If you like spice, then you probably enjoy a good pepper every now and then. There are many different peppers to choose from, but you may wonder which is the hottest? Well, in the debate of serrano vs. jalapeno, the main difference is that serrano peppers are much hotter than jalapeno despite the fact that serrano peppers are also smaller and thinner than jalapenos. Let’s dive deeper into this debate of spice and flavor.
Serrano vs. Jalapeno: What are the Similarities and Differences?
Before getting into the differences, it’s worth noting that serrano and jalapenos do have a few similarities.
Both peppers taste great on a variety of dishes, and they are the two most popular types of peppers in the world. Also, both peppers have similar colors throughout the growing season. Both will be green as they grow, but they will turn orange later in life and then red as they reach full maturity. Besides the heat levels, both peppers have a similar flavor profile, which is slightly smoky and sweet. In both cases, the sweetness will improve when the pepper is left to ripen.
Finally, an interesting fact is that both serrano and jalapeno peppers can be used for healthcare. Both peppers are used in traditional medicine due to their pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties, and they’re loaded with antioxidants and vitamins A and C. It has been found that eating jalapeno peppers can promote healthy digestion, curb appetite, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
However, they do have their differences. Here are seven of them:
1. Serrano and Jalapeno Come From Different Plants
While the plants that produce both types of peppers are similar and are even in the same capsicum plant genus, they are different plants. However, they both come out of the Central and South American areas. Both plants grow to about five feet, and they both do well in moist environments. They grow to full maturity in about 2-3 months. Since serrano peppers are smaller, the plant produces more of them than jalapeno plants. You’ll often find serrano peppers growing in the mountainous regions of Mexico. In fact, the word “serrano” means “from the mountains.”
2. Size and Shape
The size of both peppers will make it very obvious which type you’re looking at. Serrano peppers are much smaller than jalapenos. In fact, they’re about an inch or two shorter and about half as wide. Serrano peppers are quite thin, and they come to a pointed tip. Jalapeno peppers come to a more rounded tip. However, keep in mind that the size and color of both peppers can often vary.
3. Number of Seeds
While it may be because they’re much smaller and have thinner skin, serrano peppers often seem to have more seeds, so if that’s not something you love, beware. On the other hand, jalapenos have thicker skin and flesh, and they have fewer seeds.
In the debate of serrano vs. jalapeno, both peppers have similar color, but unique textures. Jalapeno peppers develop “corking” as they mature, which is the white lines that run along the skin. Serrano peppers will have a smoother texture throughout their growing season.
You’ll often find food recipes calling for either type of pepper. The choice will ultimately depend on how you want the meal to be. Also, if a recipe calls for a certain kind of pepper, you can substitute the other type at a 1:1 ratio. It may just be hotter. Serrano peppers also have a more distinct, pungent, and strong chili flavor with earthy tones. Since they’re smaller, serrano peppers are often chopped up and blended into dips and soups. Many cooks choose serrano peppers when they want a more traditional Tex-Mex or Mexican flavor.
While you can find deals and every store will be different, serrano peppers are often a bit more expensive than jalapenos. Factors of the cost of serrano comes down to a shorter shelf life and the growing and harvesting process. Since serrano peppers also have a stronger flavor profile, they're more sought after by chefs and cooking enthusiasts, so the price can increase.
Also, the cost may fluctuate based on where you live. For instance, if you have more jalapeno growers nearby, then they may be less expensive.
As mentioned, jalapeno peppers are much more common, so you’ll find them in almost any grocery store. Serrano peppers often need to be shipped from Central America, so they’re less common and are often sold in specialty stores.
The larger jalapeno peppers have more of a smoky flavor and will often be sliced in half or served whole. Many recipes also call for jalapenos to be stuffed with tasty ingredients. They also taste great on nachos, on top of fajitas, burgers, pizza, and more. Jalapenos are also known to be sweeter and more like a vegetable, which makes them more of a side dish. They’re basically best for people who want a little extra flavor but don’t want to go overboard on the spice.
Serrano vs. Jalapeno: Which is Hotter?
Next to the size, the largest difference between serrano and jalapeno peppers is their heat. Serrano peppers are much hotter than jalapeno peppers. The spice may be a bit delayed, but once it goes into effect, you’ll find that serranos have a much spicier, sharper, and more intense flavor that is not for the faint of heart.
For proof, look no further than the Scoville scale, which measures the heat level of different types of peppers. When measured, serrano peppers score between 10,000 to 23,000 heat units, while jalapeno peppers will usually range from 2,500 to 8,000. Quite a difference. With that said, serrano peppers are much lower on the heat scale than habanero peppers, which is an important fact to keep in mind. Both serrano and jalapenos are spicier than poblano peppers.
Serrano vs. Jalapeno: Nutritional Value
There are a few similarities and differences when it comes to the nutrition of both of these delicious peppers. Both can be considered vegetables, so they have very little fat, with serrano having 0.2 grams and jalapeno having 0.04 grams. Both have zero grams of cholesterol. However, serrano peppers have noticeably more calories, at 32 vs. four for jalapenos.
Both peppers also have those positive nutrients that are great for growing minds and bodies. Serrano and jalapeno peppers each contain a bit of iron, zinc, and protein. They also contain magnesium, which is great for heart health and your blood pressure.
The peppers are both high in vitamin C, which is an antioxidant that promotes healthy skin, collagen production, and a strong immune system. There’s also vitamin A, which is also great for skin and healthy eyesight.
Substitutes for Jalapenos
If you like the flavor or texture of jalapenos, but you want to try something different, there are numerous substitutes you could consider:
- Cayenne Pepper Powder – For a quick pinch of heat, add cayenne powder without disrupting the meal’s flavor.
- Hot Sauce – Can add a subtle hint of spice. Just be sure to pick a sauce that isn’t too hot.
- Bell Peppers – The same crunch without the spice.
- Red Pepper Flakes – You won’t get the same texture, but you’ll get the spice.
- Smoked Paprika – This is finely ground bell peppers that don’t offer heat but do have a smoky flavor.
At Moms Who Think, we have many amazing recipes that incorporate jalapenos in a variety of ways. A few of our favorites include:Print
- 2 (7 ounce) cans jalapeno peppers
- 6 ounces shredded Mexican-style cheese blend
- 1 pound pork sausage, hot
- 1 (5.5 ounce) package spicy seasoning coating mix
- Slice peppers lengthwise, remove seeds and core; fill with cheese.
- Roll out sausage with rolling pin, between two layers of plastic wrap.
- Remove plastic from sausage, and wrap a thin coating of sausage around each jalapeno.
- Roll peppers in spicy seasoned coating mix.
- Bake at 350°F (175°C) for 15 to 25 minutes or until brown and sizzling and cheese is melted.
- Prep Time: 15 minutes
- Cook Time: 20 minutes
- Bacon Wrapped Jalapeno Poppers – These are great appetizers with bacon, cream cheese, and tasty jalapenos.
- Jalapeno Cornbread Stuffing – Add some onions, celery, turkey broth, and some jalapenos for a tasty dinner treat.
- Pork Chops with Jalapeño Cornbread Stuffing – Pork chops are amazing with jalapenos and a bit of black pepper.
- Jalapeno Chicken Pinwheels Recipe – Finely chopped sliced jalapeno chilies make this treat delicious.
- You can recognize a serrano pepper compared to a jalapeno based on size. Serrano peppers are smaller than jalapenos.
- One important thing to keep in mind is that serrano peppers often have more seeds than jalapenos, so if that's something you aren't a fan of jalapenos are the way to go.
- Serrano peppers are usually sold in specialty stores, making them rare in standard grocery stores. Jalapenos, on the other hand, are much more common in stores.
As you can see, there are some big differences in the battle of serrano vs. jalapeno, especially when it comes to the heat level. Consider adding one or both to your next meal and have a dinner or snack you won’t ever forget.