How Long Do Dried Chiles Last?

Dried chiles are rich and diversified in their spice quotient, flavor, and color, and have a starring role in a wide range of dishes, condiments, salsas, and marinades. While many automatically associate sheer spice with chiles, they can have a fruity or sweet flavor, a mild or smoky flavor, and even a savory flavor, which can all accentuate and compliment the heat component. Some even use dried chiles as the primary seasoning in dishes, replacing the customary salt and pepper.

You might be surprised to learn how long this versatile ingredient is good for. Believe it or not, The Kitchen Professor notes that dried chile peppers can last for up to five years after purchase. It's ideal to use the chiles within a few months after they've been dried, but if you're unable to do so, rest assured that they'll in fact continue to be both flavorful and edible for years to come. 

What if I've had dried chiles for longer than five years?

Clearly, this is much longer than your standard grocery store find, which often doesn't even last more than a few weeks at a time. Purchasing a slew of dried chiles at once, with the intent to save them up and take advantage of their long shelf life, can be a great shopping strategy. Of course, the fact that they've been dried means they're preserved, which makes them a great ingredient for storage.

In addition, it's not as if the dried chiles go bad after five years — they simply become less potent. If you have fresh chile peppers, though, they'll probably only last for about a week or two, as noted by The Kitchen Professor. In addition, another option would be to buy chile powders, which are shelf-stable and pre-bottled, making the cooking process even easier.

If you're feeling up to a project, you can purchase fresh chile peppers and dry your own. Salt Sear Savor states that freshly dried chile peppers "shouldn't crack easily when bent. Instead, they should feel similar to dried fruit: leathery, a little squishy, and bend." When ready to work with the dried chiles, it's good practice to cut off the stems and remove the seeds. It's also often recommended to 'toast' the peppers in order to bring out more of their flavors and dormant oils.

How should I store dried chiles?

Magic Plant Farm notes that "glass or ceramic are the best options" when it comes to storage containers and solutions, with the main goal being to remove as much light, heat, air, and moisture as possible. There's also no need to refrigerate. The chiles should be good for five years or more in most cases, but be sure to immediately discard the chiles if you see any sort of mold or discoloration. This may occur if the chile was impacted by indirect heat, came into contact with light, air, or moisture, or was improperly stored initially.

Some of the more popular dried chiles include ancho, pasilla, guajillo, puya, and chipotle, as noted by Saveur. Ideally, you use the chiles within a few months after they've been dried, but in actuality, the chiles themselves will be pungent and edible for much longer. You can use them in many dishes like chilis, soups, stews, sauces, or even desserts. But that's not all, you can add dried chiles to marinades, cocktails, hot sauces, salsas, and so much more. 

Looking for another fun use for this flavorful ingredient? You can package them in a jar with a decorative ribbon and dried chiles make a great housewarming gift.