Whether your garden is producing a bumper crop of chiles this summer or you couldn’t resist buying a big basket of colorful peppers at the farmers’ market, drying them will allow you to enjoy their fiery flavor all year long. Read on our tips for how to dry them in your own kitchen.
The number of ways to use dried chiles in the kitchen is almost endless: crumble them into red pepper flakes and sprinkle on your pizza, grind them into chile powder to season a spicy Southwestern stew, or soak them and puree in a blender with other ingredients to make a wide variety of sauces, from a spicy Romesco to homemade harissa.
Those who live in a very hot, dry climate can dehydrate chiles in the sun (think of the ristras, or strands of bright red dried chiles, that are a signature of arid New Mexico), but most of us will need to use an oven or dehydrator to achieve the same effect.
To dry chiles in an oven, using gloves if you are sensitive to them, remove the stems from clean, dry chiles and cut them in half lengthwise. You can remove the seeds if you like, depending on how hot you want the results (remember that dried chiles will pack a stronger punch than fresh ones). Arrange the chiles, cut side down, in a single layer on a baking sheet and place in an oven that has been set to its lowest temperature, around 150ºF (65ºC). Dry the chiles for about 6 to 8 hours, checking them every few hours and rotating or flipping them if they are drying unevenly; they should break instead of bend when they are ready. The drying time will vary based on the temperature of your oven and the thickness of the chiles’ skin. Let the chiles cool before storing them a glass jar in a cool, dark place. Stored properly, dried chiles can last up to a year or more.