Alejandra’s Sweet Chipotle Pickles

28th April, 2010: Posted by G.L. Pease in Chiliheads, easy

The chipotle is a beautiful thing; a dried, wrinkled morsel of spicy, smoky goodness, full of flavor and pungent aromas, and ready to add depth to many dishes.

Chipotles begin life as lovely, deep red jalapeños that have been left on the plant to ripen fully. When the fruit has begun to give up its moisture and is wilting slightly, it’s harvested, and smoked in a closed chamber over wood fires, drying and preserving it, and imparting that distinctive and wonderful smokiness.

The morita variety (Spanish for “little blackberry”) is a lovely dark reddish purple pod. This is the typical variety of northern Mexico, and the one most often found in the United States. It is not smoked as long or as deeply as the ahumado variety, so its flavors are more subtle and fruity. They’re easy to find in any Mexican grocery, and many supermarkets will have them in hanging plastic bags.

Daniel’s neighbor, Alejandra, a wonderful cook, introduced him to these fantastic sweet pickled chipotles, and graciously shared the recipe with us. They’re fantastic with huevos rancheros, or on a burger, or used to spice up a grilled cheese sandwich. Try them in an egg salad, or with some lime juice, cilantro and chopped onion as an addition to some simply cooked beans. Or, add some zest to a quesadilla.

Ingredients – Makes about a pint

  • 4 oz dried morita chipotles, about 40 chiles, or 2 cups [1]
  • 1 onion, sliced thin
  • 1 head of garlic, peeled, whole cloves
  • 2 cups cider vinegar
  • 1 3″ cone piloncillo oscuro [2] (preferred) or 1/2 cup brown sugar plus 1 tsp blackstrap molasses
  • 10 sprigs fresh oregano, or 2 tsp dry, preferably Mexican [3]
  • 1 Tbsp kosher salt
  • 5 whole cloves (optional)

Method – About 45-minutes

Prepare the ingredients – slice the onion, peel the garlic, and rinse and gently dry the oregano sprigs with paper towels. Using a sharp knife, cut a slit, lengthwise, into the chiles to allow them to distribute their flavor and heat more evenly throughout. This will also help them soften quicker. You might prefer to leave them whole, though, enjoying the little game of culinary Russian Roulette that accompanies not knowing when you’ll get a really hot one.

Add everything to a large saucepan over medium-high heat, and bring to a boil.

Reduce heat to a slow simmer, cover the pan, and cook until chilies are plump and tender, about 20-25 minutes. Put them in clean jars, and refrigerate for up to three months. (But, you’ll eat then long before that.) The juice is really tasty, too!


1. The most commonly available chipotle chiles are the moritas. Not as heavily smoked as the ahumado type, they are beautiful and fruity, and ideal for these pickles.

2. Piloncillo is a traditional Mexican cane sugar that gets its name from the cone shape in which it is sold. It comes in both blanco (light) and oscuro (dark) forms, and has a wonderful flavor. Brown sugar can be substituted, but will have a slightly different taste. Adding a little molasses will bring it closer, but it won’t be quite the same.

3. Mexican oregano, Lippia graveolens, is actually more closely related to lemon verbena than to the many varieties of common oregano, Origanum vulgaris, but it has a similar, though slightly stronger flavor. Substitute plain ol’ oregano if you can’t get the Mexican variety. It’ll be fine.

Chipotles, on average, aren’t amongst the hottest of the fiery fruits, but once in a while, you’ll find one that can deliver a powerful kick. After making a batch of these, I happened to eat one of those mutants whole, and it put a hole in my gut where agony took residence for a while.

There are similar recipes on the web. All the ones I’ve seen suggest soaking the moritas first. Why throw away or dilute all that wonderful flavor? Just cook them!

One Response

  1. The Epicure's Asylum at Flavorevolutions Says:

    [...] kosher-keeping friends that would deliver some similar flavors in a meat-free way. It starts with Alejandra’s Sweet Chipotle Pickles, which are absolutely fantastic. With a jar of these, a bag of Yellow Eye beans, and a few other [...]