Roasting Chile Peppers (and Roasted Red Pepper Sauce)

Posted on 01 Apr 2012 03:45

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The primary purpose of roasting chiles is to make the skin easy to remove. When chiles are roasted, the thin outer skin becomes blistered and charred, easily separated from the flesh. Roasting also softens the texture and gives a great aromatic smoky flavor to the chile…especially when roasted over an open flame (or on a bed of hot charcoal, as traditional). Small chiles can be roasted on an ungreased griddle or skillet or directly over and open flame, on your gas burner, depending on how large they are. usually, larger chiles are roasted.

Certain chiles, such as the poblano, are never eaten raw. They are roasted, sweated, and peeled to be used in recipes. Roasting is sometimes also called toasting. These are both the same thing, except when applied to dried chiles, which means a shorter toast on a griddle or skillet.

To roast small chiles

Lay the chiles in an ungreased skillet over medium heat and turn them occasionally until the skins blacken in places and the chile becomes soft.

To roast large chiles

You can roast large chiles on an outdoor barbecue grill, directly over the gas burner on your stove, or under the broiler in your oven. The first two methods yield the best results. Although an electric burner can be used, do not place the chile directly on the electric element. You will have to hold it over the heat with tongs, which takes patience. If you do not have a gas burner or barbecue grill, your best option is your oven's broiler. If you are roasting a large amount of chiles but don't have a grill, then the broiler, again is your best option.


Gas burner or barbecue grill

Place the chilies directly on the grate over a medium heat on your gas buner, or directly over the hot coals in your outdoor grill. Toast until the skin is blackened almost all over and there are few uncharred areas, turning occasionally with metal tongs. Once they are blackened, immediately place them in a plastic bag or a covered bowl to sweat. This will help to further loosen the skins and to soften the chile through the residual heat.


Place the chiles on a baking sheet and place a few inches under your oven's broiler. Follow the same procedure as above, turning and blackening.

Removing the skins

Once your chiles are thoroughly roasted and sweated, the skins should virtually fall off. All you have to do is rub them off with your fingers (they should be cool already). If they are a bit stubborn, rubbing with a good quality paper towel, to provide friction, will help to get them off, or just rinse them under cold water while rubbing off the skins with your fingers.

Once your chiles are roasted and peeled, prepare them as per your recipe's instructions.

roasted sweet red bell peppers, peeled

Roasted and Peeled Sweet Red Peppers

roasted sweet red bell peppers, peeled

Roasted and Peeled Sweet Red Peppers

Toasting dried chiles

Dried chiles can also be toasted. Cut off the end of the chile, just below the stem. There is usually a big clump of seeds in that area..they can be discarded. Slit the chile down the middle and shake out the seeds, scraping out any that cling. You can scrape out the veins inside the chile by laying it out flat. The veins hold more heat so if you want more spice, leave the veins.

Lay the split open chiles out flat in a skillet over medium heat. Press down with a spatula and toast just until darkened a little. when you hear a slight crakling and a bit of smoke rises, it's time to turn the chile over. Don't burn or char. Soak the chiles in a bowl or warm water or other liquid, depending on the recipe, to soften for about 30 minutes.

It is always up to you to toast your dried chiles if you'd like, even if the recipe does not call for it.

Never Roasted a Sweet Bell Pepper?

Well, you've never had a sweet bell pepper for real, then. Roasted bell peppers, green or red, like the ones in the image above, are a staple in the kitchen. It seems like anything that is good with bell peppers is better with roasted bell peppers.

I'll tell you one of the best and most simple sauces you can make that can be used as is to top tons of stuff, including fish, or as a pasta sauce (you'll flip). It also is a traditional finishing garnish for cream soups. Just a swirl on top adds the essential flavor of roasted peppers and a splash of color. Or, if you like risotto, you can make a roasted rep pepper risotto like the one in the picture below (and excuse my poor photography):

roasted red pepper risotto

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto with Mushrooms

roasted red pepper risotto

Roasted Red Pepper Risotto with Mushrooms

Depending on what additional ingredients you add to your sauce, you may have to strain it. A basic sauce shouldn't really need straining except for appearance sake and I did not strain the sauce used in the risotto above. It's not the cleanest risotto ever, with bits of mushroom and perhaps bits of blackened pepper skin as well, but it was definitely one of the tastiest. You can still see the steam rising off it.

This is a sauce that I believe needs to be kept simple. Definitely experiment and add your own touches, but don't over-complicate it. The idea is a sauce that tastes like roasted rep peppers, not a sauce with some roasted rep peppers in it. The addition of shallots, garlic, maybe some cilantro to the mix, blended well, and strained, will make a fantastic creamy rep pepper soup! Just add more broth, and more cream, to your taste. A little bit of tomato paste is also good, although this can sometimes make too sweet a soup, so beware.

I am assuming you are going to roast your own peppers for this. As you can see from the instructions above, it is very simple, and although lots of recipes on the web call for canned or jarred roasted red peppers, they leave something to be desired.

roasted red pepper sauce

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Unstrained

roasted red pepper sauce

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce, Unstrained

Basic Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

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2 med roasted red bell peppers
1/4 to 1/3 cup chicken or vegetable broth
2 tbs melted butter
2 tbs heavy cream (optional)
salt to taste


Remove the stems and seeds from the roasted and sweated red peppers and carefully scrape away any excess membranes from inside the peppers (this will improve the flavor of the finished sauce). Cut or tear the peppers into chunks.

Place the red pepper pieces into a blender and add 1/4 cup of the chicken or vegetable broth along with the butter. If the broth is still hot, do not place the lid tightly onto the blender, but hold is loosely over the top to prevent splatter. Puree the pepper, broth, and butter mixture until as smooth as possible. Add the optional cream and blend a few seconds more. Check for thickness. If the sauce seems to thick, add a bit more of the broth and blend.

Now taste the sauce and add salt, if needed. Unless your broth is very salty, you probably will need to add some. Strain the sauce through a sieve, if desired. Use in your recipe as needed.

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