You probably have a bottle of chili powder languishing in your pantry right now. Spice up your life (and your food) by making homemade chili powder and increasing the tastiness of everything ten-thousand fold!

What is chili powder

Chili powder is a simple spice blend made up of herbs, spices, and ground up dried chile peppers. Everyone knows it’s the primary flavoring for chili, but you can also use chili powder for soups, stews, beans, casseroles, meats, vegetables, or anything you want to add a smoky, slightly spicy kick to.

Toasted cajun spices |

Why make homemade chili powder

The stuff you buy at the store probably has filler ingredients, a ton of salt (which even if you don’t care about sodium makes it harder to control your seasoning), and has been sitting around forever. Spices, especially ground spices, lose potency with time. Making fresh and homemade is easier than you think and way tastier. Another advantage is that that you can custom tailor it and toast the spices to make it more intense and flavorful.

What’s in chili powder

The most common spices in chili powder are:

  • chile powders
  • cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • white or black pepper
  • Mexican oregano
  • ground bay leaves
  • paprika, smoked or sweet
  • coriander

Spices for cajun spice mix |

Chili powder vs chile powder

You might be wondering, what’s the difference between chili powder and chile powder, besides the “i” and the “e”:

  • Chili powder with an “i” is a blend of spices (cumin, paprika, garlic powder, oregano) and ground up chile peppers. Chili is a stew.
  • Chile powder with an “e” is ground up chile pepper (like ancho, cayenne, habanero, ghost, jalapeños, etc) and nothing more. Chile is how you properly spell it in the Southwest.

Basically, chile powders go into chili powder, which goes into chili, the stew.

Is chili powder spicy?

Yes and no! It depends on how much chile powder is in your spice blend. Even store bought chili powders vary in spice levels; it’s why you should make your own, so you can have it as spicy or as mild as you want.

The easy version

You probably have all these spices in your pantry right now so you’ll never have to buy chili powder again! Just mix these up in a small bowl:

  • ground cumin
  • garlic powder
  • onion powder
  • smoked paprika
  • Mexican oregano
  • cayenne powder
  • black pepper

chile powders |

The best chili powder

If you want to up your game, take it to the next level with this version. The best chili powder is a blend of dry roasted chilis and spices that you grind yourself.

We love speciality chile pepper chile powders like: hatch green chile powder, Chimayo red chile powder, New Mexico red chile powder, and habanero. You can find these in the Mexican aisle of your grocery store or online. Regular chile powders like chipotle, cayenne, and ancho are pretty common in the spice aisle. Don’t go crazy and buy a huge amount though because older spices get potent. You can also toast and make your own chile powder from whole dried chiles (more on that below).

homemade chili powder |

The secret of toasting spices

Dry toasting spices intensifies their flavors by warming up and bringing out their aromatic oils. It also adds a layer of warm toasty-ness. To toast whole or ground spices heat them in a dry pan over low heat, stirring often, until they smell fragrant. Remove them from the pan immediately after they become aromatic and be careful not to burn.

Toasting and grinding your own peppers

If you can find any specialty chile powders but want to make a special blend, toast and grind your own! Toasting and grinding your own peppers will always give you the most potent chile powders and allow you to have chile powders that you might not normally find in the regular spice aisle. Your local grocery store might have only one type of chile powder, but they’ll probably have at least 3 or 4 varieties of dried chiles.

oven baked weeknight carne adovada pork taco recipe |

How to toast and grind chile powder from peppers:

  1. Using gloves, remove the stems, seeds, and membranes from the dried chiles.
  2. Lay the chiles out in a dry pan and heat over medium-low until they start to smell toasty, being careful not to burn. Remove them from the pan and cool.
  3. Place in a blender, food processor, or spic/coffee grinder and pulse until the chile becomes a powder.
  4. Carefully open (you don’t want the chile powder to fly into the air) and use in your chili blend.

How to store chili powder

The best place to keep chili powder in an airtight container in a cool dry place away from sunlight. It’ll last for a while, but it will lose its potency over time. Now that you know how easy it is to make it, there’s no reason to keep giant jars around, so be sure to make what you think you’ll use in 3 months or less.

What can I use chili powder in?

Dry rub your steak |

The second spice dump

Pro tip: Make more chili powder than you think is necessary if you’re making chili! That way you can do what the pro chili makers do: two spice dumps. A spice dump is when you add the spices. The pros do two dumps so you get maximum flavor. The first dump is at the beginning so the spices can mellow out and infuse the meat and one is added at the end right before you serve so you get fresh, full flavors.

chili powder recipe |

Chili Powder Recipe

Why buy store bought when you have all the spices you need at home? Makes enough for one batch of chili - use the scale button for more!
Serves 1 batch
5 from 3 votes
Total Time 5 minutes


The Best Basic Chili Powder

  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground cayenne pepper or adjust to your preferred spice level

Going the Distance


  • Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl. Store in an airtight container.
    Toasted cajun spices |

Estimated Nutrition

Nutrition Facts
Chili Powder Recipe
Amount Per Serving
Calories 44 Calories from Fat 11
% Daily Value*
Fat 1.2g2%
Saturated Fat 0.2g1%
Cholesterol 0.01mg0%
Sodium 8mg0%
Potassium 210mg6%
Carbohydrates 8.9g3%
Fiber 2.9g12%
Sugar 2g2%
Protein 1.9g4%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.

More basics

Read More


  1. Rachel says:

    This is really helpful for reading American recipes, because in the UK chilli powder is just chili powder and you don’t get a blend!

  2. John Elder says:

    5 stars
    Thank you for this information. I love to make my own chili powder when I plan enough ahead but make a huge batch so I have enough in the cupboard for when I don’t. I also mix my chili powder with orange and lime juice to make a Carne Asada marinade.

  3. Denise M Babirak says:

    Thanks so much for such good info, but I really need to pick your brain.

    I grew up on Chili Powder specially blended by a store in MO. Every Church and Elks Lodge used this powder, so it was very sad whey they finally went out of business in 2012. I just contacted the old owner and they no longer sell the powder and haven’t passed the recipe on to anyone else. I still have some of the powder in my freezer and what I’d like to do is find a lab that could give me a list of ingredients and their portions. While I haven’t made your recipe yet, I would love to return to some childhood memories. Do you know of any labs that could do this for me, or point me in a direction. Thanks for your help

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recipe Rating