Red Jalapeño vs Green – The Difference Explained

Published Categorized as Ingredients, Journal

Making my favorite stovetop quesadilla recipe and want some spicy fillings, but don’t know whether to pick green or red jalapeños? This page is for you!

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sliced jalapeño peppers on a cutting board

The Differences Between Red And Green Jalapeños – Common Questions

Do Red And Green Jalapeños Taste The Same?

Red and green jalapeños have a few differences between them, but other than the color difference, I’d argue that the biggest one is their flavor.

However, this difference in flavor varies greatly from jalapeño to jalapeño! This is down to many different variables, including how they’re grown, prepared, cooked, or preserved! And that’s not even mentioning all the different varieties!

In short, no two red or green jalapeños are the same.

Are Red Jalapeño Peppers Hotter Than Green?

A significant part of a jalapeño’s flavoring is its spiciness. This heat is caused by a naturally-occurring chemical called capsaicin, which evolved to deter creatures from munching on pepper plants and is the namesake of the genus of Capsicum. Surprisingly enough, Capsicum falls under Solanaceae – the nightshade family! Just something to think about the next time you’re chopping up some peppers.

To explain this further, red jalapeños typically have a higher content of capsaicin, which is why they can be so much spicier than their green counterparts. However, this difference also makes red jalapeños sweeter than green!

Jalapeno peppers

Are Green Peppers Just Unripe Red Peppers?

At this point, you may be wondering what exactly causes this difference in green and red jalapeños. Are they different subspecies or variations? Well, the truth is that red jalapeños have just been allowed to ripen. Yes, its as simple as that!

This is also why red jalapeños are usually spicier than green – they’ve had more time to ripen on the vine and so were able to develop a greater amount of capsaicin.

What Else Affects Spiciness In Peppers?

It has been long debated that striations can affect a pepper’s heat. Striations – also called ‘corking’ – refer to minor scarring on the surface of a pepper’s skin. These scars form as the result of the skin cracking to accommodate new growth.

Some posit that these peppers may have an increased amount of capsaicin, but this has not been proven so far. Still, if you’re looking to make a jalapeño dish that’s on the sweeter side, it might be best to avoid striations.

What Causes Striation?

The most obvious cause of striation is the rapid growth of the pepper. Some also say that if the pepper plant is stressed while growing, this may cause an increase in the striation of the peppers produced. This stress could be due to infrequent watering, soil pH, drainage issues, etc.

To add to the confusion, older peppers are more likely to cork than younger ones. This is because they have had more time to suffer stress during growth.

Another theory around the correlation between striation and heat is that much like red peppers, peppers that have had a long time to develop are more likely to have a higher capsaicin content. Corked green peppers do exist, it’s just more common and pronounced in older – usually red – peppers.

Cooking With Jalapeños

Can You Substitute Red Jalapeño Peppers For Green?

Ultimately, this depends on what you want to get from your dish. If you’re willing to potentially sacrifice some spiciness or sweetness, green jalapeños could work! There are other workarounds, like adding a larger amount of green jalapeños to compensate for the flavor. You could also try using green jalapenos with some chili powder to make up for the spice.

The same goes for substituting green jalapenos with red! Are you willing to handle the spice that comes with it?

Whatever the issue, you can always use less and gradually add it to taste. There’s also the trick of soaking jalapeños in saltwater for half an hour to reduce their spice or using pickled jalapeños. The possibilities are endless so long as you think creatively.

There’s also the option of buying a specific kind of jalapeno to suit your dish. I’ve listed a few different jalapeno variants to choose from below!

  • Señorita jalapeños – these are very hot, dark green peppers that turn red or purple after ripening
  • Fresno jalapeños – these are a smaller, milder version of the Señorita
  • Sierra Fuego jalapeños – these are larger, mildly hot peppers that ripen from green to red
  • Mucho Nacho jalapeños – these are mildly spicy and are the longest jalapeño pepper, growing up to about 4 inches. This makes them great for stuffing!
  • Purple jalapeños – these peppers, along with most of their plant, are a deep purple-black color! They have twice the spice of a regular jalapeño and start off green
  • Jaloro jalapeños – these peppers grow from golden yellow to orange, eventually ripening into red. They are mild with a fruity after-taste and are larger than the average jalapeño pepper.
  • Lemon Spice jalapeños – these jalapeños also begin as vibrant yellow peppers that ripen red. They are ideal for salsa due to their spicy fruity taste. Being one of the larger varieties, they also make great peppers for stuffing!
  • TAM jalapeños – these peppers have all flavor of a jalapeño without any of the spice! Excellent in sweet dishes, these jalapeños are sure to pair well with anything.
  • And many more!

Corked Peppers And Cooking

When making a sweet dish, you should keep in mind that red jalapeños are both the spiciest and the sweetest. To avoid having the spice override the sweet taste, using a red, non-striated pepper – or a larger amount of green peppers – might be the way to go. To decrease the spice even further, you could limit the number of jalapeños that you use.

Alternatively, if you’re looking to make a dish even spicier, make sure to keep your eyes peeled for corked peppers!

Pickled Jalapeños vs Fresh

Using pickled jalapeño peppers in your dish is a personal choice that depends on your palette and preferences – however, there are a few advantages to reap from using pickled jalapeños of any kind!

First and foremost, pickled jalapeños offer the benefit of increased predictability. You can generally expect your pickled jalapeños to have a similar flavor profile. This is in contrast to fresh jalapeños, which are far more prone to having large differences even within the same batch. There’s also the given boon of them being far longer lasting than fresh jalapeños.

If you’re not a fan of the heat these peppers can pack, picking jalapeños also reduces their spiciness to an extent. This happens because the acidity of the vinegar neutralizes the alkalinity of capsaicin. This is the reason why vinegar is said to help with hot pepper burns!

The only possible con to using these jalapeños is that the flavor and texture change with pickling. Pickled jalapeños are not as crisp as fresh-bought, and have a tarter taste. If you don’t mind this – or even prefer it like me – using pickled jalapeños could be the right choice for you!

Grilled chicken a la Mexicana with a baked potato, a roasted green chile, a roasted jalapeño and an all-natural-flavored Jarritos Tamarind Mexican Soda. The dish is served on a traditional Talavera plate.

Which Is Healthier: Green Or Red Jalapeño Peppers?

Jalapeños of any kind are rich in vitamin A and C! In addition to this, they contain a whole slew of beneficial chemicals like carotene, potassium, folate, vitamin K and vitamin B. Like many other fruits and veggies, they make for a great source of fiber, with capsaicin having the additional benefit of being anti-inflammatory.

The differences between red and green jalapeños when it comes to health benefits are minimal. Red jalapeños may have a slightly higher concentration of these beneficial chemicals, but not enough to warrant a significant benefit over green jalapeños.

Which Should I Pick – Red Jalapeño vs Green?

The answer to this depends on what you’re looking for… If you think your dish would benefit from a specific type of jalapeño, by all means, go out and try them! I would love to hear back about your experiences with cooking jalapeños, as well as any insight you might have gained from this article!

Let me know what you tried out in the comments! I look forward to hearing from you.

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By Anna

Hey, I’m Anna; writer, editor and amateur cook extraordinaire! Food has been my life and my passion for the most of my life – it’s crazy to think I didn’t pursue a career in cooking. I’m obsessed! However, keeping cooking as an obsessive hobby has worked for me – my passion grows as the years pass by – maybe I wouldn’t say the same if it was also my day job! I hope you find cooking inspiration, entertainment and “stop and think interesting tid-bits” throughout my writing – and I’d love to hear from you if you’ve got anything you want to share. Food feeds the soul – so get eating!

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