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Chile-Cumin Spice Paste

This versatile seasoning paste is fruity, smoky and spicy. Use ancho chiles for more heat, guajillo for less.


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  • Total Time:
  • Servings: Makes 1 1/2 cups

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  • 4 ounces dried chiles, such as ancho, pasilla or guajillo, stemmed and seeded
  • 4 canned chipotles in adobo, seeded
  • 3 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large shallots, minced (1/2 cup)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large microwave-safe bowl, cover the dried chiles with 2 cups of hot water. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and microwave at high power for 2 to 3 minutes, until the chiles are slightly softened. Let stand at room temperature until the chiles are fully softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Drain the chiles, reserving 2/3 cup of the soaking liquid. Transfer the chiles and their reserved soaking liquid to a blender or food processor. Add the chipotles and puree until very smooth. Strain, pressing hard to remove the skin and any seeds.
  3. On a work surface, combine the garlic, cumin, caraway and oregano and chop until the caraway seeds are minced. In a medium skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic paste and shallots and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the shallots are softened, about 6 minutes. Add the chile puree and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thick, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and black pepper. Let cool, then transfer to a jar and refrigerate.

Make Ahead

The chile-cumin spice paste can be refrigerated for 3 months.


Uses Rub the spice paste on pork chops before grilling; blend it with butter and serve with grilled steak; mix it with yogurt as a dip for naan; mix it with mayonnaise and use as a sandwich spread.

Contributed By Photo © David Malosh Published December 2011

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