The Hottest Showdown: Red Jalapeños vs. Green Jalapeños

When you think about the jalapeño pepper, what comes to mind? Spice. Your favorite dish. Perhaps even adding milk to the grocery list. But do you ever think about its color? Jalapeños come in both red and green shades and, while they are the same type of pepper, these two peppers are very different.

Jalapeño fiery facts:

● Scoville heat units (SHU): 2,500 - 8,000

● Species: Capsicum Annum

● Origin: Mexico

● Use: Culinary heat and flavor

● Size: 2.5-3 inches long with a wide diameter of about 1 inch

● Flavor: Green: Bright, fresh vegetable flavor Red: Bright, fresh, and sweet flavor

 

Hailing from the land of spice

Red or green, the jalapeño's history begins in Mexico - the land of spice. The hot, dry climate of Mexico (and the southwestern United States) is ideal for growing jalapeños, which results in abundant annual crops. The name also has its origins in Mexico, deriving from the Mexican town of Xalapa (Jalapa), known both as the capital of the state of Veracruz and the jalapeño capital of Mexico

A jalapeño by any other name, however, would taste as hot. With a number of nicknames, the jalapeño is also often referred to as:

● Chiles gordos - "Fat chile" thanks to its round shape

● Huachinangos - "Red snapper" referring to the red jalapeño

● Cuaresmeños - "Lenten chile" thanks to its harvesting season

● When dried and smoked, jalapeños are also called chipotles and add a rich smoky flavor to dishes.

 

The red vs. green debate

When you purchase red and green jalapeños, you aren't actually purchasing different types of pepper. In reality, all jalapeños start out green. As they mature and ripen, they gradually become red. However, they can be enjoyed in both forms.

The primary difference between the colors is one of taste. Because the red peppers are riper and more mature, they have more capsaicin in their seeds and flesh. (Capsaicin is the substance that gives peppers their spice.) As a result, red jalapeños bring more heat to any dish.

In addition, red jalapeños tend to develop a bit of sweetness as they ripen. This sweetness removes the bitter flavor sometimes present in green jalapeños and complements the heat of the pepper.

It is this complexity of flavor and mature heat that make red jalapeños superior to their green counterparts in many ways.

 

How to measure jalapeño heat Not all jalapeños are created equal.

Some of them are almost as mild as a bell pepper while others are fiery hot. This is why it’s recommended to evaluate the heat level of your pepper before you add it to your recipe.

While it’s not advised to judge a book by its cover, you can judge a jalapeño by its appearance. As mentioned above, red jalapeños tend to be hotter than green ones. Similarly, small peppers tend to be hotter than larger ones, since they have a greater concentration of capsaicin inside them. Looking for heat? Choose small, red jalapeños. Need a milder flavor? Opt for a larger green one.

You can also examine the striations (stripes) on the jalapeño. These stripes are a good sign because they indicate that the pepper is mature and has undergone some stress (such as a lack of water) while growing and will therefore be spicier than their un-striped counterparts.

Of course, all visual tests aside, you can easily gauge heat by conducting a taste test. Simply remove and taste the tip of the pepper during preparation. This should give you an instant idea of the heat level of the pepper and you’ll be able to adjust your recipe accordingly.

 

Most popular culinary uses

While most of us adore jalapeño poppers, these peppers have many other uses too. Jalapeños make especially good substitutes for bell peppers if you want to add a little kick to an otherwise mild recipe. Thanks to their fresh flavor, jalapeños also pair well with vegetables and can even be used as a flavorful salad topping. The sweetness of red jalapeños also makes them ideal for pairing with fruits such as pineapple, lime, and mango. Other common uses of the jalapeño include:

● Salsas

● Sauces

● Marinades

● Jellies

● Cornbread

The jalapeño is one of the most popular peppers and for good reason. While green jalapeños pack a moderate punch, it is red jalapeños that boast a richness and maturity that make them perfect for a full-bodied taste. It is also the reason why Bravo Salsa uses only red jalapeños to create the best salsa this side of Mexico. Blended with chili pequin, habanero, and cayenne peppers, then slow-cooked to perfection, Bravo Salsa is made by Texans for Texans.