Garlic Ancho Chile Paste

Mexican chile pastes of many hues and potencies dotted our fridge in the days leading up to Easter. After a spirited debate about menu and theme, we decided to cook a Mexican inspired meal for the holiday. Armed with a dozen cookbooks, bags of chiles, and advice from the helpful staff at our local Latin market, we set to work testing the recipes. After many heaps of charred chiles, garlic and herbs were pureed and perfected, we had a winner.

This Garlic Ancho Chile Paste is smokey, slightly sweet, medium spicy, and richly layered with roasted garlic and spices. Chile pastes are common in Mexican cooking, providing a complex base, potent marinade, or vibrant accent flavor. Ancho chiles are one of our favorites. These dried reddish-brown poblano chile peppers are popular in Mexican cuisine. This gorgeous paste is the starring ingredient in our Charred Ancho Mexican Red Rice and Ancho Cheddar Burgers. This recipe is adapted from Rick Bayless

Yield: About 1 cup 


  • 5 dried ancho chiles
  • 10 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2/3 cup boiling water
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons ground sweet paprika
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried Mexican oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt


  1. Preheat grill or heavy pan on high heat. Spread out the dried ancho chiles and garlic. Toast for 3-5 minutes, turning frequently, until the garlic and anchos soften, and brown (even blacken in spots). The anchos may puff up, don't worry.  
  2. With tongs, remove anchos and garlic from heat. Set the garlic aside. Cut the stems off the anchos and shake out and discard the seeds and stems.
  3. In a small bowl, tear up the anchos and cover with the boiling water. Cover the bowl and allow to soften while you prepare the spices.
  4. Heat a small pan over medium heat. To the dry hot pan, add the paprika, oregano, black pepper, cumin, and cloves. Toast the spices, stirring constantly until fragrant (about 1 minute). Remove from heat and transfer to a small bowl.
  5. Add all ingredients (toasted garlic, toasted and soaked anchos with soaking liquid, toasted spices, and salt) to a blender or food processor. Blend for 1-2 minutes, until it forms a smooth paste.
  6. Use immediately, or stores up to 2 weeks covered tightly in the refrigerator. Conveniently freeze leftovers in an ice cube tray for later use.  


  • This chile paste is excellent as a condiment, mixed into rice, added into a salsa with fresh tomatoes, in tacos, added to chili or any other bean dish, as a marinade meats or fish, or in enchilada or mole sauce.