Jalapeño peppers are among the most popular peppers around. I love using them to add texture and spice to a variety of dishes. Whether you find yourself in need of jalapeños to finish a recipe or if you just want to change the heat or flavor profile in a dish, here are some great alternatives.
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What Are Jalapeño Peppers?
Jalapeños are medium-sized, fleshier chiles with a dark green color. While they turn red when they are fully matured, they are more commonly harvested and used when they are dark green prior to full ripeness.
Whether diced in salsas or sliced on nachos, jalapeño peppers are used in a wide range of dishes thanks to their mild, slightly sweet flavor. I personally love slicing jalapeños and using them as a seasoning to spice up stews.
As far as hot peppers go, jalapeños are relatively mild with a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) range of 2,500 to 8,000. To put it into perspective, this can be up to 100 times more mild than habanero peppers!
Substitutes for Jalapeño Peppers
Here are 10 great alternatives you can use when in need of a jalapeño substitute.
1. Serrano Peppers
Serrano peppers are a popular substitute for jalapeños due to their similar texture and color. However, they do have a bit more heat with a SHU range of 10,000 to 23,000. Though, if you cut the pepper in half and remove the inner rib you can significantly reduce its heat making it more comparable to a jalapeño.
Serrano peppers work well in any recipe that calls for chopped jalapeños. However, Serranos may be a little too spicy for any dish that requires the whole pepper such as poppers or stuffed peppers.
2. Anaheim Peppers
Anaheim peppers work well as an alternative to jalapeños as they have a similar texture and flavor. However, Anaheim peppers are considerably milder than jalapeños with a SHU range of 500 to 2,500.
Anaheim peppers are suitable as a substitute in recipes that require the whole pepper, such as stuffed peppers, due to their larger size and mild flavor. They also work well in soups, salsas, and other dishes. If you want to preserve the heat, try leaving the pith and ribs inside the pepper rather than completely gutting it as most of the heat is contained in the insides of the pepper. You can also add a dash of a cayenne or other spicy alternative to try and match the heat of jalapeño. Just be sure to be careful adding small amounts and tasting frequently.
Anaheim peppers work well as a 1:1 substitute for jalapeños.
3. Fresno Peppers
Fresno peppers are my favorite substitute for jalapeño peppers if you want the same level of heat, texture and taste. They are very close to jalapeños on the Scoville scale, with a range of 2,500 to 10,000 SHU.
Unlike jalapeños, Fresno peppers have a bright red color. If color is an important factor in your recipe, I would steer towards another alternative. Another downside to this alternative is Fresno peppers can be harder to find in grocery stores.
Fresno’s can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio with jalapeños.
4. Poblano Peppers
Poblano peppers are another mild pepper that works well as a substitute for jalapeños. They are similar in shape, size and heat to Anaheim peppers mentioned above and can be substituted in a similar way.
Their heat has a range of 1,000 to 1,500 SHU, which is also quite a bit milder. If chopped or diced, they can be substituted on a 1:1 ratio. Like Anaheims, you can also mix with a spicier alternative to add heat.
5. Habanero Peppers
Habanero peppers resemble small bell peppers, and have a unique fruity taste. However, they’re incredibly spicy with a SHU range of 100,000 to 350,000. To put that into perspective, that can be up to 100 times spicier than jalapeños!
Habaneros can be a good substitute and offer a unique flavor chopped or diced in dishes, salsas and sauces. However, I am always very careful when using habaneros as it’s easy to overwhelm the dish with its heat. Be sure to remove all the seeds and start with a very small amount, tasting as you add.
6. Guajillo Chile
Guajillo chiles are medium-sized peppers with a deep red color. The SHU range is 2,500 to 5,000, which is close to the same intensity as jalapeños. The guajillo pepper also has a slightly tangy and smoky flavor so you need to take that into account when evaluating this alternative.
It’s a dried chili pepper, which means that it won’t work in recipes where you use the whole pepper, such as stuffed peppers or poppers. I would used it to substitute diced or chopped jalapeños in dishes on a 1:1 ratio.
7. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers taste very similar to jalapeños but without the heat (especially green bell peppers). They are a useful substitute for jalapeño peppers when you want to make a dish milder.
Bell peppers tend to work best in recipes that require chopped or diced jalapeño peppers, including soups and salsas. You can also try combining with a spicier alternative such as cayenne or habanero giving you the texture of the bell and the heat of the spicier alternative.
8. Cayenne Pepper Powder
Cayenne pepper powder is a suitable alternative to jalapeño peppers when you simply need to add some heat to a recipe but don’t need the texture of the peppers. It has a SHU range of 30,000 to 50,000, which is about 12 times as spicy as jalapeños.
You can use it in almost anything, including soups, stews, and salsa. If you still need a crunchy texture, consider adding chopped celery or a less spicy alternative pepper.
While not as spicy as habaneros, I would still be careful when using this as substitute as it is quite a bit spicier. Like habeneros, I would add small amounts at a time, frequently tasting along the way to assure you have the right flavor and heat.
9. Paprika Powder
Paprika powder is another dried chili powder that you can use in place of jalapeños to add spice to a dish. As with cayenne pepper powder, you won’t get a crunchy texture. It’s also milder compared to cayenne pepper powder, with a SHU range of 250 to 1,000.
Paprika powder is made from a variety of ground chiles and varies in heat and flavor depending on the type of chiles used. In addition, sometimes the chiles are smoked prior to being ground. As such, I would give it a taste test prior to using to make sure it will work in your recipe.
10. Hot Sauce
Hot sauces are a great substitute but vary widely based on the type of sauce and peppers used to make them. For example, the most common hot sauce is Tabasco sauce, which is made from tabasco peppers and has more heat and a vinegar taste. If you matching the specific jalapeño flavor is important to your dish, I would try and use a hot sauce with a jalapeño base. If not, you can use whatever you have on hand.
Given the difference in heat and flavor, make sure to start with a small amount and add to taste.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Red Jalapeños Hotter Than Green Jalapeños?
Yes. Red jalapeños are typically spicier compared to green ones. Jalapeños are often harvested when they are still green. Allowing them to ripen and turn red increases the concentration of capsaicin in the pepper, which is responsible for the spiciness of the pepper.
Do Jalapeño Peppers Last Longer in the Fridge?
Yes. Storing jalapeño peppers in a plastic bag inside the refrigerator can keep them fresh for up to a week. Jalapeños are likely to shrivel and wilt after three or four days at room temperature.
Nothing is more annoying than starting your favorite salsa recipe only to realize you are out of jalapeños. However, the above list provides great alternatives!
Also Read: Top 10 Cayenne Pepper Substitutes, 15 Best Orzo Substitutes