Guajillo vs Arbol: What’s the Difference?

Written By Ollie Cartwright


The world of chillies is vast (and confusing). Among the vast array of chillies available, Guajillo and Arbol are two varieties that stand out in Mexican cuisine. Both are integral to traditional Mexican dishes, but they bring different characteristics to the table.

While both Guajillo and Arbol chillies are staples in Mexican cooking, Guajillo is known for its mild heat and sweet, tangy flavour. In contrast, Arbol is more fiery and has a nuttier taste.

What are Guajillo Chillies?

Guajillo chilli, a dried form of the Mirasol pepper, is one of the most popular chillies used in Mexican cuisine. It’s notable for its deep red colour and smooth skin.

Guajillo is moderately spicy, typically ranging between 2,500 to 5,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale.

Its flavour profile is complex, with a sweet, tangy, and slightly smoky taste, often accompanied by hints of green tea and berries. Guajillo is commonly used in sauces, salsas, and marinades, imparting a bright red hue and a subtle, warm heat.

What are Mirasol Peppers?

Mirasol chillies are a variety of chilli pepper from Mexico, known for their bright red colour and moderate heat. They have a distinctive fruity flavour with hints of berry and pineapple. Often dried to make Guajillo chillies, they are used in sauces, salsas, and Mexican cuisine to add both flavour and colour.

What are Arbol Chillies?

Arbol chilli, often compared to the cayenne pepper, is a small, slender dried chilli known for its potent heat.

It ranges from 15,000 to 30,000 on the Scoville Heat Scale, making it significantly hotter than Guajillo.

Arbol chillies have a bright, clean, and slightly nutty flavour with a hint of grassiness. They typically add a sharp, fiery heat to dishes without overwhelming the other flavours. Arbol is commonly found in powdered form or used whole in hot sauces, salsas, and oil infusions.

Similarities Between Guajillo and Arbol

There are a few obvious similarities that both Guajillo and Arbol chillies share:

  • Origin: Both Guajillo and Arbol chillies are integral to Mexican cuisine, used extensively in traditional dishes.
  • Drying Process: Both are usually used in their dried form, which intensifies their flavours and heat. Guajillo is only used when referring to the dried form of the Mirasol chilli, for example.
  • Versatility: Both chillies are versatile in cooking, used to enhance the flavour and heat of various dishes, from salsas to main courses.
  • Cultural Significance: Each holds significant cultural importance in Mexican cooking, and are both key ingredients in many traditional recipes.

Differences Between Guajillo and Arbol

Of course, every chilli variety is different and that’s certainly the case when comparing these two popular Mexican chillies:

  • Heat Level: Guajillo chillies are milder, with a heat rating of 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units, while Arbol chillies are much hotter, ranging from 15,000 to 30,000 Scoville units. This makes Arbol a better choice for those seeking a more intense heat.
  • Flavour Profile: Guajillo has a sweet, tangy, and slightly smoky flavour, often with berry-like undertones. In contrast, Arbol chillies offer a cleaner, more straightforward heat with a subtle nutty and grassy taste.
  • Appearance: Guajillo chillies are larger with a deep red colour and smooth skin, whereas Arbol chillies are smaller, thinner, and have a brighter red appearance.
  • Culinary Uses: Guajillo is typically used in sauces and marinades to impart a subtle heat and rich colour. Arbol, due to its higher heat level, is often used in smaller quantities in hot sauces, salsas, and oil infusions.
Can You Substitute Guajillo for Arbol Chillies?

Although you can use these chillies interchangeably, Guajillo chillies are milder than arbol chillies, with a heat range of 2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units compared to 15,000 to 30,000 for arbols. Guajillos offer a different flavour profile and less heat when substituted for arbols.

Guajillo vs Arbol: Which Wins?

If you’re an avid Mexican food lover and enjoy using the various chillies from Mexico then this might be a tough one to answer but you need to pick your favourite. Which are you going for?

Do You Prefer Guajillo or Arbol Chillies?

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