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Chiltepin Peppers: The Little Kings of Mexican Cuisine

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The chiltepin pepper is one of those “food wonders” you’ve probably heard about throughout the Mexican Republic.

However, you will be surprised to know that this chili is typical of the region of Sonora and Sinaloa.

It is eaten fresh and dried, the latter being its most widespread version throughout the country.

It can even be found in recipes such as preserves, escabeche, shrimp aguachile, and a delicious salsa (I share my mom’s recipe below, I hope she doesn’t find out).

This chile has many curiosities within the popular and gastronomic culture of Mexico.

For example, a specific instrument to grind the chile is called “chiltepinero.”

This word is also used to define an individual with a bad attitude, which is widely used in various parts of Sonora.

As for hotness, it ranks above average compared to others. Still, this little man will make you suffer, as it has around 60,000 units on the Scoville hotness scale.

It is used for cooking and as a traditional remedy to cure various corporal and spiritual ailments.

According to Sonoran beliefs, it can be used to relieve earache or toothache and cure ailments such as rheumatism, flu, cough, gastritis, hangover, and more…

10 things you didn’t know about Chiltepin Pepper

chiltepin peppers
Dried chiltepin peppers – Source: Carolina Arrollo / shutterstock.com
  1. The chiltepín (Capsicum annuum L. var. Glabriusculum) is a wild species grown in different vegetation types, both in some Mexican regions and other parts of the world.
  2. In Sonora, it is distributed in the municipalities of the south-central and eastern highlands. It grows on the banks of streams and along ravines in the desert scrubland, thorny scrubland, low deciduous forest, and oak forests.
  3. It requires a certain type of soil, humidity, and shade, conditions that are only provided by the natural environment.
  4. The chiltepín chili is derived from an annual or perennial shrub, very branched, which reaches a height of up to two meters. It has thin stems that climb on other shrubs.
  5. The mesquite (Prosopis spp.) is one of the main shrubs related to the chiltepín that is of great economic and ecological importance.
  6. Traditionally, the fruits of this chile are used by the people of the Mexican Northern Territories to heal both the body and the spirit.
  7. Again, the instrument to grind it is called “chiltepinero” and is made of different materials; one of them is the palo fierro, a local wood.
  8. It is not only a word used to define chile but also applies to individuals with a bad attitude. In Sonora you will hear some expressions like: “eres un chiltepín” or “eres peor que un chiltepín.”
  9. The Yaqui call it koko’im; the Guarijío, kokori; the Mayo juya kokori, which means “chile de monte”; the Conca’ac call it coquée quizil which means “small chiles”; and the Pima and Papago call it ko’okol.
  10. It is known by different names in other regions of the country. Some of these are chile piquín, chiltepec, chiltepillo, chilpaya, chile de monte, chile de monte, chile parado, pájaro pequeño, amomo, pico de paloma, pico de pájaro, chile de Chiapas, ululte, totocuitlatl, chile mosquito, tlilchilli, milchili and tlacuache tooth. All types have different characteristics depending on the soil where they grow.

Chiltepin sauce recipe (as promised)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/4 Onion
  • 7 Chiles chiltepín
  • 1 teaspoon of apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 Apple
  • Salt and Pepper

First, place a pot with water on the fire and add tomatoes, onion, and garlic.

Heat for a few minutes or until it is possible to remove the skin of the tomatoes; once this happens, remove it from the heat.

Peel the tomatoes and place them in the blender with garlic, onion, chiltepin chiles, vinegar, and apple.

Blend until everything is perfectly incorporated, and season with salt and pepper.

You can use your chiltepin pepper sauce to accompany whatever you want, from a quesadilla to a sandwich, tostadas, or any Mexican snack.

If you let this sauce rest for a whole day, its flavor will improve, highlighting all the ingredients’ flavors.

Where can I buy Chiltepin peppers?

If you live outside of Mexico, like in the United States, it will be difficult to get it fresh.

Your first bet would be to search in Mexican markets. If you can’t find them there, plan B would be to shop online.

Nowadays, you can get them through Amazon. They offer very good quality Chiltepin peppers sold dried and semi-dried with high vacuum packing (or bottled) to preserve freshness and quality.

Amazon is my first example, but other Mexican websites also have them for sale, with shipping available.

Furthermore, you can even buy Chiltepin seeds and plant them in your house. Given that you have proper conditions for the plant.

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