Chipotle peppers are red jalapeno peppers that have been smoked. They have a characteristic spicy, smokey flavor, and are widely used in many dishes, particularly Spanish, Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines. Chipotles are sold in many forms, including dried, powder, pickled and canned. Chipotles are not always readily available, and it is often necessary to find a substitute for their heat and flavor.
Any hot pepper can be used to replace the heat of the chipotle, such as fresh jalapenos, serranos or poblanos. Dried cayenne pepper or hot sauce would also work. The amount of heat imparted by the peppers can be altered to suit individual tastes: For a milder flavor, remove the inner membrane and seeds and chop the outside of the pepper, and for a stronger heat leave the seeds and membrane intact.
Chipotles are smoked, and though replacing them with another hot pepper will give the correct heat to a dish, the distinct smokey flavor will be missing. A good substitute is another type of smoked hot pepper, such as pasilla de oaxaca. A variety of smoked peppers are available canned, jarred or dried in many supermarkets.
Chipotles in Adobo
Chipotles are often sold canned in adobo, which is an herb and tomato based sauce. A good substitute for this type of chipotle is any of the aforementioned peppers mixed with a steak sauce. This will replicate the flavor and consistency of chipotles in adobo fairly well in a pinch.
References and ResourcesLesley Cooks: Chipotle Peppers
Gourmet Sleuth: Chipotle Chili
Gourmet Sleuth: Chipotles in Adobo Sauce