What is Kashmiri Chilli? (Essential Ingredient in the South Asian Kitchen)

Kashmiri chilli powder
Kashmiri Chilli Powder

What is Kashmiri Chilli?

Kashmiri chilli is a vibrant red chilli (pepper) from the region of Kashmir. With a vibrant red hue, it is grown more for its colour and flavour, than for its heat.

More commonly used dried and as a powder, the Kashmiri mirch, as it’s known in Hindi (mirch = chilli), is an essential ingredient in the South Asian kitchen (Indian subcontinent).

Kashmiri Chillies come in a few grades; the higher the grade, the more vibrant it is.

The dried chillies have a very crinkly, deep red appearance. This is the first indication that you’ve got the real thing. The next thing you have to do, is take a bite. If it’s even the slightest bit hot, it’s not the real thing.

I’ve finally got my hands on some real Kashmiri chillies, I shall take a pic and post it here asap (April 2021).

How hot is the Kashmiri Mirch?

Hitting just 1000 – 2000 on the Scoville Scale, the Kashmiri chilli is super, super mild. As a point of comparison, the mild jalapeño comes up at 5000 – 8000 Scoville Units.

This is why in South Asian cooking, it is used to colour dishes and not to impart heat. Think tandoori and rogan josh.

I’ve talked at length about how the colour red is imparted onto many signature Kashmiri dishes like rogan josh. You can read up on the other 2 natural food colourants in the following articles:

What is Kashmiri Chilli Powder

Kashmiri chilli powder is just ground, dried, red Kashmiri chillies which once again, are all about colour and flavour, not heat.

This chilli powder imparts a vibrant red hue to South Asian dishes they are used in, alongside or instead of ratan jot and mawal.

So basically, that means the more chilli powder you use, the redder your dish. However, be careful not to use too much, as too much of any chilli powder will make your recipe bitter.

Authentic Kashmiri Mirch Powder

I hate to break it to you, but chances are, most of us outside of India (and quite possibly, even outside of Kashmir) are not using the real thing!

The demand for real Kashmiri chillies far outweighs its supply, so there are many, many fake ones out there.

I’ve had many readers and recently one viewer on the rogan josh video telling me that their recipes turned out spicy when using the amount of Kashmiri chilli powder I stated.

The bottom line is, if it’s spicy, it’s not authentic Kashmiri Mirch.

authentic Kashmiri chilli powder
authentic Kashmiri chilli powder

Substitute for Kashmiri Chilli

If you can’t find real Kashmiri chilli powder, get the mildest chilli powder you can find. Or use unsmoked sweet paprika. You don’t want to mess with the flavour of your recipe by using smoked.

To my American readers: chilli powder outside of the US means just that – ground, dried chilli peppers, nothing else added. What you guys would call cayenne powder.

Let’s take a look at some recipes I use this vibrant chilli powder in.

Recipes using Kashmiri Chilli Powder

4 thoughts on “What is Kashmiri Chilli? (Essential Ingredient in the South Asian Kitchen)”

    1. Hi Sam, I think that’s a tough one without knowing where you are. Indian grocers, even Amazon are always a good bet. But there is no guarantee that you are getting the real thing. You’ll have to taste the chilli or powder to know. It should be like a very mild chilli flavour.

  1. This was extremely informative. I could never work out why our curries were always hot when we’ve been using Kashmiri chilli powder. Now I know!

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