Guajillo Chile Makes a Bold Statement
2021 looks to be the year of chiles and spice, and guajillo chile is already making a big splash.
The guajillo pepper in its fresh form is called a mirasol pepper. When dried, it develops a leathery skin and a complex fruity and smoky flavor. Kind of like a hybrid raisin and chipotle.
It has a medium spiciness, ranging from 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville Heat Units. This makes it slightly spicier than a poblano but milder than your average jalapeño.
In Mexico you’ll most commonly find guajillo chiles in moles, but they also find their way into salsas and marinades. Their dark brown color creates a beautiful, deep, rich looking sauce akin to chocolate.
Guajillo Chilies on the Rise
How Common is it?
Right now, guajillo chilies rest at the “Adoption” phase of Datassential’s Menu Adoption Cycle. This means that it’s gaining traction, but still unique. You’ll find guajillo at progressive fast casuals and specialty grocery stores, like Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s.
According to Datassential, this smoky little delight is on about 2.8% of menus nationwide, but that’s up 28% over the past for years. So, there’s definitely interest brewing. While only 14% of the population has tried it, 29% of the population knows about it. That means there’s a good opportunity to expose curious new consumers to the flavor in the form of a special sauce or LTO.
Where Can You Find Guajillo on Menus?
As stated above, it’s still working its way into the mainstream, but has nonetheless permeated some recognizable menus.
The most standout of which would be Xoco, Rick Bayless’s fast-casual restaurant in Chicago. He puts guajillo center stage in his short rib sandwich made with guajillo-braised short ribs, grilled cactus salad, avocado, and black beans
It’s also featured on menus in places like Dirt Candy, TAG Restaurants, and at Proof and Provision in Atlanta. This, of course, is only a small smattering of establishments finding the rich complexity of guajillo a winning ingredient.
Even retail brands like Pace Picante and Humble House Sauces have launched salsas featuring guajillo chilies.
What Does This Mean?
It means guajillo is growing in recognition and becoming a safe option to explore on your restaurant’s menu. Adding guajillo concentrates and salsas to items like sour cream and mayonnaise balance out the heat with creaminess and cool flavors. These are great for sandwiches and wraps.
Consider adding a bit to fresh house salsas to mix it up and offer another menu item without adding multiple ingredients. Or even drop a whole chile into soups, stews, and chilis to add a unique flavor that’ll help you stand out among competitors. Your imagination is the limit.
A Chile with Depth
The smoky, slightly piquant, and sweet/tart nature of guajillo chiles make them a safe bet for menu experimentation. And with trends pushing towards specific chile flavors and piquant foods, the time is right to get in front of customers.