If you've traveled in Mexico, or spent much time in Mexican neighborhoods in the United States, you've probably tasted fruit with a chile powder that is both tangy, spicy, and a little salty. It is amazing on mango and watermelon. This spice mix is known as chile con limon, or chile para fruta, and it can also be eaten on vegetables, peanuts, popcorn, or as a general sort of table seasoning.
(Confusingly, when fruit is tossed with this mixture to make a spicy salad, in some parts of Mexico this is known as pico de gallo, though in most of the country that term means the everpresent salsa of chopped tomato with onion, jalapeno and cilantro. Go figure.)
You can find this stuff at any Mexican grocery under names like Znax (brand) Chilito En Polvo, Pico Sitos or Pica Limon, and they are all tasty. Still, there is a lot to be said for making your own mix. You get to customize the type of chili you'd like to use, get the ratio of heat to sour and salt just how you like it, and avoid any unpleasant food coloring or other additives.
Speaking of additives, maybe you are a little concerned about seeing citric acid on the ingredient list. You don't need to be. It is present in large quantities in citrus fruits (thus the name), and is an essential part of the Krebs cycle in your metabolism. Citric acid works great when you want a citrusy, acidic flavor without the distinct taste of a particular fruit (although leaning towards lime), or when you don't want to add any water to a recipe.
You can find citric acid on Amazon or often in bulk at better grocery stores, and I bet you'll find other uses for it as well. It works very well diluted in water to prevent browning of artichokes, apples, etc.
I've experimented with a few varieties of pepper for making chili con limon, and I want to share with you a non-traditional choice: Spanish smoked paprika (pimenton de la vera). I find the smoky accent is a pleasurable change of pace. Of course you should also try ancho, pasilla, morita, or any other Mexican chili you can find. For best result, use whole dried chilis, remove the seeds and stems, toast lighltly in a pan, cool, and grind.
You can also mix the powder into olive oil to make a sauce for a different experience, which is what is shown in the picture above.
Homemade Smoked Chile Con Limon
Vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free
Yields 4 teaspons of powder or 2 tablespoons of sauce
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon citric acid powder
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
- Mix together the smoked paprika, salt, and citric acid powder. If you have a spice grinder or mortar and pestle available, process them in that for a minute.
- If you are using the oil, stir it in.
- Sprinkle on fruit or serve as a dipping sauce.