Kashmiri Chili Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are Kashmiri chilies?

There are few fruits or vegetables as colorful as chilies in general, though the Kashmiri chili puts even the most colorful hot peppers to shame. With a vibrant red hue and very eatable mild heat (1,000 to 2,000 Scoville heat units or SHU), the Kashmiri chili (a.k.a. Kashmiri Mirch) is a staple chili for Indian cooking. It’s typically used dried as flakes or a fine powder. And the color of Kashmiri just pops off the plate – bringing to life curries, tandoori chicken, and many other Indian dishes.

Kashmiri Chili
Dried whole Kashmiri chilies

Table of Contents

Kashmiri chili fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)1,000 – 2,000
Median heat (SHU)1,500
Jalapeño reference pointNear equal heat to 8 times milder
Capsicum speciesAnnuum
OriginIndia
UseCulinary
SizeLong, conical, thin (typically dried)
FlavorFruity, Sweet

How hot are Kashmiri chili peppers?

Spiciness and Indian cuisine go hand-in-hand, but the Kashmiri chili follows a different path. It’s bred for both color and mildness, so Kashmiri powder can be used as much as a color additive as a flavor enhancer.

Kashmiri peppers range from 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville heat units (SHU), which places it at a comparable mild heat as the poblano pepper. Compared to our reference point, the jalapeño pepper, Kashmiri chilies are nearly equal heat at their ceiling and eight times milder when comparing the mildest Kashmiri to the hottest possible jalapeño.

What do Kashmiri peppers look like?

It’s all about the vibrant red with these chilies, no matter what form you find them in.

Kashmiri powder is the most common form – and there’s a shock red color here. For high-quality Kashmiri chilies, its vibrancy is almost unworldly – like food coloring more than a natural shade. Lesser quality Kashmiri can take on deeper red hues – like colors more common among other chili powders (but still quite stunning.)

Outside of powdered form, you’ll typically find Kashmiri chilies dried and whole. In dried form, Kashmiri peppers are conical in shape, long, wrinkled, and – of course – red. Though the red of the exterior of the chili can take more of a rich jewel-tone red – not fully releasing the vibrant color until pulverized into a powder.

Dried Kashmiri chilies and powder
Dried whole Kashmiri chilies often take on a deeper red hue, but when ground, the powder’s color explodes with vibrancy

What do Kashmiri chilies taste like?

It really is about the color and mild heat with Kashmiri, not the overall flavor. But that’s not to say they are lacking in taste. There’s a lovely fruity undertone to this chili. It wouldn’t be the first off the spice rack shelf for use as a flavor additive, but it can make do as a sweet paprika substitute in a pinch. Though, paprika is much easier to source overall.

Cooking with Kashmiri chilies

Kashmiri chilies are a must for authentic Indian cuisine, bringing that shock red color of their meals to life. Curries and tandoori chicken are just the tip of the iceberg here. It’s also delicious with cheeses and fruits – adding a pop to the plate and a mild fruity kick. And, as mentioned, you can use Kashmiri as a paprika substitute – but it’s only a good sub if you already have Kashmiri available. Otherwise, it’s harder to find than other options.

While Kashmiri peppers are mild and typically found dried, you can still receive uncomfortable chili burn from handling. When chopping whole, dried Kashmiri, it’s best to use kitchen gloves. And take a look at our post on treating chili burn in case you experience it.

Where can you buy Kashmiri chilies?

There’s a catch with Kashmiri. It isn’t easy to find. The demand for this chili in its local Kashmir region and India as a whole keeps much of the crop for domestic use in India. You can find it at specialty Indian markets in North America, or you can buy dried Kashmiri (or powders) online. Most other grocers won’t carry it, even those with well-stocked international grocery sections.

If you’re one for making regionally authentic meals, you’ll want to explore using Kashmiri chilies. Indian food is not quite the same without it. Their color is in a league of its own, bringing real drama to a plate. Kashmiri, in fact, is the perfect visual complement to the many robust flavors you’ll find in Indian meals.


UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on February 18, 2023 to include new content.
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