A chipotle is a smoke-dried jalapeno.
Chipotles, often a key ingredient, impart a relatively mild but earthy spiciness to many dishes in Mexican cuisine. The chillies are used to make various salsas or can be ground and combined with other spices to make a meat marinade, adobo.
Chipotles have heat and a distinctive smoky flavour. The flesh is thick and a bit chewy so the chillies are usually used in a slow-cooked dish rather than raw. Whole chipotles are added to soups, stews or in the braising liquid for meats.
The unripe, green jalapenos are picked for the Mexican markets. Those that are left naturally ripen and turn bright red. When they are deep red and have lost much of their moisture, they are picked then smoked.
The jalapenos are put into a closed smoking chamber and spread on metal grills. Every few hours the jalapenos are stirred to mix in the smoke and are ready in a couple of days when most of the moisture has been removed. The underlying heat of the jalapenos combines with the taste of smoke.