Morita Peppers: What Are They and How To Use Them in Your Cooking

Morita Peppers: What Are They and How To Use Them in Your Cooking

If you’re a fan of chili peppers, smoked or dried, then the morita pepper is a fantastic ingredient for any salsa or enriching the flavor of your meal. If you’ve never worked with these chili peppers before, then allow us to be the first to introduce you to morita peppers and how to use them in your cooking so that you can add them to your culinary arsenal.

Introducing the Morita Pepper

Morita peppers are identifiable as smoked, red-ripe jalapeño peppers with a raisin-like texture. Morita peppers are also unique in that they are one of two chipotle peppers, most often referred to as “chipotle morita chile,” with the other chipotle pepper being the chipotle meco—a pepper identifiable as tan or gray in color. The advantage morita peppers have, however, is that they take less time to smoke. This allows them to remain softer and retain their rich, slightly fruity flavor in comparison to other smoked peppers.

Heat and Flavor

Speaking of the morita pepper’s flavor, you can expect a combination of fruity and slightly acidic in addition to the added smokey tinge created during the preparation of the pepper. While adequately rich in flavor, it is still mild enough to not be too overpowering in either flavor or heat. In terms of heat, the Morita pepper ranges between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville heat units on the Scoville scale. For those unacquainted with the scale, this is about as hot as your typical jalapeño pepper, so you shouldn’t expect anything dramatic if you’re looking to test yourself with extreme heat. If you prefer the milder spices, then this is a nice balance between adding some heat to your meal without going too overboard to the point where it becomes unpleasant.

Preparing the Morita Pepper

Dried morita peppers can be cooked just like you typically would a chipotle pepper. For example, one of the best ways to prepare them is by rehydrating the pepper to make it into morita pepper salsa or as a zesty soup or stew. The rehydration process is done by soaking the peppers in hot water until they become very soft. Luckily, this rehydration process only takes about 15 to 30 minutes to complete. If you want to take an extra step, you can further bring out the flavor by lightly toasting the peppers in a hot pan or toaster oven to loosen up the oils within the skin of the pepper before rehydrating them.

Another method of preparing morita peppers and how to use them in your cooking is by grinding the peppers into a delicious chili powder. This makes the morita pepper more versatile, as the chili powder can be used as a general seasoning, a rub for barbecuing, or as an additive to sauces, soups, and stews. Before you grind the peppers, make sure you remove the stems and seeds.

Here in Mexico, morita peppers are most popularly used as flavor-building peppers in recipes for mole sauces and various salsa dishes that have since spread to the United States as a popular addition to Tex-Mex and southwestern cuisine. If you’d prefer to skip the preparation steps and get right to cooking with morita pepper sauces, take a look at the salsa macha we have to offer, as they are expertly crafted and versatile for a wide variety of recipes.

Morita vs. Meco

As we touched upon, morita peppers are one of two chipotle peppers, the other being the chipotle meco peppers. The key difference between the two, and the reason why we recommend morita peppers, is the benefit of morita peppers which take less time to smoke than the chipotle meco pepper, and they have that fruitier flavor in addition to the mild smokey flavor of both chipotle peppers. This makes the heat and spice of morita peppers more refreshing than simply painful. Chipotle meco peppers, comparatively, take twice as long to smoke and don’t retain as much of the flavor and heat once prepared.

Morita peppers are also the most popular choice for making salsa seca, or “dry salsa,” which is a condiment similar to gremolata.

Recipes With Morita Peppers

To get you started with morita peppers, some of the most common recipes incorporating these peppers include,

  • Salsa de morita – A basic sauce with morita peppers as the main ingredient. The morita peppers give this salsa a striking red color. This salsa blends morita peppers with tomatillos and a couple of garlic cloves to form a rich but mild salsa.
  • Tinga de pollo – A tomato, chicken, and chipotle pepper stew perfect for a taco or torta filling. Like the salsa, the morita peppers create a distinct red color.
  • Camarones a la diabla – A shrimp dish featuring a spicy sauce that makes use of chipotle peppers like morita chiles to create a pleasing heat and smokey flavor. Moritas are beneficial here for a milder smokey taste that doesn’t overpower the dish.
  • Mole pablano – Mole is a traditional sauce and marinade that features a variety of peppers like morita, pablano, anchos, pasillas, and guajillos that create an extremely rich flavor. Mole is traditionally only mildly spicy, but by leaving in seeds and veins from the dried peppers or including more crushed red pepper, you can give it a greater spice to suit your tastes.

History and Etymology

Morita peppers are native to the northern regions of Mexico and were common delicacies dating back to the time of the Aztecs. However, the technique of smoke-drying peppers dates back even further prior to the Aztecs as an early food preservation practice developed in Mesoamerica. Today, most Morita pepper cultivation is centered around the state of Chihuahua just South of Texas and, while popular and used throughout Mexico, they are most commonly found in Mexico City, Puebla, and perhaps most importantly, Veracruz—the origin of the popular salsa macha.

The term “chipotle” comes from the Nahuatl word “chīlpoctli” that translates to “smoked chili,” in reference to the practice of drying out peppers such as the morita for the aforementioned practice of food preservation. As for the morita pepper specifically, “morita” means “small mulberry” in Spanish, as the pepper itself is dark-colored and resembles a mulberry, as the name suggests.

Morita Peppers: What Are They and How To Use Them in Your Cooking