Chipotle Meco Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are chipotle meco peppers?

Chipotle meco peppers (also known as chipotle tipico) are a type of smoked, dried jalapeño. After being allowed to ripen to a bright red, these peppers are smoked for a longer period than their more common counterpart, the chipotle morita. The extended smoking time results in a deeper, more nuanced flavor, as well as a distinct color and texture. As a jalapeño, the chipotle meco has a similar heat range — a low-medium spiciness from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units (SHU).

Chipotle meco peppers – note how dry the chilies are

How hot are chipotle meco?

In terms of heat, chipotle meco peppers are considered low-medium in spiciness. They typically range between 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville heat scale. This places them at a similar heat level to the jalapeño from which they originate, although some may find the smoking process imparts a sensation of greater heat due to the enhanced flavors. They can also tend toward the upper part of the range as chipotle are made from ripe red jalapeños. Ripened peppers tend to be hotter than their less mature counterparts.

Compared to other dried chilies common in the kitchen:

  • Ancho: The ancho is much milder, ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 SHU.
  • Pasilla: The pasilla can touch the heat of the mildest chipotle meco, but they typically are milder (1,000 to 2,500 SHU.)
  • Guajillo: Guajillos share a similar range (2,500 to 5,000 SHU), but the meco pepper has a higher ceiling.
  • Cayenne: The cayenne is the hottest dried chili on most spice racks, ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. The chipotle meco is at least 4 times milder and typically much more.

How do chipotle meco differ from morita peppers?

While both varieties are smoked jalapeños, chipotle meco peppers are smoked for a significantly longer period than morita peppers. This results in a drier, tan-colored pepper rather than the softer, reddish-brown morita. The flavor of meco is also often described as more intense and complex due to the extended smoking process. They also tend to be slightly larger in shape.

What do chipotle meco look like?

Chipotle Meco peppers are typically tan or grayish-tan in color and have a stiff, leathery texture. They are quite wrinkly and can be identified by their stiff, elongated shape that retains the size and form of the original jalapeño. In terms of inches, expect the meco to range from one to two inches wide and two to four inches in length. 

What do they taste like?

This is where this dried chili truly shines. The taste of chipotle meco peppers is rich and smoky with hints of chocolate and leather, often accompanied by a slightly fruity undertone. The depth of flavor is more pronounced than in chipotle moritas due to the longer smoking time. 

How can you use them?

Chipotle meco peppers are versatile in the kitchen, though Mexican cuisine is where they truly shine. Chopped for use in tacos, burritos, and enchiladas (to name a few use cases) is common. They can also be rehydrated and pureed into hot sauces, salsas, or marinades, imparting a deep smoky flavor to dishes. 

One classic use is in the preparation of adobo sauce. The rehydrated peppers are pureed with ingredients such as tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, and spices to create a robust sauce that can be used as a marinade for meats or as a base for stews and braises.

Another popular application is to grind the dried peppers into a powder which can be sprinkled onto meats, added to dry rubs, or used to season vegetables before roasting. The mecos bold flavor makes them ideal for seasoning vegetarian and vegan recipes where they add a meaty depth.

Cooking with chipotle meco

When cooking with this dried chili, it’s important to consider its intense flavor. A little goes a long way, so start by using a small amount, tasting, and adjusting accordingly. Here. we’re talking about its smokiness as much as its overall heat.

The dried peppers can be rehydrated by soaking them in hot water for about 20 minutes or until they become pliable. This process not only softens the chiles but also releases their flavors, making them easier to blend into pastes or sauces. The soaking liquid itself is infused with flavor and can be used as part of the cooking liquid to further infuse dishes with chipotle essence.

–> Learn More: How To Rehydrate Peppers For The Best Flavor

And don’t underestimate the meco when handling. They may look unassuming as a dried chili, but they’ll still give you the same chili burn that a fresh jalapeño can deliver. Use gloves in the handling. And know how to combat chili burn in case you experience it.

Where can you buy chipotle meco?

Finding authentic chipotle meco peppers can be more challenging than their morita counterparts. They are less commonly available in regular supermarkets but can be found in Mexican specialty stores, some gourmet food shops, or through online spice retailers. When shopping for these peppers, it might be beneficial to look for them under their alternative names such as ‘chipotle tipico’ or simply ‘meco’.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on December 7, 2023 to include new content.
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