The same…but different. Jalapeño peppers are hands down the most popular hot pepper around, but most don’t know that it comes in different shades. That’s right – there are green jalapeños and red jalapeños. What’s the difference? Is one spicier than the other? Do they taste different? Are the red versions hard to find? Let’s break down what makes these two hot pepper options tick in this PepperScale Showdown: red jalapeño vs. green jalapeño.
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Red jalapeño vs. green jalapeño: What makes them different colors?
The big difference between these two peppers is simply age. They are the same pepper, just a green jalapeño is picked early in the ripening process, while a red jalapeño is left on the vine to mature. During the ripening, jalapeños, like other chilies, turn red. The process takes time so many jalapeños end up multi-hued, various shades of green and red during the aging process. And the same pepper plant may have some green, some red, and some various hues of each.
Is a red jalapeño spicier than a green jalapeño?
It typically is. The additional ripening on the vine means more capsaicin in the pepper itself. Capsaicin is the compound that gives hot peppers their spiciness. Now that’s not to say a ripened red jalapeño is going to jump out of its typical range on the Scoville scale (2,500 – 8,000 Scoville heat units). It’s not. You’re not about to get one that’s as hot as a serrano. It is, though, likely to sit at the top level of that spread compared to a younger green-colored jalapeño.
Is one better for you than the other?
All peppers are full of vitamins and antioxidants, so every type is good for you. But there is something to be said for eating hot peppers that have been longer on the vine. The longer a chili has to mature, the more of these healthy compounds they have.
So a red jalapeño, with its increase in capsaicin (known for great health benefits), vitamins, and antioxidants, is going to have some added health benefits compared to the green versions.
Does a red jalapeño taste different than a green jalapeño?
There is a slight taste difference. A green jalapeño has a fresh, grassy, and crisp taste whereas a red jalapeño has a bit more sweetness to it. This can make a difference in recipes. Some prefer red jalapeños in hot sauces. In fact, Sriracha Hot Sauce, one of the most famous hot sauces in the world, uses red jalapeños as its base.
And the green jalapeño flavor makes it a favorite with sandwiches and salads. It pairs so well with other greens, and that fresh flavor makes them amazing for pickling, too.
How hard is it to find fresh red jalapeño peppers?
It’s a lot harder than finding the green versions, that’s for sure. Green jalapeños are now a staple in supermarkets around the world. They are the most common chili pepper that you’ll find on store shelves. You’ll typically not see red jalapeños around at anywhere near the same level. As they have a much longer growing cycle, they aren’t as common as a whole. They are more expensive to grow (more upkeep), so growers tends to lean more into the faster-to-market green variety.
And then there’s the confusion that the color creates for a lot of buyers. Most people aren’t aware that a jalapeño can come in a different color, which makes them question whether these chilies are mislabeled, overly ripe, or even going bad.
But when you’re in the know about these two jalapeño shades, you can use that knowledge to your culinary advantage. These red versions bring a little extra kick and a hint of sweetness that works well with citrus salsas and tropical hot sauces. Keep in mind the kitchen possibilities the next time you come across them.