Morita Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

What are morita peppers?

Morita peppers (or chipotle morita) are a type of chipotle pepper, originating from Mexico. They belong to the Capsicum annuum species, which includes a wide variety of peppers such as bell peppers, jalapeños, and cayenne peppers. Morita peppers are ripened red jalapeños that have been smoked and dried, similar to chipotle meco (but not the same.) And, as such, they share the same medium heat range (2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units) as a fresh jalapeño. Morita chilies have a delicious smoky, sweet, and earthy flavor that works quite well with Mexican cuisine, barbecue, and bold meals. 

Morita pepper
Morita peppers – dried, smokes jalapeños (also known as chipotle morita)

How hot are morita peppers?

As moritas are simply dried, smoked jalapeños, you’ll experience the same exact heat range as a fresh jalapeño pepper, 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units (or SHU). But moritas, like chipotle meco peppers, are typically made from mature red jalapeños. So expect these chilies to tend to the upper end of that scale (the longer a pepper matures on the vine, typically the greater the heat.)

Comparing the morita pepper to other dried chilies, in terms of heat:

  • Chipotle Meco: Equal heat. See our section below on how they differ. 
  • Ancho: Anchos range 1,000 to 1,500 SHU, making them much milder.
  • Pasilla: Pasillas range from 1,000 to 2,500, reaching the lower end potential of a morita pepper, but still overall more mild.
  • Guajillo: Guajillos range from 2,500 to 5,000 SHU, so they share a similar mediumheat as moritas, but the morita chili has a higher overall ceiling.
  • Cayenne: Cayenne peppers are much spicier, ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU – the upper end o medium heat on the Scoville scale. 

How do morita peppers differ from chipotle meco?

While both morita peppers and chipotle meco peppers are both smoked, dried jalapeños, there are some key differences between the two. Chipotle meco peppers are typically smoked for a longer period, resulting in a drier pepper with a more intense smoky flavor. Morita peppers are smoked for less time, which leaves them softer, retaining more of their fruity flavor and a touch less smokiness.

Additionally, chipotle meco peppers are usually larger (picked later in the season before drying and smoking) and tan or brown (like coffee) in color, while morita peppers are smaller and reddish-black.

What do they look like?

Morita peppers are small, typically 1 to 2 inches in length, with a round or slightly elongated shape. Their color is a deep, rich, reddish-black, and their skin is wrinkled due to the smoking and drying process. Unlike the fully dried chipotle meco peppers, morita peppers retain a bit of pliability and softness.

What do they taste like?

Morita peppers have a unique, complex flavor profile. They offer a moderate heat that is balanced by a sweet, fruity taste reminiscent of cherries or raisins. Their smoky flavor, a result of the smoking process, adds an additional layer of complexity. The combination of heat, sweetness, and smokiness makes morita peppers a versatile and flavorful addition to many dishes.

How can you use them?

Morita peppers are incredibly versatile. They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine to make salsas, marinades, and adobo sauce. Mole sauce, too, is an area where dried morita shine. It’s not one of the Holy Trinity of mole peppers (that’d be ancho, guajillo, and pasilla), but it still works very well.

Outside of traditional uses, morita chilies can also be rehydrated and used in soups, stews, and chili. Ground morita peppers can be used as a spice, adding a smoky heat to meats, vegetables, and even cocktails. Barbecue is another area where morita chilies shine. The delicious smoky, earthy flavor provides a real rustic flavor and heat to red meats. And the spiciness is just enough to be felt, but not so hot as to turn off most eaters.

Cooking with morita peppers

Before using them in your dish, it’s common to rehydrate the dried peppers by soaking them in hot water for about 20 minutes until they become plump and soft. After they are rehydrated, they can be deseeded and pureed or chopped according to the recipe.

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

Start with a small amount and adjust according to your heat preference. Their smoky flavor can be quite potent, so it’s best to add them gradually until the desired flavor intensity is achieved.

And take care with the handling of morita peppers. Dried peppers can look unassuming, but their heat is as potent (or more) than their fresh equivalents. Morita chilies can give you the same level of chili burn as a fresh jalapeño, so it’s best to use kitchen gloves when handling. And know how to treat chili burn before you begin. Hint – milk is your best friend.

Where can you buy morita peppers?

Morita peppers can be found in many grocery stores, especially those that carry a wide variety of international foods. They are often sold in the Mexican or international food aisle. Additionally, they can be purchased online from a variety of retailers. When buying morita peppers, look for peppers that are shiny and pliable, as this indicates they are fresh and of high quality. 

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on November 24, 2023 to include new content.
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