Poblano vs Pasilla: How Do These Peppers Compare?

Poblano and pasilla are popular and very highly prized peppers in Mexican cuisine. They add a spectacular touch to recipes and have remarkable culinary uses. So how different are these peppers? Well, let’s take a closer look with our poblano vs pasilla pepper comparison and showdown. 

To be clear, these are very different peppers and easily distinguishable. The appearance or confusion of similarity between the two comes from mislabeling, which perhaps started as an honest mistake. Poblano peppers often end up being labeled as pasilla, while pasilla gets called poblano.

So, let’s take a closer look to understand what these chilies are and why these two chili peppers often get the same label.

Poblano VS Pasilla: A Closer Look And Comparison

Differences Between Poblano And Pasilla Peppers 

How These Peppers Differ In Appearance

The difference between these two chili peppers is clear and starts with the looks. Poblano is a green chili pepper that grows to about 4 inches in length. Poblano peppers can mature to a dark red or brown color, but that’s rarely allowed. These peppers are generally harvested when they’re green and find most of their culinary uses in this form.

Pasilla peppers have a dramatically different appearance. They are dark brown, dried peppers with something of a wrinkly skin. In fact, pasilla translates to little raisin in Spanish. That should give you a good idea of what these peppers look like. Although to be clear, pasilla peppers can be much larger than the average raisin. These elongated peppers can be as much as 8-10 inches long.

Taste And Heat Difference Between Pasilla And Poblano Pepper

With such a difference in appearance, it is obvious that these peppers differ in taste as well. Poblano peppers score about 1000 to 2000 SHU on the Scoville scale. This means they’re rated as mild for heat. 

Poblano peppers have a meaty texture and a rich, earthy flavor. In part, this is because these peppers have thick walls, quite similar to bell peppers. 

As for pasilla peppers, they show a few excellent qualities to match their name. Pasilla translates to little raisins. These peppers are much bigger than any raisin, but they do have those wonderful sweet and fruity undertones that are characteristic of raisins.

On the scoville scale, pasilla peppers score about 1000-2500 SHU. This makes them mild to moderately hot. 

We can pretty much say that these are both fairly mild peppers. After all, both these barely hit 2000 SHU. For comparison, Carolina Reaper, the hottest chili pepper in the world, can score an unbelievable 2.4 million SHU.

What Is A Poblano Pepper?

Poblano peppers are a famous part of Mexican cuisine. These dark green peppers are about 4-inches in length and are somewhat similar to bell peppers. However, they have a pointy end, rather than the round curve at the end of bell peppers. 

Poblano peppers also have a thick, meaty wall (skin), which is similar to bell pepper, but thinner. These peppers have a fairly mild heat and an excellent depth of flavor. They’re often roasted before use in recipes to add a depth to the flavor.

Here’s an interesting fact about poblano peppers. When allowed to ripen to a deep red color and dried, they become (or, are known as) ancho chili peppers. These peppers too are an important part of Mexican cuisine. Their appearance is a reason why poblano and pasilla are often confused by some packers.

What Is A Pasilla Pepper?

Pasilla peppers come from the well-known chilaca peppers. To obtain pasilla, chilaca peppers are harvested when ripe and then dried. This gives them a wrinkly dark brown appearance. As we know, pasilla literally translates to “little raisin”. 

That’s because these mild chilies have a rather alluring sweet undertone. This makes pasilla peppers a perfect pick for several recipes, including moles and salsa.

Though called little raisins, these peppers are quite large in size. They usually range 8-10 inches in length.

Are Pasilla Peppers The Same As Poblano?

Pasilla peppers and poblano peppers are entirely different types of pepper. They don’t have the same color, taste, or flavor. The confusion related to these two peppers largely comes down to the mislabeling, where poblano peppers get mistakenly marked as pasilla.

When ripened and dried, poblano peppers are known as ancho chili peppers. These are usually a dark red in color. Though smaller than pasilla peppers, they can look similar to the untrained eye. Pasilla and ancho pepper often have similar roles in recipes and have a similar heat. 

Considering the similarities between ancho and pasilla pepper, and ancho’s relation to poblano, it becomes clear why some people end up mislabeling these products.

It should be noted, that despite their similarities, even ancho and pasilla pepper are fairly different and affect recipes in different ways.

Ancho, pasilla, and guajillo peppers together are sometimes called the “holy trinity” of chili peppers used in Mexican cuisine. You’ll find them used in several recipes, though their presence in Mexican Mole sauces is pretty much legendary.

FAQ

Can You Substitute Pasilla Peppers For Poblano Peppers?

Pasilla peppers aren’t a good substitute for poblano peppers. Pasilla peppers are red, possess sweet undertones, and have a thinner and longer shape. On the other hand, poblano peppers are dark green with a relatively meaty skin and somewhat lower heat than pasilla. Besides, as a dry chili, pasilla acquires hints of an earthy and smoky flavor that’s absolutely missing in poblano peppers.

Interestingly, ripened and dried poblano chili peppers (ancho peppers) can be substituted by pasilla peppers in many recipes. In the same vein, ancho chili peppers can replace pasilla in some recipes.

So, given the relation between poblano and ancho chili peppers, it might seem plausible to say pasilla can substitute a type of poblano peppers. However, such a characterization would be wrong as even though closely related, poblano and ancho peppers are treated differently in recipes and cuisine.

Is Pasilla Pepper Hot?

Pasilla peppers rank between 1000-2500 SHU on the Scoville scale. This range puts them in the same range as mild chili peppers. So, while they do pack some heat, pasilla peppers aren’t necessarily hot. 

For comparison, an average jalapeno pepper has a scoville score between 2500-8000 SHU. In light of this comparison, you can imagine how mild pasillas are. Even the hottest pasilla pepper will have less heat than the mildest jalapeno pepper.

Which Is Hotter – Guajillo Or Pasilla?

Three chili peppers are famous as the ‘holy trinity’ of Mexican cuisine. These are guajillo, pasilla, and ancho. Of these, guajillo is the hottest with its heat ranging between 2,500 to 5,000 SHU. Pasilla peppers come next with a score of 1,000 to 2,500 SHU. Ancho peppers are the mildest, scoring between 1,000 to 1,500 SHU on the Scoville scale.

The Bottom Line

The comparison of poblano vs pasilla pepper is clear and shows distinct characteristics of each pepper. They differ in appearance, color, shape, heat, and flavor. These are obviously very different peppers. However, the perceived similarity comes from ancho chili peppers, which are a form of ripened and dried poblano peppers. 

Ancho and pasilla peppers have some similarities in appearance, though they too differ in their use and flavor. That said, ancho and pasilla peppers have much more in common than poblano and pasilla peppers.

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