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Pasilla Pepper vs. Poblano: What’s the Difference?

Is pasilla pepper poblano?

15-Second to Learn the Difference

While pasilla pepper and poblano are used in Mexican dishes, they’re not the same.

Pasilla pepper is a dried chilaca pepper that adds spiciness to many dishes. It’s long, thin, and dark brown or black.

On the other hand, poblano is a huge and heart-shaped fresh pepper similar to bell peppers. And it’s often prepared whole or sliced into two parts and cooked with stuffings.

What is Pasilla Pepper?

pasilla peppers

Pasilla pepper is made by drying chilica pepper, a thin and long pepper that turns from dark green to dark brown as it ripens.

It’s also called as “pasilla bajio,” “chile negro,” and “Mexican pasilla negro” while still fresh. But once dried, it’s referred to as “little raisins” since it has some flavor notes and aroma similar to the actual raisins. And it looks like one, but only bigger.

Although it’s categorized as a “mild pepper,” a pasilla pepper has a sweet and fruity taste, making it a perfect and versatile addition to any dish. And suppose you want to tone down its spiciness, grind it to bring out its earthy flavor.

What is Poblano?

poblano pepper

Poblano is a fresh pepper that originated from a Mexican state called Puebla.

This pepper is popular in Mexico and North America. So it’s no surprise that it’s one of the most grown plants in the said Mexican state.

It’s a thick, heart-shaped pepper that looks like bell pepper. And unlike most peppers, it doesn’t turn red or orange once ripe. But instead, a dark green one.

Poblano is also a “mild pepper” with a fresh and zesty taste. And thanks to its thick walls, it also has a meaty flavor.

Unlike others, it’s harvested when it’s almost ripe. Because it tastes the best when all its flavors are in their peak richness. You can also pick it when it’s fully ripe, but expect it to be a little spicier.

Difference Between Pasilla Pepper and Poblano

Pasilla pepper is sold dried in the market, while Poblano is fresh. They look completely different.

Want to expand your knowledge about pasilla pepper vs poblano? Continue reading below!

Pasilla Pepper vs Poblano

Differences

Pasilla Pepper

Poblano

Appearance

8 to 10 inches long with a dark brown color

4-inch long with a dark brown/black color

Taste

Smoky and fruity

Earthy and meaty

Heat Level

1000 - 2500 SHU

1000 - 1500 SHU

Usage for Cooking

Soups, sauces, moles, and salsas

Salads, sandwiches, and dressings

Best Substitute

Ancho

Anaheim pepper

1. Appearance

One obvious difference between poblano and pasilla is their appearance. Since one is fresh and the other dried, their shape, color, and texture differ.

Pasilla Pepper

A pasilla is a thin pepper with a long body of about 8 to 10 inches long.

It has a dark green and smooth skin when fresh (meaning when it’s in its chiica pepper state). But once it ripens, it becomes dark brown or almost black.

Once dried, its skin color remains dark brown or black. But its texture becomes rough, similar to a raisin or dried fruit.

Poblano

In comparison, a poblano has a thick, heart-shaped, and green 4-inch long body, similar to bell pepper. Only that a poblano’s tip is pointy.

In case you didn’t know, a poblano has a dried counterpart called ancho. It has a similar size to a fresh poblano, except that its skin is rough and dark brown or black.

And that’s probably when people easily confuse a pasilla pepper with poblano. When pasilla peppers are displayed on the stalls next to ancho chiles.

2. Taste

Although both are staples in Mexican dishes, these two have different flavor notes.

Pasilla Pepper

A pasilla pepper is part of the “sweet peppers” group, so expect sweet notes from it. Plus, it has a fruity undertone, which some people compare to dried berries and raisins.

And since it’s dried, it has a smoky flavor that gives any dish a rich and playful lingering taste.

Poblano

Use a poblano if you want a fresh taste of classic pepper in your mouth. It has a zesty feel and earthy flavor, which gives a kick to traditional cuisines.

And since it has a thick wall, you can expect a meaty taste.

In the case of ancho, it has a smoky and earthy flavor similar to pasilla pepper but much sweeter.

3. Heat Level

Food experts use the Scoville scale to measure peppers’ spiciness or heat level. And although they’re both in the “mild range” of that scale, there’s still some difference between them.

Pasilla Pepper

A pasilla pepper has 1000 Scoville units when it’s unripe. And it can go as far as 2500 Scoville units once it becomes fully ripe. Which is nearly equal to the mildest heat level of a jalapeno.

If you want to tone down the spiciness of a pasilla pepper, grind it and use it as spice flakes.

Poblano

A poblano is less spicier than pasilla pepper. It has the same 1000 Scoville units when unripe. But it can only go as far as 1500 Scoville units when fully ripe.

If you compare it to a jalapeno, a poblano’s peak hotness is two times milder.

However, if you’d dry it as an ancho, it can get hotter like pasilla pepper.

4. Usage for Cooking

Pasilla pepper vs poblano: which one to use?

Although these two are used for many Mexican dishes, you can’t replace one for the other. Since they have different flavors and usage.

Pasilla Pepper

More than anything, pasilla peppers are used to add spice to the food. So, cooks often dice or grind them before mixing them with the dish.

It’s mostly added to soups, sauces, moles, and salsas.

Poblano

In contrast, poblano is often cooked as part of the main ingredients.

It’s cut into larger pieces and added to salads, sandwiches, and dressings. Or even better, put stuffing in it and roast a poblano as the main dish.

5. Best Substitute

Can’t find pasilla pepper or poblano in your local market? Don’t worry. You can grab other types of peppers as their substitutes.

Pasilla Pepper

As mentioned above, when dried, a poblano creates the same earthy and smoky flavor. That said, if you lack a pasilla pepper at home, you can get an ancho as a substitute.

Just keep in mind that an ancho can be a little sweeter than the typical pasilla pepper. So, make sure to tweak your cooking recipe as you like.

Poblano

Although an ancho can substitute pasilla pepper, you can’t do the same for poblano. For once, a poblano is used fresh, and pasilla pepper isn’t.

So, if you need a substitute for it, you can instead grab an anaheim pepper. Depending on its ripeness, it can be less or more spicy than a poblano.

FAQs About Pasilla Pepper and Poblano

Which is hotter – pasilla or poblano?

Passilla pepper is hotter than poblano. Unless the former is unripe and the latter is nearly or fully ripe.

One difference between poblano and pasilla is their heat level. Although they’re both considered “mild,” their spiciness differs depending on their ripeness.

Both unripe pasilla and poblano have 1000 Scoville units. But a fully ripe pasilla pepper has 1000 more Scoville units than a fully ripe poblano.

Can I use pasilla instead of poblano?

You can’t use pasilla instead of poblano because they have different flavor profiles.

If there’s one major difference between pasilla pepper vs poblano, it’d be their taste and usage. You may not want to use a sweet and fruit pasilla pepper in a dish that needs the zesty feel that a poblano can offer.

Grab an Anaheim pepper instead if you need a substitute for a poblano. Because that’s the closest thing that offers a nearly similar taste and heat level to a poblano.

Can you eat pasilla peppers raw?

You can eat pasilla peppers raw since it’s only a mild pepper, and most people can tolerate its heat. And it tastes like dried berries and raisins, so worry not.

But remember that it’s most typically used to add spice to any food. So, to best enjoy it, mix it with your favorite dish.

Conclusion

Many things distinguish pasilla pepper from poblano. And that includes their appearance, heat level, usage, and substitutes.

But more than that, there’s one major difference between poblano and pasilla that easily sets them apart: their taste.

And it would help if you always remembered this.

Since they have completely different flavor profiles. A poblano is fresh and zesty, while a pasilla pepper is sweet and fruity. Meaning, you can’t just replace one for the other.

I’m Jennifer Schlette, a Registered Dietitian and Integrative Nutrition Health Coach. I love cooking, reading, and my kids! Here you’ll find the healthiest recipes & substitutions for your cooking. Enjoy, and be well, friends!

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