Hot peppers, like sweet peppers, are loaded with flavor and amazing health benefits. They are also incredibly easy to grow (hint for you container gardeners out there) as well as being incredibly versatile and delicious in recipes. Some hot peppers lend a subtle “heat” as well as flavor, while others deliver a more intense “heat”. Continue reading to view exactly what each pepper looks like, as well as their heat quotient.
With all of the below mentioned hot peppers, a good majority of the heat resides in the peppers seeds. Removing the seeds before dicing, slicing and using will reduce a lot of the “heat” factor. If you prefer it hotter, leave some or all of the seeds in when you prep and use your peppers. I also HIGHLY recommend using disposable gloves when handling hot peppers and disposing of them immediately after handling. Whether you use gloves or not, always immediately wash your hands to help remove the oil residues which will otherwise linger on your skin. Rubbing your face, especially anywhere near your eyes, afterwards can result in a lengthy eye-tearing episode. And, lastly, hot peppers have the unique flexibility of flavor binding with both sweet and savory ingredients. They meld with fruits, vegetables, beans, rice and other grains exceptionally well.
Jalapeno Pepper: Probably the most common of “hot” peppers, this favorite green pepper offers a good but not overly intense heat. Great for homemade guacamole, salsa verde and pico de gallo recipes, jalapenos are a great subtle heat and flavor addition to Tex Mex, Southwest and Mexican inspired dishes. Chipotle peppers, are smoked jalapeno peppers.
Cayenne Pepper: Another popular hot pepper, cayenne is a red chili pepper and is used in its powdered form just as much (if not more) than in its fresh form. Cayenne peppers, like jalapeno peppers, can also be smoked. Smoked cayenne pepper can easily be found in your store’s spice aisle.
Serrano Pepper: Available in either green or red, they are hotter than jalapeno peppers but not as hot as habanero peppers.
Habanero Pepper: A particularly hot pepper, that is available in a variety of colors (all are hot). Remember that tip I mentioned earlier about wearing gloves when handling peppers? This is one pepper you want to always wear disposable gloves when handling.
Thai Pepper: Available in either green or red, Thai peppers are noticeably hotter than jalapeno peppers, and are used in many Asian inspired recipes as well as in curry powders and curry paste. I personally love using red curry paste when making some of my favorite Asian dishes and a little goes a long way, both in heat and flavor.
Anaheim Pepper: Often referred to as “chilies”, they are a very mild, sweet tasting hot pepper. Very versatile, and I feel that their flavor (but not the heat) intensifies a dish the longer it is allowed to sit or marinate. Excellent for sweet salsas, in egg dishes, casseroles and those who only desire a very mild heat factor while still getting lots of sweet peppery flavor.
Fresno Pepper: A small red pepper with more heat than a jalapeno pepper, but not as much as a Thai or habanero pepper.
Scotch Bonnet Pepper: A small, roundish pepper that comes in a variety of colors, has a moderate heat factor, and is commonly used in a lot of Caribbean dishes.
This hot pepper guide is by all means not all-inclusive, but it does cover what I feel are all of the most common hot peppers. If you’ve been afraid to use hot peppers, start with some of the milder varieties and see for yourself how they easily bump up the flavor factor to your favorite dishes.
Bon Veggie Appetit!
Gina “The Veggie Goddess” Matthews