Serrano vs Jalapeno: How Do These Spicy Peppers Differ?

There's no doubt people love their share of spicy food. Whether it be from hot sauce or spicy peppers, there are a number of ways to increase the heat level in any dish. When it comes to peppers, it easy to distinguish the difference between common ones like bell peppers, poblanos and habaneros. However, when it comes to serrano vs jalapeño peppers, it can get a bit confusing.

The heat of chilies is measured on the Scoville Scale. The peppers are measured based on their Scoville Heat Units, or SHU. According to Chili Pepper Madness, " What is really being measured is the concentration of "capsaicin", the active ingredient that produces that sensation of heat on our tongues." The jalapeno has 2,00-8,000 SHU vs the serrano with 10,000-23,000 SHU. Cayenne is even hotter, followed by habanero peppers, New Mexico Scorpion and the Carolina Reaper. Currently, the hottest pepper is Pepper X, measuring over 3 million SHU.

If you're looking for a pepper with a milder level of heat, a poblano would be a great choice. Poblano peppers only have between 1,000-2,000 SHU.

The flavor and size between jalapenos and serranos is quite similar, but the heat level is one of the key differences. That doesn't mean though that you can't use these hot peppers interchangeably. For example, if you are following a recipe that calls for serrano peppers, but you were only able to find jalapeño peppers at the grocery store, no worries. Go ahead and use jalapeños!

So, what is the real difference between serranos vs. jalapeños? Here's what you need to know about these two peppers.

Serrano Peppers

Serrano peppers are grown in Mexico and are usually 1 to 2 inches long. Unripe, but totally edible serrano peppers are green and ripe serranos come in shades of yellow, orange, red and brown.

Serrano peppers no doubt pack on the heat. Coming in at 10,000-23,000 Scoville Heat Units and 3-4 times spicier than jalapeños, serranos might look tiny from the outside, but will definitely give you the heat you crave. Like mentioned before, you can absolutely substitute serrano peppers for jalapeño peppers, just keep in mind to decrease the amount of serranos since they are spicier.

Jalapeño Peppers

Jalapeños are also grown in Mexico, but are very easy to find at grocery stores around the United States. Jalapeño peppers are about 2-3 inches long and are usually eaten when they're green. If allowed to ripen, you'll find them in shades of red, orange or yellow.

Jalapeño peppers are milder than serrano peppers with a Scoville rating of 3,500-8,000. Jalapeños are an all around great spicy pepper to use in many recipes if you want to kick up the heat level, but not in an overwhelming way.

Keep in mind that in most hot peppers, capsaicin, the chemical in chili peppers that gives heat and spice is found in the pith and seeds of the pepper. So, if this doesn't bother you, no need to remove those things if you enjoy the extra punch of heat.

If you're looking for some recipe inspiration using serrano and jalapeño peppers, check out some of our favorite recipes below that really show off these two chili peppers.

1. Pickled Jalapeños

Chili Pepper Madness

Put all of those jalapeños to good use by making pickled jalapeños. Flavored with ingredients like vinegar, peppercorns, and bay leaf, pickled jalapeños are great to stash away in the refrigerator for burger night.

Here's the recipe.

2. Tomatillo Salsa with Serranos


If you love tomatillo salsa with a nice kick of heat, throw in some serrano chili peppers. Here's the recipe.

3. Bacon-Wrapped Cheesy Stuffed Jalapeños

Sally's Baking Addiction

What's not to love? You have spiciness from the jalapeños, saltiness from the bacon, and creaminess from the cheeses. It sounds like the perfect appetizer to me!

Here's the recipe.

4. Serrano-Chile Rubbed Roast Chicken

Food Network

Add some heat to your weeknight chicken dinner by using a serrano pepper in the spice rub. It doesn't take long to marinate the chicken, but marinating overnight is best.

Here's the recipe.

5. Jalapeño-Serrano Hot Sauce

Serious Eats

Show off these two peppers by including them in a homemade hot sauce recipe. It's so simple to make and you'll have a big batch to keep on hand for whenever you need a hot sauce fix. Here's the recipe.

This post was originally published on February 19, 2020

Related Videos