We are reader-supported. When you buy through links on our site, we may earn a commission. Learn more about our review process.

Nerdy Science in the Kitchen

How to Preserve Fresh Chilis



I love cooking with chilis. They add such a great kick and flavor to so many meals, and they’re called for in a lot of great recipes. Plus they can be added to others for fun!

They’re great for sauces and salsas, and most people like to buy them fresh, to get the most out of those great flavors.

At some point though you might find yourself with an excess of fresh chilis. Maybe they were on sale at the supermarket. Or your garden went crazy this season. It’s great to know that you can preserve fresh chilis and enjoy them long after they would have gone bad if they stayed fresh.

Make your own chili ristra. Looks great. Tastes great.
Make your own chili ristra. Looks great. Tastes great.

In fact, there are so many ways for you to preserve your fresh chilis. Here are some ideas…

Freezing chilis

Freezing is one of the most common ways to preserve fresh produce, Freezing chilis works pretty well. Most chilis will keep their flavor and their spiciness well in the freezer.

There are a couple of different ways to freeze chilis effectively.

Freezing chilis whole

Spread out the chilis across a baking tray, making sure none of them are touching. Freeze them overnight. Then transfer them to freezer bags or another freezer container. It’s important to spread them out before you freeze, otherwise they’re likely to stick together and become difficult to use.

I’ve got some ideas about freezer containers and plastic wrap.

Freezing chopped chilis

If you’re looking to process them more, you can consider chopping your fresh chilis up. Then pack them into an ice cube tray. You’re essentially making little frozen chili cubes! These are great because they’re easy to store, and easy to use. If you use chilis primarily for soups or sauces, just pop a chili cube into whatever dish you’re making, and voila!

These ice cube trays from Amazon are basic and great.

While freezing chilis typically preserves their flavor and spice, it can change their texture. Sometimes you’ll want to try a different method. In that case, go ahead and try:

Drying chilis

Drying chilis is a pretty well known custom. Maybe you’ve seen bunches of dried or drying chili peppers hung in someone’s house or in a restaurant. Not only is it a great way to preserve chili peppers, the strings can also make beautiful decorations!

There are two main uses for dried chili peppers:

  1. To rehydrate them later.
  2. To grind them into powder for ground chili pepper or spice blends.

There are two ways of drying out your chilis.

The window method

Start by rinsing the chilis in salt water. This helps to prevent mold and to make sure the chilis are clean before drying them.

Then spread them out in a warm, well-ventilated area, like on a window sill or in a warm cupboard. Make sure you turn them regularly. Leave them out to dry completely before storing them.

This book teaches from Amazon you how to grow, cook and preserve chili peppers.

The ristra method

You can make what’s called a “ristra.” In this method, after washing the chilis in salt water, string your chilis up across a doorway or window to dry hanging in the air. This method can be a lot of fun for kids and adults alike, and can make a nice addition to your kitchen decor.

Using dried chilis

After you’ve dried your chilis, you can grind them up to make into chili powder. Chili powder lasts much longer than fresh chilis, and can be combined with other spices to make delicious spice mixes.

Grinding chilis with a mortar and pestle is ideal.
I found the best ones.

This is a great way to use up your chilis, and also makes amazing gifts. A homemade spice blend made with fresh chilis you dried yourself is a pretty nice housewarming or holiday present.

Classic spice jars from Amazon make perfect presents.

Be a kitchen pro. Make your own chile powder.
Be a kitchen pro. Make your own chile powder.

You can also rehydrate whole dried chilis by pouring boiling water over them and allowing them to soak. Make sure you look up a good method for rehydrating chilis. It isn’t hard to do, and they’ll be very tasty. Then you can use them very similarly to fresh chilis!

Once you have your dried chili powder,
I’ll show you a good way to organize your spices.

Other methods

There are plenty more ways to preserve chilis, and you can feel free to get creative!

Pickling chilis is a popular way to preserve these spicy peppers. They’ll maintain their heat and taste, and even gain new flavors when you pickle them with other spices.

This method can be pretty time-intensive though. Be ready for a kitchen project if you want to pickle your chili peppers.

I recommend this German-style pickling crock from Amazon.

You can also put your chilis into a recipe else before preserving them. Try making a sauce, soup, or salsa that you then can freeze or even can to save for later. Canning could become your new favorite kitchen project.

Don’t be afraid to try a new recipe, or a new method to preserve your chilis. This can be a great way to experiment and have fun in the kitchen. Remember, “chili cubes” from the freezer are easy to work with. A ristra of chili peppers makes great (and tasty) kitchen decor. And canning salsa or making your own chili powder results in some awesome gifts.

See which method you like best, and enjoy those chilis, fresh or preserved. Now you can keep both kinds around!

Additional Resources

Image credit via Flickr Creative Commons: Calsidyrose and Marco V.