The jalapeño pepper (or chile jalapeño) may be the most well-known spicy pepper in the world, often the star of both Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes. Find out everything you need to know about this chile, including a few cooking techniques.
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📖 What are chiles jalapeños?
Originally from Mexico, jalapeño chiles have also made their way into the Southern United States to become a top choice in both cuisines.
Jalapeños are a medium size pepper, measuring around 2-4 inches in length (sometimes up to 6 inches).
You'll typically find them sold green at the grocery store, but this chile does ripen to a red color when left on the vine.
Like many dishes in Mexico, the name of the jalapeño pepper comes from the place it is thought to have originated — Xalapa, Veracruz (also spelled Jalapa).
These chiles go by a variety of other names too such as cuaresmeños or chiles gordos, but they are all the same!
🍴 Flavor profile
In their green form, jalapeño peppers have a fresh, bright, green bell pepper flavor with a kick. If you leave them to ripen longer, red jalapeño peppers carry a slightly sweeter flavor and increase further in spice.
Many people (including us) roast jalapeño peppers on the grill or stovetop, which gives them a sweeter, smokier flavor that goes well in so many different recipes.
Another popular way to prepare jalapeños is pickling them. This not only provides a tangy flavor, but it also subdues the heat a touch.
🔥 Spice level
What is considered to be a very spicy pepper for many, jalapeños are relatively low on the Scoville Scale. They come in around 2,500-8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
Compared to habanero peppers (100,000-350,000 SHU), jalapeños are thought of as a mild-medium chile as they are almost 40 times less potent!
🍎 Health facts
We love adding jalapeño peppers to our meals for their flavor and spice, but we also appreciate them for their health benefits!
Jalapeños are low in calories, high in fiber, and filled with vitamin A, C, and potassium. They also contain carotene, which is an antioxidant that helps our cells fight damage.
While we're on the topic of spice, jalapeños get their spiciness from a compound called capsaicin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease blood pressure through many different mechanisms.
🍽 Jalapeño pepper dishes
Jalapeño peppers are the "go-to" for most people based on their wide availability and tolerable spice level.
You can eat them fresh, pickle them, roast them, sauté them, or dry and smoke them. Here are some of our favorite dishes to include jalapeño peppers in:
- Pickled jalapeño peppers
- Baja "fish" tacos
- Ensalada de papa
- Green enchilada sauce
- Jackfruit carnitas
You can store whole jalapeño chiles in the fridge or at room temperature. At room temperature, your peppers will last about 2-3 days. If in the fridge, your jalapeños will last up to one week.
We recommend keeping them in the crisper drawer if you decide to store them in the fridge so they don't become wrinkly or accidentally freeze.
To actually freeze them, you can keep the peppers whole or slice them. Transfer them to a freezer-safe bag for up to 6-12 months.
💰 Buying guide
Learning how to buy the best jalapeño peppers is important to get the most bang for your buck! The following tips are a good starting point to locate the gems.
What to look for
Check for jalapeños that are firm, and ensure there are no bruises, soft spots, or shriveled skin.
If you see white or tan lines on a jalapeño pepper, that's completely fine! It just means the plant has undergone more stress and the pepper will be spicier. Again, totally okay to eat.
The smoother the pepper, the younger it is — meaning it will have a milder spice level. If you are sensitive to heat, look for these ones.
Where to buy
You should have no issues finding jalapeño peppers at any local grocery store. You may see them sold under other names such as huachinango, chile gordo, or cuaresmeño if you are outside of the United States.
With a bright, grassy flavor and mild-medium heat, there are a few good substitutes for the jalapeño pepper:
- Serrano. With the same bright, garden-fresh flavors, serrano peppers make a great substitution for jalapeño peppers. However, they are about 2-4 times more spicy, so watch out!
- Anaheim. Slightly sweet, tangy, and a bit smoky, Anaheim peppers range from 500-2,500 SHU and are another good choice for jalapeños.
- Poblano. With a milder flavor and a bit of earthiness, poblano peppers also make a suitable replacement if you can't find jalapeños. Keep in mind, the SHU is between 1,000-1,500.
🌶 More Mexican chiles
If you're interested in learning about more popular chiles used in Mexican cooking, check out our other detailed guides:
The compound capsaicin is responsible for the spiciness of jalapeño peppers. It's found predominantly in the placental tissue (white section on the inside) where the seeds are contained.
Jalapeños are delicious when fried, grilled, or roasted in many different recipes.
Since a large amount of capsaicin is found in the internal portion of the pepper, removing the seeds will make the jalapeño less spicy. Since everyone's heat tolerance is different, it's completely up to you. But, they are absolutely edible.