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Hats off to Jalapeños!

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: Do you tip your hat to jalapeños? Got a favorite snack or recipe? Let me know!