me on Instagram and on Facebook.

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10 Comments

  1. I have use this recipe numerous times before. They always turn out great and I make a raspberry chipotle jam/sauce with them as well as grinding them into powder to use in chili and other recipes that I want to have a smoky heat in. A whole smoker full is more than I use in a year so I only do it every couple of years. I’ve got a new batch in right now.

  2. We freeze all our dried chilies as here in Thailand because 1, they’re expensive, 2 bugs and mold WILL get them no matter what.
    We do a similar process as yours using as little charcoal as possible and mesquite chips (imported). Even after 6++ hours they’re not nearly dry, so we put them in an air fryer on low heat to get the last bit of moisture out

  3. Different woods and smoke degrees will get you a huge range of delicious chipotle peppers, many unlike the commercial stuff. You used to be able to buy quite a range of sun and field dried Mexican peppers but now they all are tunnel dried using forced air convection driers to avoid mold. and meet export quality control regs. Jalapenos were always smoke dried to help preserve that thick flesh from mold as it can stay quite humid at lower altitudes in Mexico. Patience is key for success but well worth it.

  4. Thank you Hank! I usually pop these on the grill after I am done cooking something else with some wood chips. They are so worth the effort and have amazing versatility. Good luck in the north woods of MN. I couldn’t help but notice the lodge where you will be cooking was mentioned in season 2 “Woodcock” podcast. Any connection?
    Mike

  5. Why not cut them in half to expose more to the smoke and speed up the dehydrating???

    On a side note….you write AWESOME recipes. 90% of your recipes are things I can / will make at home.

  6. I’ve made these for years! Your recipe is perfect. I suggest using a pellet tube. All smoke and almost no heat. If possible, use Mesquite for the most authentic flavor. The dehydrator shortcut is the way to go.