Green jalapenos are arguably the most popular variety in the world. Red jalapenos don’t often get the same appreciation, but they should! If your jalapenos have turned red, it isn’t necessarily an issue.
The color of your jalapenos will change as they work their way through their lifecycle, but if you enjoy eating earthy, crisp green jalapenos that are at the beginning of their ripening, you may not appreciate the flavor of red varieties which have been left to mature for longer.
Red jalapenos are still a popular addition to many dishes, and you can still use them in your own cooking as long as they’re not spoiled! So, why exactly do jalapenos turn red, can you still eat them, and what do they taste like?
If you’re new to the world of jalapeno growing (or consuming), we’re here to answer all of these questions and more, in our ultimate guide to red jalapenos.
What Are Jalapenos?
Jalapenos are a type of Mexican chili that is hot and spicy, and they’re usually used in Tex-Mex and Mexican cuisine. Jalapeno peppers are (surprisingly) a fruit, and they’re a part of the Capsicum pod type.
These medium-sized peppers pack a mild to moderate amount of heat, and they can be used to flavor a variety of dishes, from salsas to salad dressings!
Although jalapenos are usually associated with Mexican cuisine, they appear in many fusion cuisines all over the world. Jalapenos get their heat from their capsaicin, which is a chemical compound found in the white ribs of a pepper.
However, the true ‘spiciness’ can vary depending on a variety of factors, such as how much sunlight they receive, the pH of the soil, and more.
If you’re wondering just how hot Jalapenos are, they sit somewhere between 2500 and 8000 on the Scoville scale, and they’re often the most inexpensive pepper you’ll find at your local store.
The Lifecycle Of A Jalapeno
If your jalapenos are turning red, you’re facing an annoying, but pretty common, problem. To get to the root of the issue, we need to learn more about the lifecycle of a jalapeno. Let’s take a closer look together.
The First Few Weeks
At the beginning of their life cycle, jalapenos start their journey as seedlings. After a few weeks of planting, these seedlings will move into the adolescent stage of their life, where you’ll start to notice more rapid growth. When they start to mature, they’ll soon grow to their full size.
The Flowering Stage
Once they start to mature, jalapenos then enter their flowering stage. This part of the lifecycle can happen anywhere between five to six months after they’ve been planted, and when they flower, you’ll start to notice their peppers appear.
Your flowering jalapenos will first start off green, but if left to mature for longer, they’ll eventually turn red. Your jalapenos will be ripe and ready to pick after 5-6 months of being planted.
What Happens When A Jalapeno Turns Red?
Essentially, a green jalapeno is picked in the early phases of the ripening process, while a red jalapeno has been left to mature for longer on the vine.
Green jalapenos aren’t exactly unripe, they’re just at the beginning of the ripening phase and may have a slightly different taste and texture from red jalapenos.
When your jalapenos are ripe and ready to pick, they can remain ripe on the vine for several weeks until their plants reach full maturity. While they’re maturing on the vine, they’ll go from green to red.
If they’re left for long enough, your jalapenos will eventually fall off the vine and turn dark red if they’re overripe. If this has happened to your jalapenos, they’ll be overripe and not suitable for eating or cooking.
However, it can take between 150-180 days for jalapenos to get to this stage, so you should be able to intervene before they become inedible.
If your jalapeno is red, all it really means is that it’s at a different stage of the ripening process, but it can still be picked and eaten. However, if your jalapenos are red you should pick them sooner rather than later to avoid them rotting on the vine and becoming inedible.
Green And Red Jalapenos: Does Their Heat Change With Their Color?
No, the heat of a jalapeno doesn’t tend to change with its color. All jalapenos have the same rating on the Scoville scale (between 3000 and 8000), so they’ll all be fairly hot.
However, some red jalapenos may have a bit more of a kick to them depending on how long they’ve been left to mature on the vine. The heat of a jalapeno is determined by the amount of seeds it has, and how mature its outer flesh is.
This is why the heat of jalapenos doesn’t tend to change according to their color. Many jalapeno lovers fall into the trap of thinking that red varieties will automatically add more spice to their dishes, but this isn’t necessarily true.
If you get lucky, you may find the odd one that’s hotter, but it’s pretty rare. They’ll usually have the same amount of heat, so it doesn’t really matter which one you pick!
How Does A Jalapenos Flavor Change When It Ripens?
As the color of your jalapeno changes, so will its flavor. Green jalapenos tend to have a fresher taste that can even be a little earthy. However, red peppers will have more sweetness.
This is why most people don’t use green and red jalapenos interchangeably, as their different flavor profiles can make a big difference to your dishes. For example, most people use red jalapenos in hot sauces rather than green jalapenos.
If you have a bunch of green jalapenos to use up, you may prefer to use them in sandwiches and salads, instead. They also pair extremely well with other greens, or other dishes that have a more earthy, crisp flavor as opposed to sweeter notes.
How To Pick The Best Red Jalapenos?
If you’re shopping for red jalapenos, it’s important to pick the right ones for your dish. The same applies if you’re picking them fresh from the vine. So, how can you pick the right jalapenos?
If you’re scouting for red jalapenos in the store, it’s important to note that most jalapenos (and other varieties of pepper) are picked and sold before they’re ripe. If your jalapenos are still a light green color, they won’t be ready to eat.
So, you may need to allow extra time at home for them to ripen. Ripe varieties will be red, dark green, and sometimes orange. To choose the best jalapenos, ensure you’re picking varieties that are firm and not wrinkly.
If your jalapenos have a webbed pattern on their skin, take a moment to assess their texture. If they’re smooth, they’re ready to eat.
This pattern is simply a mutation that occurred during their growth, but it usually won’t affect their flavor or texture unless they’re showing other signs of spoilage.
Green Vs. Red Jalapenos: Which Is Better?
Now we know the difference between green and red jalapenos, you may be wondering, which is better? In truth, neither. The answer to this question is rather subjective and will depend on your own preferences.
Generally, though, red and green jalapenos are just at different stages of ripening, and they’ll have the same amount of heat.
The only real difference is that red jalapenos may be slightly sweeter than green varieties. As green jalapenos lack the sweetness of red ones, you may find them a little hotter.
If you’re still trying to figure out which jalapenos you like more, we’d recommend trying both and incorporating them into different dishes, especially a spicy meal, to see which one you prefer.
If you take the time to experiment with your cooking, you’ll be able to figure out which jalapenos you prefer, and you can prioritize them when you’re out shopping or growing your own!
Just remember, if you’re shopping for fresh red jalapenos, it can be harder than finding green varieties, which are now a staple in most grocery stores.
Green jalapenos are the most popular variety stocked on the shelves, and red jalapenos can be harder to come by.
This is because red jalapenos have a longer growing cycle, so you’ll need to be prepared to shop around (and even pay a little extra) to find the best red jalapenos.
The Bottom Line
Red jalapenos have been left to ripen on the vine for longer, and will often taste sweeter than traditional green jalapenos.
If you’re growing your own jalapenos, you can still pick and eat your red varieties, and you’ll probably find they’ll make a great addition to your favorite tex-mex dishes.
If you’re shopping for red jalapenos, you may find they’re hard to come by. However, once you try them, you may love them even more than green varieties!