Chile de arbol, literally “tree chilies,” are a spicy Mexican pepper. Don’t be fooled by their small size. They pack a serious punch. In terms of heat, it’s about on par with cayenne pepper, so we’re talking a fairly spicy little pepper. Chile de arbol are cleverly nicknamed bird’s beak chile and rat’s tail chile just to emphasize just how small, yet mighty these chilies are. In other words, they are tiny red spitfires.

When used with a practiced hand, it can add both delicious heat and flavor to any dish. We love to use it in refried beans. The spiciness cuts through the richness of the pinto beans to create a sensational taste experience. It makes a great side dish or as a base for tostadas or burritos. For an extra crispy and refreshing treat, substitute leaf lettuce shell instead of tortillas in your tostadas or burritos.  Another way to balance the spiciness is fresh vegetables. Try a few tomatoes or avocados to establish a cool and healthy palette cleanser.

Remember to always be careful when handling hot peppers–keep your fingers away from your eyes and wash your hands thoroughly with soap when you’re finished.

Refried Beans with Chile de Arbol

Refried Beans with Chile de Arbol


  • 2 cups of Randall Pinto beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 medium chile de arbol, minced (for a less spicy dish, remove seeds)
  • 3 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Salt to taste


  1. Heat oil and add chile and garlic and lightly cook.
  2. Add beans.
  3. Add 2 large ladles of reserved bean liquid.
  4. Mash the beans.
  5. Simmer on low for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  6. Serve as a side dish or in your favorite Mexican bean recipe that calls for refried beans.
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