Once, after a tortuous bowl of ultra-spicy soup at an Indian feast, I thought I would die. I sure kept my distance from all chili peppers for a good long time after that!
Yet when I lived in Texas, I gradually learned that jalapeños are peppers that my palate enjoys. I’ll bet yours will, too. Although chili peppers are used by experienced cooks the world over, if you’re a heat novice, jalapeños are a great place to start.
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 habaneros, 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. Fresh jalapeños should have nice tight skin with no bruising or soft spots. They are best used fresh or stored in the fridge in a plastic bag for up to two weeks. Don’t wash until you’re ready to use them, and remember that the ribs and seeds contain most of the heat. For milder, less spicy taste, remove both.
If you’ve shied away from chili peppers like I have, you may be in for a nice surprise with our ideas.
If you’re in a time crunch, sliced, canned jalapeños are a good option and are easy to keep on hand.
- All good salsa is made with chili peppers. Here’s our Learn to Cook: Fresh Salsa recipe. If you 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 Guacamole, 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! Don’t wait for the fall to make this Autumn Seafood Chili, and you must try this Guatemalan Chicken Stew.
- Add chopped or minced jalapeños to cottage cheese along with diced tomatoes and chopped cucumber.
- Beans and rice deserve jalapeños. Garlic and jalapeños make Black Beans with Canadian Bacon over Rice utterly delicious.
- 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. Enjoy our Cheese and Bell Pepper Enchiladas.
- Add chopped jalapeños to scrambled eggs or cheese omelets.
- Add minced jalapeño to sorbet for a spicy, cold treat!
- Got company coming? Here’s an appetizer of Bacon Jalapeno Stuffed Mushrooms.
Do you cook with jalapenos? Got a favorite recipe? I’d love to hear.