The Spicy Secret Ingredient That Elevates Brownies

There's no denying that a brownie is an absolutely delectable dessert all on its own. Something so gooey, fudgy, and chocolatey that's made to melt in your mouth doesn't tend to need very much to satisfy whoever's lucky enough to devour it.

Yet, regardless of how tasty they are at their most basic, brownies are something that can always be elevated even further — catapulting them to a level of mind-blowing goodness. Everyone has their go-to spin on the classic chocolate treat, whether it's a salty rendition like macadamia and peanut butter brownies or a totally unique flavor twist like ube cheesecake brownies

But the fact is, some like it hot ... and for those out there who like a little heat in their chocolate, one secret ingredient will kick the spice up a notch to take your brownies to the next level: chiles. The best part? There are lots of chiles to experiment with, and several ways you can go to create something spicy and special.

How to spice up your brownies with chiles

It's no secret that chocolate and chiles pair beautifully together, so this secret ingredient is sure to deliver a complex flavor combo. So how do you go about adding chiles to your brownies? There are multiple ways to do it.

First, you can go with fresh chile peppers. In this case, you can remove the ribs and seeds from the inner flesh and finely chop or mince the chile, either cooking it into your melted butter or adding it along with your other ingredients while you make your brownie batter.

Your next option is to use ground chile powder. This is an easy way to add some spice to your brownie batter — whether you mix it in with your other dry ingredients or simply add it to a boxed brownie mix. Lastly, you can opt for dried chiles and grind them up yourself, providing a slightly different dimension of freshly-ground chile flavor.

Which types of chiles to add to your brownies

When pairing chocolate and chile peppers (or any foods in general), you can do so based on common flavors that complement each other, or contrasting flavors that bring out each other's best. So different types of chiles will work well with specific types of brownies.

If you're making dark chocolate the star of your brownies, then go with something like guajillo or chipotle chiles. Guajillo (or New Mexico) chiles are rich and peppery yet bright and acidic; they contrast really well with bolder or more roasted-flavored chocolate. Similarly, chipotle peppers are sweet and smoky and bring out the richness or smokiness of an intense dark chocolate.

Ancho chiles are milder and have a less intense chile flavor, so you may want to pair them with chocolate that's more citrusy or floral for that hint of complementary spice. Aleppo is bright and oily, similar to guajillo, but it's a bit zesty, which works well with more nutty flavors. For more "all-purpose" types of chiles, you can always stick with cayenne pepper, chili powder, or crushed red pepper flakes — and cinnamon is always a delicious addition to the mix to fully round out the flavor.