It’s raining habanero powder

A couple of months ago, I was at the office of a friend discussing a project, when he changed the subject, grabbed a nearby cylindrical container, and thrust it my way.

“Ever tried this stuff?” he asked.

I was staring down a container of Sonoran Spice Company habanero powder, a substance that for some reason I’d never considered might exist. I mean, for years, I’ve used cayenne powder. Dried, red pepper flakes are in every pizzeria. Chile powder is a must-have for making chili, and even paprika, a spice that graces most kitchen cupboards, is a powdered pepper blend.

So why had I never heard of this?

For a moment, I felt foolish, followed quickly by a bit remiss. My friend told me he bought the stuff because he likes to snack on almonds while he works, and the pre-flavored hot almonds weren’t cutting it. He just pours in some powder, shakes up the can, and it’s the spice profile his palate craves. He let me have a couple handfuls of his office treat, and I was intrigued.

So, after my meeting was over and I was back in front of my computer, I promptly went to and ordered the stuff. It arrived a few days later, and when I took a whiff of the powder, my nose started to tingle, and I nearly teared up. God forbid I might have accidentally inhaled some of it. I might have ended up in the emergency room.

But I digress. My first experiment after my new treat arrived was to add some to canned charro beans I’d bought at a Latino market. The beans were already flavorful and spicy (I knew this since they are a staple in my house), but adding the habanero powder made a huge difference.

The familiar habanero flavor blended with the smoky beans and salty pork skin to create a flavor burst with, well, a bit more habanero heat than I’d banked on. I found myself sweating halfway through the bowl. That’s not a complaint, because the flavor was terrific, but I took note that a little of the powder tends to go a long way.

My next experiment was to sprinkle a little on fried eggs, along with the usual sea salt and black pepper. Boom, another hit. I usually add some sort of habanero-based hot sauce to my eggs, but the powder distributes so well and is so focused flavor-wise that it was a definite score.

I tried it on leftover pizza, and it adds something the standard red pepper flakes doesn’t, offering not just more flavor depth and more heat, but also no worries of those little flakes getting stuck in your teeth (that drives me crazy).

But I think my best use of it so far is in my crock-pot chicken tacos. Sometimes I make my own spice blend, and sometimes I get lazy and use prepackaged taco seasoning, but adding a few healthy shakes of the habanero powder to the chicken, cilantro, pico and whatever else you want to put into the mix takes the whole thing a level higher. (Sometimes I use actual habanero peppers, but when they aren’t readily available, the powder is.)

As another fun experiment, I mixed the powder with some deli mustard and made sinus-opening magic. The habanero doesn’t take over the flavor profile, but adds the right amount of kick. Put that on your roast beef sandwich and bite it.

Sometimes things go too far, however. I added some to a few ounces of cheap light beer, just to see what would happen. Take my advice, and just don’t — it might not have been the best use of my beloved powder. Anyway, you get the point — if you dig habanero flavor and heat, Sonoran Spice Company has you covered.

I started looking around online and discovered Sonoran Spice and other companies are making powder with chipotle peppers, jalapeno peppers, Carolina reaper peppers, ghost peppers, Trinidad scorpion peppers, and other products (spicy gumballs!). I got mine through Amazon, obviously, but you can check out for all that company’s options. There’s even a cool key chain available that lets you carry your favorite spices around with you, for when you’re eating out and need that added kick.

Might make for a fun practical joke, too, but you didn’t hear that from me.