Poblano Peppers: Mexico’s Mild Chili

A tasty mild pepper.

Scoville heat units (SHU): 1,000 – 1,500
Jalapeño reference point: 2 to 8 times milder

Poblano peppers are on the milder end of the Scoville scale, ranging from 1,000 SHU to 1,500 SHU. But that mildness in no way belies their popularity. In fact these hot peppers are some of the most beloved and easily found of the bunch! In fact they are arguably Mexico’s favorite chili pepper, especially when you consider that the poblano is also the ancho pepper. The poblano is just ripened fully to a red color and then dried.

poblano pepperPhoto Credit: smoMashup_ via Compfight cc

The origins of the poblano

As mentioned, this is one of the most popular hot peppers in Mexico. It comes originally from Puebla, Mexico. In fact, the residents of Puebla are known as Poblanos. Of course the pepper was named after the region (and the people), but still very fitting!

So the poblano pepper is mild?

It is, but it can be tricky. Poblano peppers have been known to pack a surprising punch every once in a while. In fact, two peppers from the same plant can have a great difference in heat. But overall, the heat is much less than other hot peppers out there. As a reference point, the jalapeño pepper is around two to three times hotter. If you are looking for a pepper pretty much in the middle between a bell pepper and a jalapeño, the poblano is your match. It pairs well with all sorts of foods, and it’s a staple in Southwestern and Mexican cuisine, especially chili rellenos.

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When you ripen and dry poblano peppers into ancho peppers, the heat does rise. That’s due to the ripening. Green poblano peppers are much less spicy than when they are ripened into red poblano peppers. So note that when using anchos that the flavor will definitely be more pungent.

What do poblano peppers taste like?

These mild peppers have a rich somewhat earthy flavor to them. Because they are thick peppers, there’s a lot of “meat” to them, similar to a bell pepper. The thick walls of the vegetable make them excellent for cooking. They hold up very well as a roasting pepper, especially with the waxy outer skin peeled after roasting. And because of their size (around 4 inches long by about 2 inches wide), they are excellent to use as stuffed peppers (like those oh so tasty chili rellenos).

What can you buy with poblano peppers in it and where?

Poblanos are a very main stream pepper these days. You can find poblano peppers in many supermarkets, especially in the Southwest. If you live in an urban area, check out supermarkets around too. Sometimes they’ll carry this chili and many others. You can also find lots of poblano hot sauces, seeds, poblano plants, and even soups featuring the chili available at online retailers.

This is definitely a chili that has sparked the imagination of the United States. Between the flexibility poblano peppers have for cooking and their mild heat, it’s a chili on the rise. If you’re scared off by the heat of a jalapeño,  but you’re looking for something with a bit more kick than a bell or even an Anaheim pepper, then give poblano peppers a turn in your cuisine.

Matt Bray PepperScale Chief Chilihead
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