A Jalapeño Pepper Guide – Colors, Uses, Growing and More


When someone thinks of Jalapeño peppers, their first thought is heat. But there is so much more to the Jalapeño pepper that is quite fascinating. Whether you’re thinking about tossing them into a recipe or growing them in your garden, you need to know the facts behind this popular, delicious, and spicy pepper.

Jalapeño peppers are great ingredients and add a splash of heat and bitterness, and when cooked, have a touch of sweetness. Jalapeños are easy to grow at home as long as they have adequate water, sunlight, and proper temperature levels. Jalapeños can be eaten raw, pickled, or roasted.

Jalapeño peppers can add a splash of spice to your life. Here, you can learn about all-things Jalapeño peppers from basic facts like their origin to how to properly plant and cook these tasty yet fairly intense peppers.

Basic Jalapeño Pepper Facts

The Jalapeño pepper is a Mexican pepper and can be green, red, orange, or yellow, although it’s mostly consumed during the green stage. This pepper is fairly small compared to other peppers and will only grow to be around two or three inches long.

It is mostly known for its fairly high levels of heat that add a kick to every dish. Its pungency is rated by Scoville heat units (SHU), in which it ranks anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 units depending on what stage it is in.

This pepper originally came from Mexico and was named after the city of Xalapa in Veracruz. It was planted and consumed by the Aztecs. Eventually, it made its appearance in the United States. Since its humble beginnings, the Jalapeño pepper has risen in popularity and can now be found across the world.

What Are Jalapeño Peppers?

You might be surprised to find out that Jalapeño peppers are a fruit from the capsicum pod. It is one of the smaller peppers compared to other peppers, such as bell peppers, which are vastly fatter than the Jalapeño.

What Do Jalapeño Peppers Taste Like?

A lot of people are under the impression that Jalapeños are a giant bundle of heat that is difficult to consume. While it’s true that Jalapeños do have a good amount of heat to them, they are not as hot or spicy as some other peppers, such as the Serrano or Habanero. Green Jalapeños can have a grassy, almost bitter flavor to them.

Consuming a red Jalapeño pepper is different than consuming a green one, though. Since red Jalapeño peppers have more time to ripen on the vine, they contain more capsaicin. In turn, this destroys the brighter, more bitter flavors and replaces them with a sweet flavor and more heat. It’s quite a unique blend.

When cooked, Jalapeños change their flavor once more. A roasted Jalapeño will have a richer flavor with smoky hints and is typically a bit hotter than a raw Jalapeño.

Which Color of Jalapeño is the Hottest?

The red Jalapeño is going to be spicier than the green one because it had additional time ripening on the vine. This allowed for more capsaicin to enter the pepper, which augmented its spiciness. However, it is not an incredible difference. While the red Jalapeño has a bit more heat, it still does not come close to the heat level of the Serrano pepper.

Can You Eat Black Jalapeño Peppers?

As long as the Jalapeño is not rotten, then yes, you can eat black Jalapeño peppers. The only thing to keep in mind is that a black Jalapeño pepper is going to be much hotter than the green varieties. If you’re looking to add a serious kick to your dish, then a black Jalapeño pepper may be a good way to go.

How Hot Are Jalapeño Peppers?

Jalapeño peppers only rank between 2,500 to 8,000 units on the Scoville heat unit chart, so it is not considered to be a very hot pepper. For reference, the Serrano pepper ranks between 10,000–23,000 SHU. Jalapeño peppers are typically not so overbearing that they leave your mouth burning and its heat is likely to be more on the mild side.

Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4) x
Jalape_o_Pepper_Lines (4)

The best way to tell whether or not a Jalapeño is going to be extra spicy or mild is to look at the color and texture. As previously mentioned, a red pepper is going to be a bit hotter than the green and black varieties. But you should also pay attention to the lines on the pepper’s skin.

If a pepper, green, black, or red, has visible white lines running down the sides, then it was grown with more stress, which usually results in more heat. The more stressed a pepper, the hotter it will be.

So, if you are looking for extra heat, opt for a red pepper with plenty of lines. If you want a more mild and bitter Jalapeño pepper, find green peppers that do not show any signs of stress.

Where Do They Rank Amongst the Hottest Peppers?

Based on Scoville units, Jalapeño peppers rank “medium” compared to other peppers. Consider these measurements.

Type of PepperScoville Heat Unit
Ghost pepper800,000 to 1,000,000 SHU
Habanero150,000 to 575,000 SHU
Thai chili50,000 to 100,000 SHU
Chile de Arbol15,000 to 65,000 SHU
Cayenne30,000 to 50,000 SHU
Serrano8,000 to 22,000 SHU
Jalapeño2,500 to 8,000 SHU

As you can see, the Jalapeño pepper ranks fairly low on the scale. And this scale is not even including the hottest peppers in the entire world. Some peppers, like the Carolina Reaper, are a whopping 2,200,000 SHU. The incredible Dragon’s Breath has 2,483,584 SHU!

Where Do Jalapeños Come From?

The Jalapeño originated in Mexico from the city Xalapa. The name itself comes from the city, as Jalapeño pepper means “from Jalapa”. The pepper dates back thousands of years ago and was originally used by the Aztecs, who cultivated, grew, and consumed Jalapeño peppers.

To this day, Mexico continues to be the country that produces the most Jalapeño peppers, but it is becoming more common in U.S. states that border Mexico as there is a similar climate that is ideal for growing peppers. The useof Jalapeño peppers is seen around the world in a variety of cultures.

Can You Eat Jalapeño Pepper Plant Leaves?

Jalapeño leaves can be consumed because they are grown from the capsicum family. However, the leaves should be boiled or cooked before eating them. Many dishes utilize Jalapeño pepper plant leaves, such as Chicken Tinola and Gochunip Namul. They have a slightly bitter taste and add a good pinch of heat without being overwhelming.

What Are Jalapeño Peppers Used for Cooking-Wise?

Jalapeño peppers are extremely versatile and can be used in a variety of applications. They can be dried and smoked, a process which turns them to Chipotle peppers. They can be chopped up raw and added to salsa. They can be pickled, canned, deep fried, and roasted to add to all kinds of tasty recipes.

How Do You Cook with Jalapeños?

There are many different ways to cook Jalapeños. The top three ways include roasting, grilling, and deep frying.

Roasting Jalapeños

Roasting is one of the most popular ways to cook a Jalapeño. That’s because it gets rid of the bitterness of a raw Jalapeño, replacing it with a sweet aftertaste. A roasted Jalapeño is the perfect combination of smokiness with hints of sweetness and spice. To roast in an oven, do the following:

  1. Preheat the broiler.
  2. Cut the Jalapeño. You will want to remove the stems and cut the pepper in half. If desired, remove the seeds to reduce the heat level.
  3. Roast for around 7 to 10 minutes, or until the peppers appear charred.

Grilling Jalapeños

Grilling Jalapeño is a fun way to spice up your next BBQ. You can add grilled Jalapeño to your hamburgers, steaks, or salmon fillets. Plus, it’s simple. All you need to do is:

  1. Get the grill nice and hot. Propane grills should be cranked up to a fairly high heat level. Keep the lid shut on charcoal grills to generate more heat.
  2. Cut the Jalapeño. Again, you will want to remove the stems and seeds, if desired. Cut the Jalapeño peppers in half.
  3. Place the peppers on the grill.
  4. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, flipping regularly. The peppers will appear charred when they are done.

Deep Frying Jalapeños

Last but not least, you can deep fry your Jalapeños. This creates a new, crispy texture that goes beautifully with the spiciness of the Jalapeño. To deep fry, do the following:

  1. Heat cooking oil to 365 degrees Fahrenheit. You can use any type of oil.
  2. Mix your batter and prepare the breading in separate bowls. There are many ways to make the batter, but here is a favorite recipe. Keep in mind you can mix and match with spices to find a recipe that’s right for you.
  3. Slice the Jalapeño peppers into small pieces. Remember to toss the stems and remove the seeds if you don’t want too much heat.
  4. Dip the Jalapeños in the batter, then the breading.
  5. Place the Jalapeños into the oil and fry for two to four minutes. You will know they are done cooking when they float to the top of the oil and have a crispy appearance.
  6. Let them cool on a paper towel. This will get rid of some of the excess grease that may not be desired.

What Are Good Substitutions for Jalapeño Peppers?

Not everyone is a fan of Jalapeño peppers or sometimes you might not find them at your local supermarket. Some individuals may desire more heat, while others want less heat. Some may want a different flavor entirely! In all these cases, there might be some alternate options to best fit your desires:

  • Serrano chilis. If you are looking to bump up the heat, then the Serrano chili pepper is an excellent option. You might want to use less than the recipe calls for, though, as Serranos are significantly hotter than Jalapeños.
  • Fresno chilis. The Fresno chili pepper looks and tastes almost exactly like the Jalapeño, making it a top-notch swap if Jalapeños are not avilable. However, Fresno chilis do tend to have a bit of a fruitier note.
  • Cayenne chilis. Again, someone wanting a major spice kick will enjoy the Cayenne chili pepper. These chilis are very hot and have a slightly different overall flavor than the Jalapeño. While a great swap for Jalapeños in terms of heat, you want to be careful that it will not impact the end flavor of the dish.
  • Poblano pepper. Poblano peppers are extremely mild. If you want to get rid of the heat in a recipe, then the Poblano is a wonderful substitute for the medium-heat Jalapeño.
  • Red pepper flakes. While not a fresh pepper that you need to cut up and roast, if you are in a pinch and don’t have time to go to the grocery store, red pepper flakes can be a marvelous substitute. Use it sparingly, though, as red pepper flakes are much hotter than a Jalapeño pepper.

Do Jalapeños Get Hotter When Cooked?

Jalapeños do not get hotter when they are cooked. The opposite happens. Since they are being cooked, the heat is being more evenly distributed. So, it is not necessarily that the heat level is going up or down, it’s just being spaced out and less noticeable. Biting into a raw Jalapeño is going to be more intense than a cooked one, especially if the seeds are removed.

Can Jalapeños Be Eaten Raw?

Jalapeño peppers can be eaten raw. But they taste even better raw when used in a wide variety of recipes. Some of the top ways to eat raw Jalapeño peppers include:

  • Sliced up and tossed into a salad or batch of guacamole or salsa.
  • Tossed with garlic, apple cider vinegar, and a pinch of salt to make this desirable relish.
  • Blended with cilantro, scallions, garlic, white vinegar, sugar, lime juice, and a bit of salt to create this delicious hot sauce.
  • Pickled using this recipe to add a kick to burgers, nachos, and pizzas.

Are Jalapeños Bad for Your Stomach or Other Internal Organs?

There is a common misconception that spicy foods are bad for your internal organs, especially the stomach. This is not necessarily true.

The biggest concern people have with consuming spicy foods is stomach ulcers. But the capsaicin found in Jalapeños do the opposite—they stop ulcers from developing in the stomach instead of causing them. That’s great news for the chili pepper aficionados out there.

Jalapeños can also work wonders on those who suffer from stomach inflammation caused by H. pylori by potentially killing off the infection. They also reduce stomach damage caused by excessive use of Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) pain relievers and excess alcohol consumption.

Spicy foods aren’t great for all people, though. While they won’t cause harm to internal organs or cause ulcers, they can still trigger stomach pains in some individuals who might suffer from upper gastrointestinal issues. People who suffer from indigestion or irritable bowel syndrome should be wary of consuming spicy foods like Jalapeños.

Do Jalapeño Peppers Burn the Skin and How to Get Rid of the Burning?

Jalapeños can burn the skin when being prepped. That is all thanks to the capsaicin found in the pepper. The best way to avoid Jalapeños hands is to wear a pair of gloves every time you handle this pepper. If you experience a burning sensation after handling Jalapeños, there are a few different ways to help the pain subside. Check out our comprehensive post on reducing the burning sensation of peppers.

  • Use milk or yogurt to ease the pain. You have the option of placing your hands in a bowl of cold milk or covering them entirely with plain yogurt.
  • Wash hands in warm and soapy water. It may burn a little, but it is the best way to get rid of capsaicin on your hands. You might consider using a clean brush to brush the areas that are burning the most. Add rubbing alcohol to the soap and use dish soap for better results.
  • Dissolve capsaicin using vegetable or olive oil.
  • Soak hands in corn starch. Corn starch can draw out oils, which will neutralize the pepper burn and get rid of the pain.
  • Rinse hands using vinegar. The acid will neutralize the capsaicin oil, which leads to less burning.
  • Aerosol calamine lotion. This is one of the best options for stopping burning on the hands caused by a Jalapeño pepper.
  • Make a baking soda paste. Mix baking soda with water until it makes a paste and apply on the affected area.
  • Consume a pain reliever. In severe cases, numbing the pain with a pain reliever is optimal.
  • Be patient and let it pass. It won’t hurt forever. If you can, let the pain subside on its own.

Are Jalapeños Hard to Grow, and Where Do They Grow Best?

Jalapeños are not difficult to grow, but there are a few key things to remember when growing them. The first thing to remember is that Jalapeño plants can be a bit slow to grow, and it’s recommended to start growing them indoors for 8 to 12 weeks before taking them outside.

Jalapeño plants are finicky about their temperatures and water needs. They must be kept in warm temperatures of between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. Since the plant originated in Mexico, they enjoy being kept in sunlight. They will need an ample amount of water without being drowned.

These plants do not do well in extreme heats. When the temperatures rise above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, it is best to bring the plant inside or place it under shade. During these high peaks of heat, you need to be extra sure that the plant is receiving adequate water.

How Long Do Jalapeño Peppers Take to Grow?

Keeping a Jalapeño plant indoors for the first six to eight weeks is recommended for proper growth. Once the plant is transferred outdoors, it should take anywhere from 70 to 85 days for the plant to thrive and produce Jalapeños that are ready to be consumed.

What is the Best Time to Plant Jalapeños?

Jalapenos grow best during the spring, when the temperatures are warm enough to keep the plant happy without being excessively hot. This will of course differ depending on where you’re located and the temperatures in your area.

Are Jalapeño Plants Self-Pollinating?

Jalapeño plants self-pollinate. In fact, every domestic pepper species can self-pollinate. Self-pollinating is best when there is enough wind or breeze to help the pollen spread from flower to flower.

Will Jalapeño peppers Ripen Off the Plant and How Long Does it Take for the Pepper to Ripen?

A Jalapeño is ripe when it is firm and green. But that does not mean you have to harvest the Jalapeños right away. Jalapeños can remain on the vine until they turn dark green, then black, and eventually, red, which result in hotter peppers. However, if left on the vine too long, the Jalapeños will fall off. This increases the chance of rotting, and rotted Jalapeños should not be consumed.

Can Jalapeño Peppers be Grown in Pots?

Jalapeños can be grown in pots and most growers will recommend starting your plants usng pots. That is because it makes it easier to transfer the peppers outside after the original six to eight weeks of being grown indoors. Pots also make it easier to move the plant from direct sunlight if the temperatures get too high. Jalapeño peppers need a four to five-gallon pot to grow successfully.

Can Jalapeño Peppers be Grown Indoors?

Jalapeño peppers can be grown indoors. They are year-round plants, which means they can successfully be grown during cold, winter months, too if kept in warmer temperatures.

The biggest thing to remember when growing Jalapeño peppers inside is that Jalapeño plants need sunlight and temperatures between 65 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit. If you can provide this, along with adequate water, Jalapeños can easily grow indoors.

How Big Do Jalapeño Plants Get?

The average, mature Jalapeño plant will be anywhere from two to three feet high.

How Many Jalapeño Peppers Do You Get Per Plant?

The yield should be anywhere between 20 and 30 Jalapeños per plant. When picked regularly, the plant will continue to sprout more Jalapeño pepper pods.

Are Jalapeño Plants Annual or Perennial?

Jalapeño plants are perennial plants, which means that the plant can continue to live for years and years, as long as proper winterizing is done. This simply means ensuring that the plant is getting enough sunlight and water and is living in the ideal temperature, even during winter.

When to Harvest Jalapeño peppers?

Jalapeño peppers are ready when they have a deep green and glossy appearance. Some parts of the Jalapeño may also be changing into a slight orange or reddish hue. The shoulders of the pepper should have small cracks.

Keep in mind that you do not have to harvest Jalapeños at this time. They can continue to ripen on the vine until they are black or red. However, picking green Jalapeños will allow the plant to rejuvenate more peppers at a quicker rate.

How Long Do Jalapeño Peppers Last?

It is important to know how long Jalapeños last before they go bad. A Jalapeño pepper that is going bad will begin to wrinkle, and will start to lose its heat. A bad pepper will be wrinkled and have brown or black spots throughout. These peppers should notbe consumed.

Here is a simple chart explaining the longevity of Jalapeño peppers, based on storage method.

TypePantryFridge
Fresh (Whole)3 to 5 Days1 to 2 Weeks
Fresh (Sliced)Do not store in pantry3 to 4 Days
Canned (Unopened)3 to 6 MonthsNot necessary to store in fridge
Canned (Opened)Do not store in pantry1 to 2 Months

Pickled Jalapeños can be kept in a jar in the fridge for two months. Consider using this recipe.

Dried Jalapeños are another great way to increase longevity. Here is a great video showing how to best dry your Jalapeños. These can last a whopping two to three years in the pantry.

Lastly, you can also freeze Jalapeños. This can easily last for about a year. Here is another great how-to video to see how it’s done.

What is the Best Way to Store Jalapeño Peppers?

The best way to store fresh Jalapeño peppers is to stick them into the refrigerator. Sliced, minced, or cooked Jalapeños should be kept in airtight containers in the fridge.

Closing Thoughts

Jalapeño are fascinating peppers that add a hint of heat and flavor to any dish they are added to, whether raw, roasted, or pickled. These tasty Mexican peppers are also a cinch to grow at home. Just make sure that they are given the right amount of sunlight and water, and the temperature is right, and you can yield 35+ Jalapeños in a single season!

Supriya

Hi! I'm Supriya. I'm a home cook, bulldog mom, spicy food lover, and founder of The Spicy Trio. I have been a home cook for about 15 years and have been growing plants for the past six years.

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