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27 September 2013

Chiles de Árbol peppers are small and thin Mexican peppers 2-3 inches long and less than a ½ inch wide. The name means “tree chili” in Spanish, which refers to the woody stem of the pepper.

SCOVILLE HEAT UNITS: Sources rate this chile in 2 categories- 15,000-30,000 and 50,000-65,000 SHU

Capsicum Annuum.

Chiles de Árbol are small and thin Mexican peppers, growing to 2-3 inches long and less than a ½ inch wide. They mature to red, and are harvested and used at this stage. Chile de Árbol means “tree chili” in Spanish, a name which refers to the woody stem of the pepper.

Other names for this chile include Bird’s beak chile, and Rat’s tail chile.

These peppers may be sold fresh, dried or powdered. The dried whole chilies are often used to make chile wreaths, or ristras, because when dried they keep their deep red color.

How Hot is a Chile de Arbol?

These pepper range between 15,000 and 30,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), though some have been reported at up to 65,000 on the Scoville Scale, which is quite hot. At 30,000 SHU, this is 6 times hotter than the average jalapeno pepper.

Chile de Arbol Substitutes

It is believed that Chiles de Arbol peppers are derived from the cayenne pepper, and can be traded with the Cayenne or the Pequin pepper when cooking. They are very hot, so be sure to wash your hands after handling them. Other options include guajillo peppers, crushed red pepper flakes, or cayenne powder, depending on the recipe you are working from.

Cooking with Chiles de Arbol

Chile de Árbol can be used in any dish to add heat and spice, especially chili, salsa, and hot sauces. It usually only takes a few peppers added to a pot for significant heat.

You can find them usually at Mexican grocers, or order them online. Here are some links to help you – Affiliate links, my friends.


  1. Good sir,
    I’ve been using dried arbols for decades. They make great salsas y sauces.
    But today at my Mex Grocer they were selling fresh arbol chiles.
    Green and red. Pretty. I grabbed a handful of them. First time ever.
    Have any ideas what I can do with fresh arbol chiles? Thank you.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Hello, Brent. Interesting, I have grown them in my garden this year for the first time and am faced with the same situation. I have always worked with dried. They are quite hot, so you’ll notice more heat with fresh than dried. That said, they still make very good salsa. If it is too hot, you can mix them with other peppers, like red bells for more sweet, less heat. They are make for some great hot sauce. Make a good salsa roja for a table sauce. Great on everything. I’m not going to dehydrate these because I can so easily get dried chile de arbol. I’m using them fresh. I hope this helps.

      1. You inspired me without knowing it again. “Hot sauce.”
        I wonder if I could use some as a base for a vinegar-based, bottled sauce? (like tapatio etc)
        It would be easy and I could sample them first.
        Like you said, if too hot I can temper with carrot or bell pepper.
        OK, Mr. H, on to your vinegar-based sauces for ideas.
        Thanks for all that info and good luck on your own crop of arbols this year.

        1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

          Absolutely, glad to help. These peppers would definitely make a great vinegar-based hot sauce. Nice heat!

          1. Took this long for the handful (12?) of arbols to get wrinkly and red. I read every single vinegar-based recipe here and then just did it— gripped it an ripped it.
            As you know Arbol has no fruitiness like a habanero, or a friendly taste like cayenne, or a sharp character like a serrano.
            What an arbol has is a superior bite. So I took some sweetness aspects from your recipes.
            juice of a few key limes and tsp of brown sugar: in blender
            2 tb white vinger
            blackened in a little oil in cast iron:
            3 romas
            1/2 white onion
            6 garlic——–all these to blender

            added a little more white vin and water and salt as it blended. Got it nice and soupy like Tabasco-like sauces.
            made a cup or 1 1/3.
            verdict: sweeter than I thought but garlic and arbols come right up and balance it out. it’s like what I imagine your ‘sweet heat’ recipes are like.
            Keeper. A daily sauce. I credit your site for the inspiration!

          2. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

            Awesome, Brent! I love it! I grew these peppers again this year and JUST made a salsa with them. No joke, they have a great bite!

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