Jalapeño Pepper: Important Facts, Health Benefits, and Recipes

Learn about the health benefits, history, and culinary uses of jalapeño peppers, as well as how to store and handle them safely in various recipes.

What Is a Jalapeño Pepper?

A jalapeño pepper is a medium-sized chile pepper pod from the species Capsicum annuum. A mature jalapeño chile is 2 to 4 inches long. Commonly picked and consumed while still green , they sometimes fully ripen and turn red, orange, or yellow.

Are Jalapeño Peppers Good For You?

Yes! Jalapeño peppers can offer nutrients and antioxidants.

6 Health Benefits Of a Jalapeño Pepper

  1. Jalapeño peppers may boost our metabolism
    1. Some studies have found that capsaicin (and similar compounds called capsaicinoids) may boost metabolism by about 5% per day, which may help with weight loss
  2. Jalapeños are rich in vitamins A and C and potassium .
  3. Jalapeños have carotene -- an antioxidant that may help fight damage to your cells – as well as folate, vitamin K , and B vitamins
  4. Jalapeño peppers may help in pain relief
    1. Capsaicin reduces pain by temporarily blocking pain receptors in the area where it is applied.
    2. Capsaicin lotions and patches are sometimes used to relieve pain (caused by the shingles virus, diabetic nerve pain, and chronic muscle and joint pain)
    3. In one study , older adults with rheumatoid arthritis experienced a 57% reduction in pain after applying a capsaicin cream to their joints, which was more effective than the placebo.
    4. Capsaicin can be also used as a nasal spray to relieve migraine pain
  5. Jalapeño peppers may help fight infection and bacteria
    1. Compounds like capsaicin found in spicy chile peppers are especially powerful at slowing the growth of common foodborne bacteria
  6. Jalapeño peppers may help keep our heart healthy
    1. There is a study where they found that capsaicin may help improve health of people with metabolic syndrome (Insulin resistance and obesity, being the major components of metabolic syndrome, increase the risk for the development of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease)

History, Background, and General Facts About Jalapeño Peppers

  • The name jalapeño is Spanish for "from Xalapa " (also spelled Jalapa), the capital city of Veracruz , Mexico, where the pepper was traditionally cultivated
  • Originally used by the Aztecs
  • A plant typically produces 25 to 35 pods
  • ​​Jalapeños thrive in a number of soil types and temperatures, although they prefer warmer climates with enough water.
  • The jalapeño is a Mexican chile but has been adopted by Texas as the state pepper in 1995
  • The majority of the U.S. commercial jalapeño pepper supply is grown in New Mexico, Texas, and California, but many small farms throughout the southwest also grow them.
  • Capsaicin is the active compound in peppers that give them heat and provide the health benefits
  • ​​The highest concentration of capsaicin is found closer to the seeds of the pepper. Although the seeds can absorb some capsaicin, the heat comes from the ribs
  • Chipotles are smoked , ripe jalapeños.
  • Jalapeño peppers can have a range of heat, with Scoville heat units of 3,500 to 8,000 (range is 0 to over 1 million - bell pepper is 0, ghost pepper is over 1 mill)
  • The scars on the pepper (small brown lines) also known as 'corking', indicates it will have heat (the more scars, the more heat).

What Are The Cuisines That Regularly Include Jalapeño Pepper?

  • Mexican cuisine:
    • Stuffed jalapeños are hollowed out fresh jalapeños (served cooked or raw) filled with seafood, meat, poultry, or cheese.
    • Chiles toreadosare fresh jalapeños that are sauteed in oil until the skin is blistered all over. They are sometimes served with melted cheese on top.
    • Chopped jalapeños are a common ingredient in many salsas and chilis .
  • American/Tex-Mex :
    • Jalapeño jelly which originated in Texas is used as a glaze on chicken wings or a dip with cream cheese.
    • Jalapeño peppers are often muddled and served in mixed drinks like margaritas.
    • Jalapeño poppers are an appetizer; jalapeños are stuffed with cheese, usually Cheddar or cream cheese, breaded or wrapped in bacon , and cooked.
    • Armadillo eggs are jalapeños or similar jalapeño poppers stuffed with cheese, coated in seasoned sausage meat and wrapped in bacon. The "eggs" are then grilled until the bacon starts to crisp. This is a Texas recipe and kind of similar to Scotch eggs.
    • Texas toothpicks are jalapeños and onions shaved into straws, lightly breaded, and deep fried.
  • Vietnamese :
    • Jalapeño slices are commonly served in Vietnamese pho and bánh mì (a sandwich with cilantro and meat or tofu)

What Is The Best Way To Store Jalapeño Pepper?

Whole fresh peppers can be stored at room temperature or in refrigerator. Sliced fresh peppers should be in a container in the fridge.

What Are The Different Types Of Jalapeño Peppers?


  • The Señorita jalapeño pepper is dark green and eventually turns purple and finally red when left on the vine until mature
  • The Señorita pepper is very hot and typically registers 5,000 SHU on the Scoville scale.

Fresno Chile

  • The Fresno Chile jalapeño pepper is closely related to the Señorita pepper.
  • It takes less time to grow to maturity and produces smaller, milder fruit.
  • On the Scoville scale, these peppers are registered as mild, reaching only 300 to 400 SHU.

Sierra Fuego

  • The Sierra Fuego jalapeño pepper is a hybrid which produces a large amount of peppers per plant.
  • The pepper is mildly hot and grows from dark green in color to red with maturity.

Mucho Nacho

  • This pepper is known for its large size and for being flavorful without having excessive heat.

Toxicity and Side Effects Of Jalapeño Peppers

The most common side effect is the temporary burning sensation of the mouth after eating, depending on the heat level and the person’s tolerance

For people with a low tolerance to spicy foods, there are a few precautions that can reduce reactions to jalapeños

  • Avoid scarring: Look for smooth jalapeño peppers without small brown lines
  • Use gloves: Wearing gloves when handling peppers can prevent transferring the spicy compounds to other sensitive areas of your body like your eyes.
  • Remove membranes: Remove the white membranes inside the jalapeño before cooking with them, since the membranes have the highest concentration of capsaicin.
  • Drink milk: If the burning sensation becomes too strong, drinking full-fat cow’s milk can help temporarily reduce the pain.

At least one study has found that capsaicin can worsen heartburn, so those with reflux may want to avoid jalapeños if they trigger symptoms

What Is The Best Substitute For Jalapeño Peppers If I Don't Have Any?

If you don't have jalapeño peppers available or need a substitute for them in a recipe, there are several alternatives you can consider depending on the level of heat and flavor you're aiming for. Here are some options:

  1. Serrano Peppers: Serrano peppers are similar in heat level and flavor to jalapeños. They have a slightly hotter taste, so use them in moderation if you prefer milder heat. You can use serrano peppers as a 1:1 substitute for jalapeños in most recipes.

  2. Anaheim Peppers: Anaheim peppers have a milder heat compared to jalapeños, making them a good substitute if you prefer less spiciness. They have a slightly sweet and earthy flavor. Use Anaheim peppers as a substitute when you want a milder taste profile in your dish.

  3. Poblano Peppers: Poblano peppers have a mild to medium heat level and a rich, smoky flavor. They are commonly used in Mexican cuisine. Poblano peppers work well as a substitute in recipes where the smoky flavor is desired but with less heat compared to jalapeños. You can roast or grill them before using to enhance the flavor.

  4. Bell Peppers: If you want to avoid spiciness altogether, bell peppers can be used as a substitute for jalapeños. They are sweet and have a mild flavor. Use them to add color and texture to dishes, but keep in mind that they lack the heat of jalapeños.

  5. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: If you're looking to add heat rather than replicate the specific flavor of jalapeños, crushed red pepper flakes can be a good substitute. They are dried and crushed chili peppers, providing a fiery kick. However, note that they won't provide the same texture or flavor as fresh jalapeños.

Nutritional Facts
1 pepper
Amount per serving
4.3 g
0.1 g
0.9 g
Saturated Fat
0 g
3.2 mg
0.7 g
2.3 g