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 a PepperScale showdown.
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, the jalapeño, like other chilies, changes color from green to red.
Is a red jalapeño spicier than a green jalapeño?
It is. The additional ripening on the vine means more capsaicin in the pepper itself. Capsaicin is what 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 green colored jalapeño.
Is one better for you than the other?
Does a red jalapeño taste different than a green jalapeño?
There is a slight taste difference. A green jalapeño has a fresh, 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.
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. 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.