Comparing Red and Green Jalapeños' Heat

Do red jalapeños have the same heat as the green ones?

Do red jalapeños have the same heat as the green ones?

A red jalapeño is simply a jalapeño that has been allowed to ripen before harvest. To determine whether color makes a difference in the kitchen, we prepared two batches of our Green Chile Cheeseburgers, some with red jalapeños and some with green. With the competing beef and cheese flavors, tasters were hard-pressed to tell the difference between the red and green jalapeños. To see if red and green could stand in for each other in foods without such strong competing flavors, we grilled a few of each and had tasters try them plain. Some found the red jalapeños more "fruity" and the green more "vegetal." Still, all tasters felt that the jalapeños would make fine substitutes for each other. The factors responsible for a pepper's heat are genetic makeup and growing conditions (hot, dry conditions usually make for spicier peppers), not color.

But maybe our tasters were influenced by what they saw, not what they tasted. To correct for that possibility, we devised a third test: We pureed equal weights of each type of pepper with equal weights of water and then added food coloring to make the green pepper mixture appear red and red pepper mixture appear green. (Sneaky, huh?) This time, the results split down the middle: Half of the tasters found the disguised red pepper mixture slightly fruitier and "spicier," but the other half, perhaps influenced by its apparent color, called it "green-tasting" and "flatter."

THE BOTTOM LINE: You may use red and green jalapeños interchangeably. Heat is not determined by color.

Recommended Reading

This is a members' feature.