While people the world over include a variety of chili peppers in their cooking, jalapeños are a great place to start for heat novices. After a too spicy bowl of soup in India made me feel like I was dying, I kept my distance from all peppers for a good while. But I gradually learned that jalapeños are peppers that my palate enjoys! I bet yours will too.
Ranging in color from bright green to red, they’re up to three inches long and rank fairly low on the Scoville scale, a measure of the units of heat produced by the capsaicin, the natural compound in peppers that makes them spicy. To put it in perspective, bell peppers rank zero Scoville units; jalapeños rank 5,000 Scoville units; and habañeros, some of the hottest peppers in the world, rank up to 300,000 Scoville units.
Jalapeños are incredibly versatile. You can enjoy them fresh, roasted, stuffed, pickled, canned, jarred and dried. Once dried and smoked, they develop a deeper, sweeter flavor and are called chipotle peppers.
Look for fresh jalapeños with smooth, tight skin, no bruising or soft spots. Use fresh or store in the refrigerator in a plastic bag for up to two weeks. Wash before eating and, remember, the ribs and seeds contain a good deal of the heat. Remove both if you want a milder taste.
If you’ve shied away from chili peppers like I have, you may be in for a nice surprise with some of these dishes:
- Is salsa really salsa without chili peppers? Want to make your own? Start here with our Learn to Cook: Fresh Salsa recipe. Want more heat? Kick it up with our recipe for Spicy Tomato Salsa with Cilantro and Chilies.
- Add chopped or minced jalapeños to fruit or bean salsa and to salsa fresco.
- Add minced jalapeños to dips, spreads and salad dressing. You will love this Blackened Jalapeño and Avocado Dipping Sauce, and this Spicy Cheddar-Jack Cauliflower Dip.
- Chop and add to grain salads, bean salads and vegetable salads. Here’s an idea for Quinoa Salad with Roasted Jalapeños.
- Add chopped or minced jalapeños to sauces like we did in this recipe for Catfish Poppers with Jalapeño Tartar Sauce and in this recipe for Pumpkin Seed Mole With Chicken.
- Add jalapeños to soup, stews, chili and casseroles. Tofu Chili is so good! So is this Autumn Seafood Chili.
- Beans and rice deserve jalapeños. Here’s an example for Black Beans with Canadian Bacon over Rice.
- Add minced jalapeños to savory muffins, scones, biscuits and cornbread. Be sure to add jalapeños to this recipe for Cornbread with Black Beans and Cheddar Cheese.
- Enchiladas, tacos, burritos, chalupas, tamales…jalapeños add distinct flavor and just the right amount of heat to great Mexican and TexMex dishes. Here are some Cheese and Bell Pepper Enchiladas.
- Add chopped jalapeños to scrambled eggs or cheese omelets.
- Add minced jalapeño to sorbet for a spicy, cold treat!
Do you tip your hat to jalapeños? Got a favorite snack or recipe? Let me know!