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Whether you call these dried chiles, dried peppers, or dried chili peppers there is something magical about them that when you call yourself a chilehead it is almost like an exclusive membership in a heat seekers cult. Chile peppers are believed to be indigenous to the Andean region of Bolivia, Ecuador and Peru dating back more than 10,000 years. Chiles were a key ingredient in the diets of the Mayans and later the Aztecs.

A true chilehead craves not only the heat (which of course is a delightful bonus) but also the unique flavors of these hot peppers.

Dried chile peppers can be earthy, floral, fruity, hot, smoky or sweet and they come in variety of colors, shapes and sizes as there are more than 3,000 known varieties around the globe.

Top chefs in the Southwestern US, Mexico and into South America make the most sophisticated use of dried chiles by using them to add delightful background complexity in combination with other spices and seasonings. They know it isn’t just about the how much heat you can handle but how much flavor.