Substitutes for jalapenos

The 15 Best Substitutes for Jalapeños: Spicy Solutions

Jalapeño peppers are a common and flavorful spice found in many grocery stores. They bring a medium level of heat to dishes. But what can you use if you don’t have jalapeños for your recipe? We’ve got some great alternatives based on what you’re cooking. Whether you’re making poppers or adding a kick to your stir fry, we’ve got you covered. Let’s explore the best substitutes for jalapeños in this article.

What’s a Jalapeño?

The jalapeño pepper, originating from Mexico, is a spicy and popular ingredient globally. Its bright green color, unique spicy and tangy taste, and crunchy texture make it irresistible.

And let’s talk about how versatile they are! With thick walls and a distinctive taste, jalapeños bring a kick of heat and tanginess to salsas, curries, soups, sandwiches, and more. Scoring around 2,500 to 10,000 on the Scoville heat scale, they deliver a satisfying spicy punch without being overly hot.

Reasons to Substitute Jalapeños

Why might someone swap out these spicy goodies?

  • Fresh jalapeños can be pricey when not in season. Substitutes are cheaper.
  • Jalapeños might not be available year-round, depending on where you are. Substitutes are easier to find.
  • Some alternatives let you adjust the spiciness up or down.
  • Certain substitutes avoid allergies to nightshades or other sensitive ingredients.
  • Canned or jarred jalapeños work but taste different.
  • Getting that perfect blend of heat and flavor might require subbing with a few peppers.

Best Substitutes for Jalapeños

1. Fresno Pepper

Fresno Pepper - Substitutes for jalapeños

Fresno pepper is a great substitute for jalapenos. It looks and tastes similar but has a slightly higher spice level, ranking between 2,500 to 10,000 on the Scoville scale. You can find Fresno peppers in powder or crushed form, and they have thinner outer layers, making them easy to grind. They have a crisp, smoky flavor that’s perfect for grilling or smoking. You can use Fresno peppers in the same quantity as jalapenos, with one Fresno pepper replacing one jalapeno.

2. Serrano Peppers

If you want a bit more heat than jalapeños, try serrano peppers. They have a similar spicy flavor but pack more punch. Serranos look like jalapeños but are narrower and have thinner walls. They’re spicier, ranging from 10,000 to 25,000 Scoville units, but still offer that familiar jalapeño taste.

Serrano Peppers - Jalapeño Substitute

They’re a bit smaller and less common in stores, but you can usually find them. While they’re not great for stuffing, they’re a good alternative for adding heat to dishes. The main differences are their slender shape and higher heat levels.

3. Bell Peppers

Bell peppers are an excellent substitute for jalapeños, especially if you prefer mild flavors. Unlike spicy jalapeños, bell peppers are gentle on the palate, making them ideal for those who don’t enjoy spicy food.

Bell Pepper - Jalapeño Alternative

Both bell peppers and jalapeños belong to the same pepper family, but they differ in taste and spiciness. While bell peppers have a thicker wall and a crunchy texture like jalapeños, they offer a milder flavor. If you swap jalapeños for bell peppers, you’ll get a meal with less heat but a similar taste and crunchiness.

4. Chipotle Peppers

Chipotle peppers are dried and smoked jalapeños, which might seem like a good swap, but they have a much stronger, earthier flavor due to the smoking process. This bold taste can overpower a dish if not used carefully. For everyday cooking, chipotle isn’t the best alternative to jalapenos because it lacks the fresh, grassy bite of jalapeños. However, if you’re making a BBQ recipe, the smokiness of chipotle peppers could complement the dish.

5. Poblano Peppers

Poblano peppers are a great alternative to jalapeños. It offers mild heat ranging from 1,000 to 2,000 Scoville units and a thicker wall similar to jalapeños. These mild peppers are perfect for both verdant and savory dishes. When substituting for jalapeños, remember to slice the poblano peppers. They can be enjoyed cooked or raw and make a great garnish.

Poblano Pepper - Alternative for Jalapeño

Poblano peppers add a unique smoky flavor, providing depth and intensity to your food. To replace jalapeños, use poblano peppers in a 1:1 ratio. Adjust other heat elements as needed.

6. Anaheim Peppers

Anaheim peppers are a great choice if you can’t handle spicy food. They’re one of the best substitutes for jalapeños. Anaheim peppers are milder than jalapeños, with a Scoville rating between 500 to 2,500.

They’re crispy when cooked, making them a good replacement for jalapeños.

Anaheim peppers are larger than jalapeños, which makes them perfect for dishes like stuffed peppers. Their mild flavor makes them versatile for soups, salsa, and roasted dishes.

If you don’t have jalapeños, you can use Anaheim peppers in the same quantity. Just follow the 1:1 rule.

7. Cubanelle Peppers

Cubanelle peppers are a mild alternative to jalapeños, ranging from 100 to 1000 Scoville heat units. They offer a similar crunch and flavor without the intense spiciness. These sweet peppers are typically light yellow or green but may turn red when ripe. Unlike jalapeños, they have thin flesh like bell peppers.

Cubanelle Pepper - Substitute for Jalapeño

Cubanelle peppers are perfect for those who don’t enjoy spicy food. You can replace jalapeños with cubanelles in a 1:1 ratio, adjusting other heat elements as needed.

8. Banana Peppers

Wax or banana peppers, with a mild heat rating of 100 to 500 Scoville units, make an excellent substitute for jalapeños. These yellow peppers bring a gentle heat and tanginess to your dishes. Banana peppers have a crunchy texture, not juicy like jalapeños. Pickled versions may taste tangier and more acidic due to higher acidity levels.

Banana Pepper - Jalapeño Substitute

While fresh banana peppers can be hard to find, you can locate them among pickled goods. Their vibrant color and spice level add zest to your meals, also providing a vitamin B6 boost. When substituting, use a 1:1 ratio, swapping jalapeños for banana peppers.

9. Canned or Pickled Jalapenos

Canned or pickled jalapeños are flavorful and convenient. Use them in the same amount as fresh jalapeños.

Example dishes where you can use them: Nachos, tacos, sandwiches, chili.

Replace fresh jalapeños with canned or pickled jalapeños in equal amounts.

10. Cayenne Pepper Powder

If you’re out of jalapeños and need a quick heat fix, cayenne pepper powder can do that. Made from dried, ground cayenne peppers, it packs a punch with a Scoville rating of around 50,000 SHU, spicier than fresh jalapeños. Use about 1/2 tsp of cayenne per jalapeno for a similar heat level, and you can adjust for more heat if desired. Keep in mind, though, that using cayenne powder won’t replicate the fresh, crunchy texture of jalapenos in recipes that call for the latter. However, as a heat-adding ingredient, cayenne is a reasonable substitute and is a common spice rack item.

11. Red Pepper Flakes

Red pepper flakes, made by drying and crushing smoked red peppers, add instant heat to dishes. Begin with ¼ teaspoon per jalapeño and adjust to your liking. For example, use them in pizza, pasta, or chili. Start with ¼ teaspoon of red pepper flakes per jalapeño, then adjust as needed.

12. Smoked Paprika Powder

Smoked paprika powder is another substitute for jalapeños. It’s made from dried and smoked red chili peppers, offering a milder flavor but with a delightful smokiness. If you want to add a tandoori or smoky touch to your dish without overwhelming spice, smoked paprika is the way to go. It’s sweeter and milder than jalapeños but still adds fantastic color to your food. Use smoked paprika in a 1:1 ratio as a substitute for jalapeños in dishes like tandoori chicken, salsa, salad, and smoked chicken.

13. Pepperoncini 

Pepperoncini peppers are another option for replacing jalapeños. They’re mild, ranging from 100-600 SHU on the heat scale, and less spicy than jalapeños. They’re often used in the US and are also known as Tuscan Peppers in Italian cuisine.

You can find them fresh in markets or pickled in jars, which can last longer than fresh ones. Use them as a substitute for jalapeños when you want less heat in your dish.

14. Thai Chilies

Thai chilies may be small, but they’re spicy, with up to 100,000 Scoville units. When substituting for jalapeños, use a 1:4 ratio of Thai chilies to jalapeños.

Jalapeño substitute - Thai Chilies

Thai chilies are perfect for adding heat to dishes like curries, stir-fries, and dipping sauces. When measuring, replace every jalapeño with just a quarter of a Thai chili pepper.

15. Green Chilies

Green chilies are a good swap for jalapenos as they’re both green and equally spicy. They’re not just tasty but also full of nutrients like iron, zinc, and vitamins B6, A, and C, which make your meals healthier. You can add them to many dishes, like gravies, soups, and stews, to give them a flavorful kick.

Cooking Tips for Using Jalapeño Substitutes

  1. Add lime juice or vinegar to mimic the tanginess of jalapeños.
  2. Blend substitute peppers for salsa, guacamole, and pico to match jalapeño’s texture.
  3. Choose substitutes similar in size to jalapeños for even cooking.
  4. Roast peppers with thick walls to soften and enhance flavor.
  5. Use additional spices like cayenne pepper powder for milder peppers.
  6. Combine different pepper substitutes for added complexity.
  7. Taste test before substituting with a new pepper.
  8. Keep fresh peppers in the fridge and dried peppers in a cool, dry place.


What pepper has a similar heat level to a jalapeño?

Fresno peppers closely match the heat level of jalapeños.

Can red pepper flakes replace fresh jalapeños?

Yes, red pepper flakes can be a substitute for fresh jalapeños. Start with about ¼ teaspoon per jalapeño in the recipe and adjust to your taste.

What can I use instead of jalapeños in curry?

Fresno and serrano peppers are great substitutes to add heat and flavor to curries when jalapeños are unavailable.

Can red pepper flakes replace fresh jalapeño peppers?

Yes, red pepper flakes can substitute for fresh jalapeños, but use them sparingly as they are much spicier.

See Also – No Garlic Pepper? Substitutes to Enhance Your Dishes


When jalapenos aren’t around, you can still enjoy similar flavors with substitutes like serrano pepper, smoked paprika powder, Cayenne powder, Fresno, or Anaheim peppers. They offer a good alternative without altering the taste too much.

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