How To Store Dried Chiles So They Don't Lose Their Heat

Dried chiles are a powerhouse ingredient that should be stored in your kitchen at all times. Their intense, spicy flavor and mouth-watering savory aroma make them popular in cuisines around the world, being used in dishes ranging from chile-lime sweet potato tacos to smoky chipotle lamb loin chops. Unfortunately, while freshly dried chiles of all types pack quite a punch, that heat tends to subside as they age. So, it is important to preserve your chiles for peak performance so they last as long as possible and maintain their quality.

The first step you should take to correctly store your chiles is to place them into an airtight container. Beyond this, the two greatest enemies to a chile's freshness are heat and light, which can cause the flavor compounds in the peppers to degrade and cause mold to thrive. To prevent exposure to these elements, the chiles should be kept in a cool, dark space like a pantry. Additionally, you can go the extra mile by making sure your containers are entirely opaque and do not let in stray light. When stored correctly, dried chiles can last for one to two years at room temperature before beginning to decline in quality. 

How to tell if chiles have gone bad

Chiles can be considered past their prime when they have lost their scent and have taken on a fragile, papery texture. While dried chiles are more likely to simply dull in taste over time than to expire outright, it is still a possibility that you should be mindful of. Even if you have taken care to store the peppers properly, it is important to keep an eye out for signs of spoilage to prevent yourself from consuming harmful pathogens that might make you sick. Be sure to examine the chiles with your senses of sight and smell. If they show traits such as a slimy texture, an unpleasant odor, a significant change in color, or visible mold growth, you can assume they have gone bad. In these cases, it is best to throw out the chiles.

If you need to extend the shelf life of your dried chiles even more, you can do so easily by freezing them. All you need to do is portion them out into airtight bags or containers and then place them into the freezer. The ultra-cold and dark environment is perfect for slowing their expiration and retaining their flavor, especially when the containers are sealed tightly to protect against freezer burn. When stored this way, dried chiles can last for up to one year although it's best to use them within six months.