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Canned Green Chiles
The more heat, the better.
Published May 17, 2019. Appears in America's Test Kitchen TV Season 21: A Taste of Mexico
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What You Need To Know
Canned green chiles are an inexpensive and convenient way to add a burst of flavor to foods, which makes them a pantry staple for some folks. We like to use this versatile ingredient in all kinds of dishes, from Artichoke–Green Chile Dip and Green Chile–Cilantro Pesto Sauce to Cornmeal Drop Biscuits with Green Chiles to Smokin’ Mac ’n’ Cheese and Cast Iron Green Chile Cheeseburger Sliders.
We rounded up six nationally available products priced from about $0.22 to about $0.50 per ounce and tasted each one plain and in Green Chile and Cilantro White Bean Dip. Canned green chiles are available whole and diced; we selected diced (one product was labeled “chopped”) because that’s what we most frequently use in recipes. Two brands offered two different heat levels, “mild” and “hot.” In those cases we selected “mild” because “hot” varieties had added “natural flavor,” which one company confirmed was a heat extract. We wanted products without added flavoring so we could better focus on the flavor of the chiles. And even though some products were labeled “mild,” heat levels didn’t always correspond with the labels—which ended up being a great thing.
We Liked Heat
The heat levels in the chiles we tasted varied widely. Three of the products were on the milder side. We still liked them, but our favorite canned green chiles, by contrast, had a “good amount of heat” and a “pronounced zing”; one taster noted that our winner was “by far the spiciest” with its “full-flavored peppery taste.” None of the products included any additional ingredients that would make the chiles taste hotter, so we did a little digging.
We Liked Tender Chiles with Some Structure
The textures of the chopped chiles also varied. The best products were pleasantly tender but maintained their structure. Others had issues. To make canned green chiles, the chiles are typically washed, roasted, peeled, and then canned, usually with preservatives such as calcium chloride and citric acid added. But not every company roasts its chiles, which affects the final product’s texture.
One sample was rough and uneven, notably more fibrous than our top-rated product, and testers commented on the “crunchy” texture and “hard bits.” That manufacturer confirmed that it did not roast its chiles, which may have contributed to the rougher consistency because, as our science research editor explained, roasting would reduce the fibrous texture by breaking the cell walls and dissolving the pectin. All our highly rated green chiles were roasted, which gave them a tender, even texture.
Most products also included calcium chlorid...
Everything We Tested
This sample was “bright” and “slightly sweet,” with “decent heat” when eaten plain, but tasters said it was “mild” in the dip, and some thought it “got lost” among the white beans. The chiles had a nice firmness and “bite,” and we liked that they were “not mushy” and slightly “crunchy.”
Recommended with reservations
These chiles had a decidedly more “bitter” taste and “mild” heat. When we ate them plain, we disliked the “fibrous, uneven texture” with “big chunks and little mushy bits.” A few tasters noted a “rough” texture in the dip, but most didn’t mind, and overall tasters appreciated the “nice,” “fresh” flavor.
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