Spicy Holiday Snacks

Ah, the holidays…when friends can drop in unexpectedly and expect to be fed. Don’t be caught unprepared! Here in New Mexico, a really great party always contains some spicy munchies. Chile peppers can be found in every course, from drinks and appetizers to entrees and even dessert. In addition to holiday entertaining, these snacks go down great with cold beer while you watch the game with friends.

The recipes here focus on easy-to-make appetizers that will please most palates without burning anyone out. Some of them can be made in advance for a quick solution to drop-in visitors. Chiles warm the heart as well as the palate—they’re a perfect antidote to cold weather and cloudy skies.

Poblano Pepper RingsPoblano Pepper Rings

Since poblanos make some of the tastiest chiles rellenos, it makes sense that they fry up deliciously. Why not dip these rings in guacamole?

1 cup flour

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon cayenne powder

3 cups vegetable oil

3 poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeds and stems removed, cut into 1/4-inch rings

1 cup buttermilk

In a bowl, combine the flour, salt, pepper and cayenne and mix well. Transfer the mixture to a plate. Heat the oil in a large pan until it just begins to smoke, then lower the heat slightly. Take the poblano rings 4 at a time, dip them in the flour, shake off any excess, then dip them in the buttermilk and back into the flour. Drop them into the hot oil and fry until lightly browned. Repeat with the rest of the rings and then drain on paper towels.  Serve them warm.

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

Heat Scale: Mild

Chex Spicy Party MixHabanero Sauce Party Mix

An entire generation grew up munching on Chex® party mix. Adding the habanero takes it up a few notches on the Scovie Heat Scale!
1/4 cup melted butter

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons habanero hot sauce

1 teaspoon seasoning salt

8 cups mixed Chex® brand cereals (corn, rice and wheat)

1 cup mixed nuts

1 cup mini-pretzels

1 cup bite-size cheese crackers

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Combine the butter, Worcestershire sauce, habanero sauce, and seasoning salt in a small bowl and mix well.  Place the cereals, nuts, pretzels, and cheese crackers into a large zip bag and pour the butter mixture over them. Seal the bag securely and shake it until all pieces are evenly coated.

Pour the contents of the bag on a baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and serve.

Yield: About 15 servings

Heat Scale: Medium

Mexican-Style Hot NutsMexican-Style Hot Nuts

Chopped finely, these nuts can be mixed with stuffing for roasted poultry. The nuts will keep for 2 to 3 weeks, refrigerated.

4 cups walnut, pecan, or cashew halves or peanuts

1/4 cup butter, melted

2 tablespoons crushed red chile

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

Combine the nuts and the melted butter and toss until the nuts are evenly coated. Spread in a baking pan and bake for 15 minutes in a 350 degree F oven.

Mix the chile and cumin together in a bowl. Add the nuts and stir well to coat.

Return the nuts to the baking pan and bake for another 10 minutes. Drain on paper towels before serving.

Yield: 4 cups

Heat Scale: medium

AboutDave Dewitt

Dave is known in the media as "The Pope of Peppers" because of the 36 books he's written on chile peppers and spicy food around the world. He's also co-producer of the National Fiery Foods & Barbecue Show and editor and publisher of the Fiery Foods & Barbecue SuperSite at His latest book, with chile breeder Dr. Paul Bosland, is The Complete Chile Pepper Book.

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