Your mind might conjure images of spicy tacos or warm chili when you think of chipotle pepper, but there's another way to use these dried jalapeños — in dessert. Indeed, chipotle is the perfect spice to liven up your favorite sweets.
Cinco de Chili Chocolate Cupcakes with Chili Cream Cheese Frosting
Credit: CookinBug

Most chile spices, like cayenne and chili powder, have flavor profiles based around capsaicin heat. They add that slight tingle, or even burn, to dishes like curries or buffalo chicken wings. But unlike these spices, chipotle powder tastes smokey and sweet, with just a hint of spice. This unique flavor makes it perfect for adding a touch of savory depth to desserts without any of the after burn from other peppers.

1. Make dark chocolate more indulgent.

Enjoying chocolate and chile together dates all the way back to the Mayans, and it is still the most common way to use chipotle (or any chile for that matter) in a dessert. The smokiness of chipotle complements the subtle smokey and earthy flavors in chocolate, which causes them to taste more intense when you take a bite. It's like the chocolate gets more chocolatey to your taste buds. Chef John uses this heightening of flavor in his chocolate mousse recipe.

Try using subtle amounts of chipotle in fudgy brownies, chocolate cookies, or homemade truffles.

2. Add a smokey sweetness to toffee.

Standard toffee is one of the easiest candies to make at home. Adding a smokey kick to the classic sweet buttery profile couldn't be simpler! Right before pouring toffee onto a baking sheet or other flat surface, stir about 1/4 teaspoon of chipotle powder into a standard sized batch. To increase the smokey taste even more, sprinkle another 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon on top of the chocolate before you top the toffee with nuts.

3. Give frosting a zing.

Cupcakes get a punch up when they're topped with a chipotle cream cheese frosting. Add chipotle to taste in a batch of cream cheese frosting, and use it to finish off sweet potato cupcakes for an unexpected fall dessert. Or go for the classic combination of dark chocolate cupcakes with chipotle frosting for a richer chocolate flavor and a touch of spice.

Chipotle works well with cream cheese because the extra fat in the cheese keeps the smokiness from being too intense and protects your tongue from any spice. A simple buttercream might taste like pure chipotle because of its more delicate structure.

4. Create the perfect pair for pineapple.

The sugary acidity of pineapple is a match made in heaven for smokey sweet chipotle. For an easy summer dessert, make pineapple chipotle ice pops: Lightly blend pineapple juice, a little dairy, chipotle powder, and frozen pineapple until there are still a few chunks of frozen pineapple. Pour the mixture into an ice pop mold or Dixie Cups, add a stick, and freeze. Viola! A refreshing savory sweet dessert for any pool party.

Chipotle also adds a pleasant zing to pineapple upside down cakes: Just sprinkle a bit over the pineapples before pouring on the cake batter.

5. Give boring jam a delightful twist.

Thumbprint cookies are a classic at any bake sale or holiday table. Though they're delicious, they often get left behind because they're too conventional. Chipotle is just the spice to change that. Use it in a fig or cherry jam to fill your cookies, and suddenly the expected it totally unexpected. A chipotle fig jam also works wonders as a filling in petit fours, linzer cookies, and as an accompaniment on a cheese plate.

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