Enhance Hot Chocolate With Chili Powder For A Spicy Depth Of Flavor

One of the great pleasures of home cooking is understanding, through delicious experience, how some combination of sweet, sour, spicy, bitter, salty, and umami can be used to balance or enhance one another. For example, sour goes beautifully with bitter, while spicy balances sweet. That's why we think it's a great idea to try a little chili powder in your next batch of hot chocolate. The spiciness of ground, smoky chilies will balance the sweetness of the chocolate, while the chili powder's savory qualities will enhance it.

The combination of chocolate and chilies is a very old one, indeed. Mayans literally revered a frothy concoction made from chocolate, honey, red peppers, and water, which they drank daily. The Aztecs, who believed that cacao was a gift from the gods, did something similar with a bitter, spicy drink they called xocolatl. Now it's your turn to discover this wondrous combination. Life is sweet and should be occasionally spicy.

Creating a bespoke chili powder for sublime hot chocolate

Now that we know the spicy and savory qualities of a good chili powder will both balance and enhance a homemade batch of hot chocolate, will we be satisfied with the store-bought variety? Heck no! We're going to create a chili powder expressly to complement this magnificent drink. 

Let's start with smoky, dried peppers that aren't too fiery: ancho, guajillo, and New Mexico chilies would be our top picks (augmented by a couple chili de árbol for the spice lover). Stem, seed, and toast the chilies in an iron skillet until fragrant, then grind 'em up. Now you have the spice to balance the chocolate's sweetness. 

You'll need more than just dried chilies to make chili powder. It's up to you, but earthy and savory flavors will not be amiss, and for that, we recommend ground cumin seeds and garlic powder. You could also add ground coriander seeds, smoked paprika, ground cinnamon, and even dried oregano. Whatever else you choose to include in your chili powder, don't forget the salt. Once mixed together, you're ready to add it to your preferred combination of cocoa powder, sugar, water, and milk — and indulge. Sometimes, getting the hang of being a home chef has its advantages.