Freezing Hot Peppers: The Steps To Follow

Too many hot peppers left over?

Whether it’s extra from your season’s pick or just an “eyes bigger than your stomach” moment at the grocery store, freezing hot peppers is a viable way of preserving chilies for months to come. You can still enjoy the heat with very little loss to flavor if you freeze them the right way. Follow the steps below whether you’re freezing jalapeños or another chili pepper to get the absolute best from them down the road.

Step 1: Thoroughly wash your chili peppers.

Place your chilies in a colander and run lukewarm water over them. Pick up each chili individually and make sure all curves are cleaned.

Step 2: Pat dry your peppers.

You want to make sure the chilies are 100% dry before freezing them, otherwise they can end up sticking together during the freezing process. Pat them dry and let them sit out on paper towels until all signs of moisture are gone.

Step 3: Consider your future use case and prep the chilies.

Do you think you’ll use these chilies whole as a side? Chopped raw for a salad? Diced for a hot dish? Consider how you typically use them and take action now. You can freeze chilies whole, and some may prefer this if you’re planning on using them for stuffed pepper dishes. But if you plan on using them cut in any way, it’s best to chop them immediately. Your chilies may not respond quite as well post-freezing. Plus the smaller pieces will thaw much quicker. Cut the chili in half and remove the seeds. Then coarse chop the chilies even further. You can stop there if you wish, leaving the further dicing until you know the size you’ll prefer in the future.

Step 4: Place the chilies in an air tight plastic freezer bag.

You want a sturdy bag that seals well. Ziploc freezer bags work well, but beware thinner generic alternatives. They can puncture allowing air back in, and their sealing mechanism may not be as strong. Place the peppers in the freezer bags, remove as much air as possible, and seal the freezer bag tight.

Step 5: Place the bag full of chilies in the freezer.

Your frozen hot peppers will keep for nearly a full season, up to 9 months. But the sooner you can use them the better you are off for overall flavor.

OPTIONAL CONSIDERATION FOR STEP 3: Blanching your chili peppers.

For most use cases, simply chopping and freezing your chilies will be enough, especially if you want the crispest chili possible leaving the freezer. But if you are planning on cooking with these chilies and you are looking for optimal health benefits, then you’ll want to blanch your chilies prior to freezing. This is especially true if you plan to keep them in the freezer the for six or more months.

Chilies – like other fruits and vegetables – will lose color, vitamins, and minerals over time due to enzyme and bacteria breakdown. Through the fast heat treatment of blanching, these enzymes and bacteria are mostly killed off prior to freezing, so the chilies will remain nearly as healthy for you as the day you picked them. But note: blanching does remove some of that fresh chili crispness, which may not be appealing if you plan to use them fresh on salads or in salsas.

How to blanch your chili peppers:

  • Boil water and gently drop your halved chili peppers into the pot. Boil them for three minutes maximum. If you have coarse chopped your chilies, boil the pieces for two minutes instead.
  • Remove the chilies from the water and flash chill them for three minutes in a bowl full of ice water.
  • Remove the chilies from the ice water and proceed to step 2 above. Pat them dry, let them sit until all signs of moisture are gone, and place them in freezer bags.

Remember, consider your use case carefully, especially if you plan to use the chilies in only a month or two. Blanching for quick use like this is not necessary.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on September 5, 2019 to include new content. It was originally published on April 22, 2015.
  • I have been told that you should remove the seeds prior to freezing, but nothing I have read here say anything about this. I’m assuming, then, that is not necessary. Would it make the peppers hotter by leaving the seeds in?

    • Hi Marlee – you can take them out or leave them in. It’s not necessary to remove them. The seeds contain a bit of the heat (more in the pith), so typically leaving in the seeds means the pith stays as well. The pepper will typically be hotter than if you removed them.

  • I had been making Cayenne/Anaheim jams …but no longer. I have a freezer bag of chopped peppers from 2016 & am going to make a batch of jam for a friend, Are they safe to use? Lots of boiling & pressure cooking is used in recipe.

    • A lot depends on how airtight the packaging was when frozen. Peppers will last 12 months+ in the freezer, and there are lots of people who have used frozen peppers well past that period. That 12 months is just a recommendation, not a rule. They won’t necessarily “go bad” after that, but they could have lost flavor and/or have freezer burn (changing the flavor as well). Their texture as well will be different – though you’re using it in a jam, so it likely won’t be noticeable. I’d taste test once unfrozen, and see where the flavor sits.

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