Chili powder is a red-colored blend of powdered spices. While it contains some cayenne pepper for heat, it also has spices such as cumin, garlic powder, oregano, and paprika intended to lend the flavors expected in chili con carne. The ratio is one part cayenne to seven parts other spices, depending on the blend. The heat level for any particular brand of chili powder is variable but is always far lower than that of pure ground chili peppers. Some blends contain salt as well as spices, which can be a concern for those who are avoiding salt.
Chili powder is mild to moderately spicy, depending on how much cayenne pepper makes up the mixture. The aromatic and savory spices in the blend create the flavor profile known as Tex-Mex. If you have a good palate, you’ll be able to recognize the cumin, oregano, garlic, and any additional spices particular to the mix. The blend might contain salt, which should be kept in mind when adding it to the pot or using it as a rub on barbequed or grilled meat.
Chili powder is added to chili con carne, beans, or casseroles when the other ingredients are mixed and set to cook. Often, additional amounts of the spices that are typical components of chili powder (such as cumin) are also called for in the recipe, to create the desired flavor combinations. Chili powder can also be used as a rub on meats before grilling.