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What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

Maria Foster
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by Maria Foster

If you are interested in Mexican cuisine, Tex-Mex food, or simply like your meals to be spicy, then you will probably be familiar with Jalapeño peppers.

Jalapeños are widely seen as one of the hottest peppers out there, and they are one of the most enjoyed too. With lots of flavors and a strong spicy kick, there are tons of reasons to love these peppers.

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

But just because you have heard of Jalapeño peppers doesn’t necessarily mean that you know that much about them. If you want to find out more about these peppers then you are in the right place.

In this ultimate guide, we’re taking a deep look at what Jalapeño peppers are, as well as giving you lots of additional information that you should know about these peppers.

So, if you want to find out more, keep on reading!

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?

First things first, let’s take a look at exactly what Jalapeño peppers are. As the name suggests, Jalapeños are a type of pepper. They are known for their strong flavor and intense heat and are widely used in Mexican cuisine.

As well as being popular in Mexico, these peppers are also commonly used in Tex-Mex dishes and have become popular across the globe among those who love spicy food.

Jalapeño peppers grow in the same way as any other pepper. They are generally either green or red in color, and the name “Jalapeño” derives from the Nahuatl words “Xalapa” or “Jalapa”.

In the English language, these peppers have been referred to as “Jalapeños” since the 1930s, and nowadays, they are rarely called by any other name.

While Jalapeño peppers are known for being spicy, when they are compared to other types of Mexican pepper, they are actually one of the milder peppers.

They are spicy chili peppers but are very much at the lower end of the scale when it comes to spicy chili peppers. That being said, their heat can vary depending on the way in which they are grown.

If you are interested in very hot Jalapeño peppers, then you will find these in Mexico. In Mexico, these peppers are bred for heat and used to make spicy dishes such as salsa and mole sauce.

In the US, Jalapeños tend to be slightly weaker when it comes to heat as they are pickled for future use. But they all pack a punch!

Are Jalapeño Peppers Hot?

Now that we’ve taken a look at what Jalapeño peppers are, let’s take a further look at how hot these peppers are.

As we have established, Jalapeños are hot peppers. They are bred to be spicy peppers but are pretty mild when compared to other spicy chili peppers on the Scoville scale.

The Scoville scale is a scale that is used to measure the heat in chili peppers. All the peppers on the Scoville scale are spicy. However, the higher the score, the hotter the pepper.

To put the heat of Jalapeños into perspective, on the Scoville scale, they will score somewhere around 2,500-8,000 units depending on how they are grown. In comparison, Habanero peppers will score around 350,000.

When you look at this comparison, it is easy to assume that Jalapeños aren’t actually that hot. But that isn’t the case. Jalapeños are around five times hotter than a typical chili that you will find in a jar of green chilies.

For perspective, Habaneros are around forty-five times as hot. So, yes, Jalapeños are hot. Even if their rating on the Scoville scale might not suggest this.

What Is The Difference Between Green And Red Jalapeño Peppers?

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

As we said earlier, Jalapeños come in a couple of different colors. You can get both red and green Jalapeño peppers, so it is understandable that you might be wondering what the difference is between the two.

Generally, the difference in color between these two different types of peppers comes from whether they are ripe or unripe.

Generally, green Jalapeños are peppers that have been picked before they are completely ripe. As a result, they tend to have a milder flavor and are usually skinnier in shape.

In contrast, red Jalapeños tend to be ripe. As they are ripe, these peppers are usually a lot hotter in terms of spice and are usually a lot larger too.

But as well as having a spicier kick, ripe Jalapeños also tend to be sweeter in terms of flavor too. They are very different from green Jalapeños as these peppers tend to be tangier rather than sweet.

So, there isn’t a difference in the genetics of green and red Jalapeños. Instead, the difference between these Jalapeños comes from whether, or not, they are ripe, and in turn, this impacts the flavor.

The Different Types of Jalapeño Peppers

As is the case with lots of different families of pepper, there are a couple of different types of Jalapeño pepper. While there are tons of different types, the most popular ones are as follows.

Green Jalapeños

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

These are the most common type of Jalapeño, and the type that you are most likely to pick up at the grocery store.

They have a moderate heat level and a mild flavor, and are what most people will think of when you say “Jalapeño”.

Red Jalapeños

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

As we have just discovered, red Jalapeños are simply green Jalapeños that have been allowed to ripen. As a result, they are sweeter in flavor with a more intense heat level.

Chipotle Jalapeño Peppers

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

These Jalapeños have been smoked and dried to intensify the heat level and flavor of the peppers. These peppers are incredibly intense and dramatically hotter than both red and green Jalapeños.

How To Cook With Jalapeño Peppers

If you are a big fan of Jalapeños, then you will likely want to use these peppers when cooking.

It is a lot easier than you might anticipate to cook with Jalapeños, but it can still be pretty daunting when you are doing it for the first time. So, let’s take a look at some of the basics of cooking with Jalapeño peppers.

The great thing about Jalapeños is that they can be used in lots of different ways if you want to cook with them.

You can actually cook them in dishes, or you can serve them raw. You can serve them whole, or you can chop them up. The choice is entirely yours and will differ depending on what you are trying to make.

If you want to prepare a traditional Mexican salsa or a variation on this dish, then you can slice and dice your Jalapeños.

The flavor of the peppers will not be weakened by chopping them up, and doing this will ensure that the heat is scattered throughout the dish.

Alternatively, you can build your entire meal around your Jalapeño peppers. You could stuff your Jalapeños with a variety of different things, including dried meats, cheese, and lots more to create a great centerpiece for your next meal.

The key thing to remember when it comes to working with Jalapeño peppers is that cooking the peppers will mellow out the heat.

So, if you want to keep the intense heat of your Jalapeños, then you should avoid cooking them. Instead, serve them raw and whole for maximum flavor and heat.

How To Dry Jalapeño Peppers

If you are a big fan of Jalapeños, then you might decide to dry your own Jalapeños for future use. Just as cooking with Jalapeños isn’t as difficult as you might expect, neither is drying your Jalapeños.

Drying your Jalapeños is one of the best ways to preserve your Jalapeños and give you plenty of time to enjoy them. It can easily be done at home by following the steps below.

  1. Cut your Jalapeños into uniform slices, aim to keep them thin, around a quarter inch in thickness.
  2. Place a wire rack on a baking sheet, and add your Jalapeños. Space them apart and add just one layer to the wire rack.
  3. Set your oven to somewhere between 150 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit, and leave to pre-heat. Once heated, add your tray of Jalapeños to the oven. Don’t close the door fully, instead prop it open with a wooden spoon.
  4. Check on the peppers after around 2 hours have passed. By this time, the peppers should have dried out, and be slightly leathery in texture. If they do not match this consistency, you should leave them for a further half an hour.
  5. Take your peppers out of the oven and leave to cool. Once cooled and dried, store in an airtight container in a dark, cool place. When stored in the right conditions, you will be able to use your Jalapeños for several months.

Substitutes For Jalapeño Peppers

If a recipe that you are making requires Jalapeño peppers but you don’t have any to hand, then there are thankfully lots of different substitutions that can be made.

You have plenty of alternatives to choose from when it comes to Jalapeño peppers, including the following.

1. Poblano Peppers

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

If you want the flavor of the Jalapeño pepper without the intense heat, then these peppers are the perfect substitute. They taste very similar to Jalapeños but are significantly milder in terms of heat.

2. Bell Peppers

What Are Jalapeño Peppers The Ultimate Guide

These are the perfect substitute for red Jalapeño peppers if you are using red Jalapeños for their sweet flavor.

Bell peppers aren’t anywhere near as hot as Jalapeño peppers, but they are just as sweet, making them a great substitute.

3. Cherry Peppers

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?: The Ultimate Guide

As the name suggests, these peppers are fairly small. As you would likely expect, their small size means that they are pretty hot.

On the Scoville scale, they score higher than Jalapeños but taste very similar. So they make a brilliant substitute.

How To Grow Your Own Jalapeños

Finally, before we wrap this up, let’s take a really quick look at how to grow your own Jalapeños. This is surprisingly easy to do, and a great idea if you want easy access to Jalapeños without having to go to the store.

In order to grow your own Jalapeños, you will need to find a sunny spot in your yard as your Jalapeños will need around 6 hours of sunlight per day.

You should also ensure that the soil you use is filled with nutrients to give your Jalapeños the best chance.

Before taking your Jalapeños outside, sow them inside for around 8 weeks. Ensure the soil is moist but not waterlogged.

Once your seedlings have grown to a point where you can easily handle them, transplant them to individual pots and move them outside.

Ensure that you are watering your Jalapeños regularly as they will need a good amount of water to survive.

Once ripe, pick your Jalapeños immediately to ensure they do not rot. If you want to make your Jalapeños last, consider drying them or freezing them to maximize the time you have to enjoy them.


In short, Jalapeño peppers are a very popular type of pepper that is widely used in Mexican cuisine, Tex-Mex dishes, and among those who like their food to have a good kick to it.

As well as being very spicy, Jalapeños have a lot of flavor and this is part of what makes them so popular.

In this guide, we’ve taken a look at absolutely everything you could possibly need to know about Jalapeño peppers. We hope you’ve found this information handy, thanks for reading!

Frequently Asked Questions

What Pepper Is Closest To Jalapeño?

If you can’t get your hands on Jalapeños, then the next best thing is a Serrano pepper.

Serrano peppers have a similar flavor to Jalapeños and have a good kick too. So, you can easily substitute one for the other, and vice versa.

Are Jalapeños Hotter Than Cherry Peppers?

While both Jalapeños and Cherry peppers are very hot, Jalapeños are slightly hotter. So, if you want the spiciest pepper for your dish out of these two, you should opt for a Jalapeño pepper.

About Maria Foster
Maria Foster
Maria Foster is a mother of 3 and she and her husband of 23 years share their home with 2 faithful dogs. Besides being CEO of the household and active in her community, Maria is the lead contributor to Food Champs and loves to try new food ideas and kitchen accessories to make easier and more delicious meals.
Maria Foster
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