A salsa pepper of choice
Scoville heat units (SHU): 10,000 – 23,000
Jalapeño reference point: Near equal heat to 9 times hotter
If you’ve been a fan of jalapeño peppers and you’re looking for the next jump up the Scoville scale, then a great next landing point is serrano peppers. They’ve got a clean, some say even bright, flavor and a surprising kick without being scorching hot.
So this is bearable heat even for those less adventurous?a typical jalapeño and about 10 times less spicy than a habanero pepper. In this way, this is an excellent stepping stone if you feel you’d like more zing than a jalapeño, but jumping to habanero right now is a little too much.
Some serranos are actually pretty mild, nearer in heat to the jalapeño, but it’s always tough to gauge what you are going to get. Peppers vary widely in heat even on the same plant, so you can just imagine the differences between peppers grown in different regions, soils, and temperatures.
Where does the name come from?
Serrano peppers hail originally from the same region as poblano peppers, the Puebla region of Mexico. The name actually translates to “from the mountains” giving you a really good hint on where serranos love to grow (though they are not at all frost resistant). Today, it’s widely grown in Mexico and the United States. The main growers of serrano peppers in Mexico actually cultivate about 180,000 tons of these chilies every single year! That’s a lot of pepper.
What makes serrano peppers special?
As you can see, this is a very popular pepper in Mexico, and for lots of reasons. Its overall look fits right in with the jalapeño. It’s sort of like an elongated version of it, tapping out at about 5 inches and coming in multiple colors when ripe. They can easily be eaten raw as the skin of this chili pepper is really quite thin, not waxy and thick like a poblano pepper. And they make excellent salsa peppers because of this. You don’t need to peel them; after roasting, they can be chopped and added to the salsa right away.
You can also find serrano peppers in supermarkets more often than a lot of other hotter chili peppers, especially if you live in Texas, New Mexico, or in urban areas around the United States.
But you should note that the thin skin and narrow shape do not make serranos an ideal choice for drying. It’s possible, but it’s not the typical choice for these peppers.
What types of serrano pepper products are out there?
So if you’re looking for that step up the ladder from the jalapeño, landing on serrano peppers is a very good choice. They’ve got the added heat without being scorching hot and offer a lot of options in terms of eating and products. Take the dive and give the serrano some quality time in your kitchen.