Turning Down the Heat on Jalapeños

Some jalapeños are hotter than others. When you get a superspicy one, is there a way to temper the heat?

A quick way to turn down the heat on a hot pepper is to cut out the ribs and seeds, which contain a higher concentration of capsaicin (the compound that makes peppers hot). But what if that’s not enough? This is a question on which opinions abound. Several sources suggested that cooking can calm your capsicums, while others argued that since capsaicin is heat stable, cooking the peppers won’t temper spiciness at all. We also read in some sources that cooking hot peppers would make them even hotter.

To settle this, we gathered a few pounds of jalapeños and a team of adventurous tasters. Every individual pepper has a slightly different heat level, so in each test we compared two halves of the same fruit. We tried boiling the chiles in water and in milk, cooking them in oil, and roasting them. To our surprise, boiling the peppers in water or milk or cooking them in oil for 5 minutes did remove a significant amount of their burn, when compared with a raw piece of the same pepper. They were also quite soft—which might or might not be good, depending on how you intended to use them. Boiling or cooking in oil for just 2 minutes had less impact on texture and also less impact on heat. Roasting the jalapeños in the oven at 500 degrees for 5 minutes left the peppers still somewhat crunchy while also taking the edge off their heat.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Yes, cooking does tame chiles’ heat. To lessen the burn while preserving the most texture, roast them for 5 minutes at 500 degrees.

FIRE FIGHTER: Quickly roasting jalapeños tames their heat while retaining most of their crunch.

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