Poblano peppers are named for the state of Puebla, Mexico, where they are believed to have originated. The mild pepper is grown and used extensively in Mexico and the southwestern United States, and while it can be eaten raw or cooked, it is frequently roasted.
What Are Poblano Peppers?
Poblanos (pronounced po-BLAH-no) peppers are a mild variety of chile pepper. They are as large or even larger than a bell pepper but are skinnier and have a pointy tip, similar to hot chile peppers like jalapeños. Poblanos are best when peeled and seeded, which can be done more easily after cooking. They are affordable and often sold while green for use in dishes like chile relleno, chiles en nogada, and rajas con crema. Dried red poblano peppers are called ancho chile peppers.
How to Cook With Poblano Peppers
Poblano peppers are especially good candidates for roasting. Roasting in the oven, on the grill, under the broiler, or over an open flame brings out the fruity flavors of the pepper and makes removing the tough skin a breeze. Roast until the skin is blackened and the pepper is tender but not mushy. Place in a plastic bag or a covered bowl until cooled to steam the peel. Use your hands or the back of a large knife to scrape off the burnt skin and discard it.
If you want to keep the peppers whole for stuffing, use a sharp knife to make a T-shaped opening just under the stem and remove the seeds, then stuff with your desired filling. The cooked pepper can also be sliced or diced for a variety of uses.
What Do Poblano Peppers Taste Like?
Poblano peppers are mild chile peppers, registering at 1,000 to 2,000 on the Scoville scale. For comparison, jalapeño peppers can range from 2,500 to 10,000 and tend to hover somewhere around the middle at 7,000. Poblanos are typically sold green and unripe, making them extra mild. They taste similar to a green bell pepper with a little more kick. Cooking poblanos mellows them even more, making them slightly sweet.
Ripe poblanos are red and tend to be spicier than unripe, green peppers. They're often dried and sold as ancho chiles, and they add a peppery, slightly smoky flavor to dishes.
Poblano Peppers Recipes
Beyond roasting, poblanos can also be chopped and left raw or sautéed for use in chilis, relishes, quesadillas, or salads. They are frequently left whole or split in half lengthwise and stuffed with a variety of fillings like cheeses, meats, and beans. Chiles en nogada, sometimes called the national dish of Mexico, is a colorful plate of roasted poblanos stuffed with meat, fresh and dried fruits, and spices, and topped with a cream sauce and pomegranate seeds.
The peppers can also be dipped in batter and fried, like for the classic dish chile rellenos. Ancho chiles (dried poblanos) can be ground and used as a spice or soaked and pureed in sauces such as mole poblano.
Where to Buy Poblano Peppers
Poblano peppers can be found year-round in many grocery stores, especially in the southwestern United States. They are frequently imported from Mexico and are available at Mexican markets. Poblanos are typically sold loose per pound but are sometimes prepackaged. For local peppers, look for fresh poblanos in the summertime along with other chile peppers. No matter where you buy them, look for fresh peppers that are brightly colored, firm, and free of blemishes and soft spots.
Dried poblano peppers, called ancho chiles, can be purchased all year long in the dried goods and spices section of Mexican markets or online.
Poblano peppers can be grown at home in beds or pots, especially in warm weather regions or during summer months. They are ready to harvest about two months after planting from seed.
How to Store Poblano Peppers
Store unwashed, whole peppers in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to two or three weeks. Wash them just before using. Roasted, peeled peppers can be kept in an airtight container in the fridge for up to three days. Raw, diced peppers or roasted peppers can be frozen for up to three months and used in cooked dishes. Dried (ancho) peppers should be stored in an airtight container in a dry, cool place for up to a year.
Poblano Peppers vs. Pasilla Peppers
Poblano peppers are known as ancho chiles when dried, and to make things more confusing, the fresh version is often incorrectly sold as pasilla peppers in America. Pasilla peppers are actually the dried version of chilaca chile peppers, a similar Mexican pepper that is skinnier and often spicier. Don't let all of the confusion complicate your grocery store trip, though. If you see wide, fresh peppers labeled as pasilla peppers at your grocery store, don't be fooled—chances are they're poblano peppers.