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I have some dried hot peppers which are over a year old. These are hybrids, part chile de arbol, but less hot so that I can use them for mixed company. A friend grew them for me specifically because of their medium hotness.

After around 16 months in doubled ziplock bags, I used some of these in a couple recipes last week, including a Mexican squash casserole. The dried peppers were partly rehydrated prior to use.

While I remember being able to use 2 or even 3 of these peppers in a recipe when I first got them, even one of them made the dish so hot I had to quickly make something else for two of our guests. This happened three times over the last couple months, so it's not just which individual pepper I pulled out. It seems like these peppers got hotter with ageing, something I'd think was impossible ... shouldn't they lose capsaicin as they age?

So, my question is:

  1. Is it possible for a dried chili pepper to become hotter with ageing, instead of losing flavor?

  2. If so, what causes this?

I'm guessing that it's just my faulty memory, but I'd love some verification. Thanks!

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  • 1
    The questions aren't an 'exact match' but @ElendilTheTalls answer covers this cooking.stackexchange.com/q/23604/6279
    – Cos Callis
    May 6, 2012 at 18:45
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    @CosCallis Even if the amount of capsaicin doesn't change, the amount of it that ends up available to taste in the dish could. (Different amount lost during rehydrating, different amount released into the dish.)
    – Cascabel
    May 6, 2012 at 19:36
  • I tend to agree with @ElendilTheTall's take where he suggests that the heat (capsaician) is going to 'plateau'. Why do you think some would be 'lost' in re-hydration? (where would it go?)
    – Cos Callis
    May 7, 2012 at 15:29
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    @CosCallis Many people rehydrate in hot water then discard at least some of that water.
    – Cascabel
    May 7, 2012 at 18:21
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    Jefromi, interesting idea. You're thinking that maybe when the peppers were younger, more of the capsaicin would dissolve into the water than with the older peppers?
    – FuzzyChef
    May 8, 2012 at 2:20

8 Answers 8

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I'm going to say yes. In 2013 we grew 6 varieties of mild to hot peppers. On the mild side was Poblano, and on the other was an extremely hot habanero variety. As these peppers matured we would pick them, slice them, dry them on a dehydrator then deep freeze them.

At the end of the season we had around 2.5 gallons of dried, frozen peppers. They were not stored by type but all mixed together. That Christmas we ground down the 6 pepper mix into a powder, filled several spice jars and sent them to family along with our raw honey and homemade soap. This mix packed a serious punch. I use it on just about everything and we got nothing but rave reviews from those we sent it to, all folks that love spicy food.

Now in 2015, I finally used the last of the spice so I dove into the coffin freezer, pushed aside the 2014 and 2015 harvests and pulled out the last gallon of 2013 peppers. Since they had been frozen for two years I put them on a dehydrator for 24 hours then ground them up just like I had before. I'm telling you these peppers are so much hotter than the first batch it's not even funny. This coming from a guy that can drink Siracha. If you can so much as see the small red dots on your food then you put too much on. The difference between the same peppers ground up in 2013 vs 2015 is incredible.

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    And you can safely exclude that your different varieties matured at slightly different times (or with different degrees of hotness during vegetation perod), so that you ended up with bags with different hot-to-mild rations?
    – Stephie
    Sep 22, 2015 at 5:20
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You could be just that lucky to get hotter peppers recently. Chilli peppers are known to have variable hotness, even when harvested from a single plant. Most of peppers on a plant may be mild, but a few very hot.

Also, you can remember them being milder than they are if you were used to eating them more then.

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Chilies do not lose their flavor when they dry. What happens to a chili that dries: It shrinks in size. If you have the same amount of flavor, in a smaller area, the taste of the chili is more concentrated, and so the taste will be stronger. You can put the dried chilies in a bowl of hot water before using them. However, I would just recommend to use less of the dried chilies.
It might even be nice to use this effect, by roasting chilies in the oven, to get very rich flavored chilies.

You can get more information about this on the following site: http://www.worldofchillies.com/dried_chillies/driedchillies.html

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  • The OP is starting with dried chilies. They've already shrunk and undergone any flavor changes associated with drying. He's asking about the stored dried chilies over time.
    – Cascabel
    May 7, 2012 at 18:22
  • I don't see the difference, because they become dried over the time? The longer he waits, the more dried the chilies are?
    – Lotte Laat
    May 7, 2012 at 18:40
  • They're already completely dried at the beginning.
    – Cascabel
    May 7, 2012 at 20:16
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    Lotte, that was my first thought, but the quantity involved -- "1 chile" remains the same no matter how much it's dried/shrunk.
    – FuzzyChef
    May 8, 2012 at 2:17
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I had a sealed glass jar of cayenne pepper that I forgot about in the back of my pantry. It wS nearly a decade old. If I use more than a pinch it’s overwhelming. It’s the same brand I always use and it absolutely was not this hot originally because I cannot tolerate overly spicy foods. This cayenne has changed over the years and is absolutely hotter. To answer your question, yes, my experience says cayenne pepper can get hotter over the years.

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It's important to realize that if you use any noticeable amount of hot spice in a dish, there will be people (such as my mother) who will refuse to eat it; if you don't know anything about peoples' preferences beforehand, it's usually best to have alternatives.

I also suspect that dried chiles may have the same problem that pepper flakes have (in dishes that aren't cooked to the point where the flavors meld): unlike powdered hot spices, with flakes, you're not so much deciding how hot a dish is when you decide how many flakes to put in, as you are how many intensely hot spots there are in the dish.

Dried chiles (especially if not pre-soaked) will take longer to disperse their flavor than fresh, which would result in less overall warmth and more hot spots than fresh chilies in the same dish.

If the dried chiles started dry as in apricots, they might continue to dry further in storage, increasing that effect as they age.

Pre-soaking (regardless of whether you use the soaking water in the dish) would reduce that effect by getting the pepper ready to release its flavor into the dish from the moment it is added, giving a more uniform heat to the resulting dish.

There is a trade-off with regard to people trying to avoid hot spice with that approach: they'll be able to avoid less of the heat by trying to eat around the peppers, since more has leached out into the dish, but for people who have some threshold of hot spice that they enjoy, the hot spots are less likely to exceed it.

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    I'm not sure I can find an answer to the question in there?
    – Cos Callis
    May 9, 2012 at 3:38
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I have always seen peppers get less hot with age. This is from what I seen when making my own hot sauce and chili flakes from peppers I grew.

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  • Please reserve simple observations for comments, and not answers. Answers are intended to be full discourses that answer each issue that the OP has brought to the table. If you have something more than an observation, please improve your answer with examples and sources. Dec 5, 2017 at 14:33
  • @JasonPSallinger actually, answers are not intended to be full, or to answer each issue. Partial answers are explicitely allowed, see meta.stackexchange.com/questions/225370/…. Users are of course free to upvote or downvote as they wish, but there is no official rule against partial answers.
    – rumtscho
    Dec 5, 2017 at 18:45
  • @rumtscho I suppose I was speaking to the nature of this particular answer. In your estimation does it pass muster as an Answer? Dec 5, 2017 at 19:53
  • @JasonPSallinger it addresses the question. The quesiton is, do peppers get hotter and I see a simple "no, they get less hot" an answer - what makes it a nonanswer in your view?
    – rumtscho
    Dec 7, 2017 at 13:42
  • @rumtscho It's an anecdote, and not even a complete one. Dec 7, 2017 at 18:58
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Stored in a freezer, there would be little difference from original strength even after a decade. Organic molecules subjected to being frozen solid remain in good condition for up to hundreds of years. Haven't you heard of humans or ancient animals discovered in Siberian frozen ice for thousands of years?

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  • Hi Phillip! While I appreciate your enthusiasm for trying to answer this question, it already has an accepted answer, 10 years ago. Also, it's a good idea to closely read the terms of the question; nowhere does it specify that the peppers were frozen (they weren't). In general, you only want to answer old questions if they are either unanswered, or if you can add significant new information.
    – FuzzyChef
    Mar 5 at 21:28
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They can intensify over time for certain varieties. Others get milder. The Capsaicin undergoes some sort of unstudied transformation.

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