A handful of fresh chile peppers and a few simple ingredients come together beautifully in this not-too-hot sauce that can be slathered on so many things! 🌶
When considering a condiment made with chile peppers, hot sauce usually comes to mind. The following silky sauce, however, is a balanced combination of sweet heat and tang that can be used liberally like a gravy instead of sparingly like a hot sauce.
If you’re growing peppers in your garden, you’re in luck. If not, this recipe is the ideal way to take advantage of the generally low-priced piles of the vibrant-hued peppers that can be found year-round in most large grocery stores.
But first, have you ever wondered about the spelling of the word chile? Or chili or chilli? (And while we’re asking questions, is there a difference between “chili powder” and “chile powder?”)
You’ve likely seen all three spellings of this word and wondered which is correct.
This used to trip me up, and I figured I probably wasn’t the only one. So, for the sake of clarification (and because it’s always fun to learn some fun trivia!), following is the short answer:
For starters, all three spellings are all acceptable. However, “chile” with an “e” is commonly used to refer to the pepper and is the traditional spelling in Latin American countries.
On the other hand, “chili” with an “i” and the end is typically considered the Americanized variation and is thought to have begun with the creation of chili con carne, which was then shortened to chili.
Many Americans do use “chilI” to refer to the pepper, too. Although this isn’t technically wrong, many would say that “chile” should be used when referring to the pepper, and “chili” should be saved for the meaty stew.
The third variation, “chilli,” is the preferred spelling in countries like Britain, Australia, Singapore, India, and South Africa.
And what about the second question pertaining to “chili” powder and “chile” powder?
There happens to be a distinct difference between these two spices, which is worth noting. If a jar says “chili powder,” it contains dried chile peppers mixed with other spices, like cumin. This spice can be used liberally because it is not particularly spicy.
“Chile powder,” on the other hand, is made solely from dried chile peppers. Depending on which variety of pepper is used (think ancho, cayenne, chipotle, and chile de árbol to name a few) this condiment may be highly spicy. For this reason, one should take caution if using “chile powder” when “chili powder” is called for in a recipe.
I could drench just about anything in this luscious sauce. When the seeds of these vibrant peppers are removed, the end result is ever-so-slightly spicy with a lovely undercurrent of sweetness.
So although it seems to fall under the hot sauce umbrella, you may use this condiment far more liberally to add moisture and flavor to the the likes of grilled or baked meats, roasted vegetables, and cooked grains.
Similarly, I think of this sauce as that extra layer of flavor for things that may already have a dressing or vinaigrette. For example, you could drizzle this sauce over a bean or quinoa salad with a cilantro lime vinaigrette－or a lemony orzo, a simple chicken salad, or a baked frittata.
Suddenly, you have a dish that is worthy of your favorite restaurant－but you made it in the comfort of your very own kitchen! Experiment and use this sauce freely.
I recently found that quick pickled corn and this sauce make for a memorable grilled chicken dish. And then leftovers of these items can be mixed with the likes of cooked rice, avocado, and your favorite seasonal veggies for a satisfying bowl meal. Just chop the ingredients into bite-size pieces before assembling so you can stir and get a little taste of everything in each bite.
My favorite part? Instead of the customary vinegar flavor that accompanies Tabasco and other hot sauces, this vibrant sauce calls for lime juice. The end result is a beautiful red condiment that you will want to use liberally and make over and over. Luckily, it couldn’t be easier!
I mentioned that this sauce doesn’t carry much heat. But what if you really like a spicy sauce?
No worries, for those who like their hot sauce hot, you can have that. In the recipe, I mention where you may add back the seeds to taste, creating a sauce that ranges from mild to medium to downright fiery if you like.
So now you have some fun dinnertime trivia (chile/chili/chilli?) and a sauce you can spoon over so many things. Hopefully, the end result is a memorable meal on a variety of levels!
- 8 (4-5 ounces) red Fresno or red jalapeño chiles, stems removed and seeded (reserve seeds if you’d like a spicier sauce)
- 2 small garlic cloves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons (45 ml) freshly squeezed lime juice
- 2 tablespoons (24 grams) lightly packed light brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon (14 ml) vegetable or other neutral tasting oil (I use avocado or safflower oil)
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
After seeding (and reserving some of the seeds, if desired), roughly chop the peppers for easier blending. Place all of the ingredients in a blender and purée until very smooth. Scrape down the sides as needed. You’ll want to work your way up to the highest speed for a velvety smooth sauce. If desired, add some of the seeds back, a little at a time, to achieve the desired level of spiciness.
Serve immediately, or transfer to a jar or bottle and refrigerate in an airtight container, where it will keep for at least 5 days. Shake before serving.
When handling hot peppers, take care to not touch your eyes and wash your hands thoroughly when finished. You may also wish to wear gloves.