Ancho chili powder, a spice commonly used in Mexican cuisine, adds a little heat to everything from dips to dessert. Ground from ancho chilies, which are dried poblanos, pure ancho chili powder should not be confused with chili powder, a mix of ground chilies and other spices. Ancho chili powder imparts a mild to medium heat with smoky, fruity undertones. In lieu of ancho chili powder, substitute a powder made from a different chili pepper.
To mimic the heat level and flavor of ancho chili powder, add an equal amount of either New Mexico or pasilla chili powder to the dish. To introduce a bit more heat, you can use chipotle or cayenne chili powder, but start small and adjust as necessary, as both are quite potent. If you have whole ancho chilies on hand, you can grind them into powder yourself with a mortar and pestle or food processor. Simply cut off the stem end and scrape out the seeds first. Alternately, rehydrate cleaned whole anchos by soaking them in hot water until soft and pliable, then puree them with a splash of the soaking water. Add the resulting paste to your dish by the teaspoon until you reach the desired heat level and flavor.
References and ResourcesFine Cooking: Ancho Chile Powder
Fine Cooking: Ancho Chiles
Substituting Ingredients; Becky Sue Epstein