Food and Nutrition
Food and Nutrition
Food and Nutrition
Food and Nutrition

Differences of Jalapeño vs Fresno Peppers vs Green Chilis

Jump to RecipeDifferent peppers all lined up next to each other.

There are many different types of peppers and they each have their own unique flavor and use. When a recipe calls for jalapeño or Fresno peppers, you may be wondering the difference is. Can I swap them out with each other? Is the spice level different?

This post will go over the differences and similarities in these peppers.

Comparison between Jalapeños, Fresno Peppers, and Green Chilis

These are the key differences between these popular chili peppers. Each type of chili pepper has a unique flavor profile and culinary usage. They are all fairly similar is size and spice level, but they do vary. here are the main differences in each chili pepper.

Appearance

  • Jalapeños: These peppers are small to medium-sized and have a thick, shiny, dark green skin when unripe. As they ripen, they can turn red, and their skin becomes slightly smoother and less glossy. Most of the time you will find them in the dark green color with thick walls. If you do have a red jalapeño they are still good to eat, they are just commonly used in their green stage.
  • Fresno peppers: Fresno chili peppers are similar in size to jalapeños but are typically a brighter shade of red. Red Fresno peppers have thinner walls and a smoother skin compared to jalapeños.
  • Green chilies: "Green chili" is a broad term used for various green chili pepper varieties, but most commonly refer to hatch chilis. They can vary in size and shape, but generally, they have a more elongated and slender form. They can be light green or dark green, depending on the specific variety.

Flavor

  • Jalapeños: They have a distinctive earthy and slightly sweet flavor with moderate heat. The heat level can vary, but in general, they are considered mild to medium-hot peppers.
  • Fresno peppers: These peppers have a similar flavor profile to jalapeños, but they are often considered slightly spicier, ranging from mild to medium heat.
  • Green chilies: The flavor of green chilies can vary widely depending on the specific type. For the most part, green chilis have a milder flavor with a slightly tangy taste, while others can be hotter with a more intense heat.

Heat Level

All of these peppers are similar in spice level. They are spicer than bell peppers but not as spicy as chipotle peppers or cayenne peppers. The chart below gives you an idea of where the peppers fall on the spiciness scale. All peppers are ranked in scoville units which determines the amount of capsaicin a pepper has on average.

Some of the hottest chili peppers can go as high as 1,000,000 SHU. All of these chilis range from about 500-10,000 SHU.

  • Jalapeños: They are considered moderately spicy. On the Scoville scale, which measures the heat of chili peppers, the average jalapeños typically ranges from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
  • Fresno peppers: Fresno peppers are generally hotter than jalapeños, falling in the range of 2,500 to 10,000 SHU. They are the hottest pepper out of the three listed here.
  • Green chilies: The heat level of green chilies can vary significantly, but most of the time they have a mild heat (around 1,000 SHU) and others being quite hot (up to 10,000 SHU or more). On average, hatch chilis (a common green chili), are closer to the 1,000 SHU mark.
Chart with the scoville heat level of peppers.

Culinary Uses

  • Jalapeños: These versatile peppers are commonly used in Mexican dishes, such as salsas, nachos, stuffed peppers, and pickled snacks. They can be used fresh, cooked, or dried and ground into powder.
  • Fresno peppers: Due to their spicier nature, Fresno peppers are often used as a substitute for jalapeños when a bit more heat is desired. They work well to add a spicy kick to salsas, hot sauces, and as toppings for soups, enchiladas, or nachos.
  • Green chilies: Green chilies are popular in Southwestern and Mexican cuisine. They are frequently roasted, chopped, and used in dishes like green chili stews, enchiladas, and rellenos. They are often found canned so they are already chopped and ready to use. Due to their moderate heat level they are nice to use when you want to mellow out your spicy dishes.

Origin

  • Jalapeños: The jalapeño pepper is named after the city of Xalapa (also spelled Jalapa) in the Mexican state of Veracruz. It is believed to have originated in Mexico and has been cultivated in the region for centuries. Today, Mexico remains one of the largest producers and consumers of jalapeños. Over time, jalapeños have gained popularity worldwide and are now grown in various countries.
  • Fresno peppers: The Fresno pepper is a cultivar of the Capsicum annuum species and is named after the city of Fresno, California. The pepper was developed in California by crossing different chili varieties, possibly including the jalapeño. Its exact origin is not well-documented, but it likely emerged sometime in the early to mid-20th century in California's central valley.
  • Green chilies: "Green chilies" is a general term used to refer to various types of green chili peppers, and their origins can be attributed to different regions. In general, green chili peppers have been cultivated and used in cuisines across the world for thousands of years. Some specific varieties of green chilies have their origins tied to specific countries or regions. For example:
  • Hatch chilies: Named after the town of Hatch, New Mexico, these chilies are popular in Southwestern cuisine and have become a symbol of the region's culinary heritage.
  • Anaheim chilies: Named after Anaheim, California, Anaheim peppers are commonly used in Mexican and Southwestern dishes.

Availability

  • Jalapeños: Jalapeños are widely used so you can find them in most grocery stores. When they are in season, during the summer, you can also find them at local farmer markets since they are a popular variety to grow.
  • Fresno peppers: Depending on where you live Fresno peppers can be a little harder to find. I live in the midwest so I rarly see them in the grocery stores. My best bet to get my hand of Fresno chilis is at the farmers market during the summer or to grow them myself.
  • Green chilies: Green chilies are fairly easy to find canned. You can find canned hatch chilies at almost any grocery store. Finding them fresh might be a little harder but some larger grocery store will have some green chili options.
A ton of hot peppers in a pile.

Jalapenos vs Fresno Peppers

Jalapeño peppers and Fresno peppers can be used interchangeably ad are a good substitution for each other. They are similar in size and spice, but just remember Fresno chilis are a little bit spicer. Jalapeños are the best substitution for Fresno chiles based on their similar heat level.

Jalapeños do have thicker walls that a Fresno chili

Jalapeno vs Green Chilis

You can substitute green chilis for jalapeños but the majority of the time, if you are using hatch chilis, they will be slightly less spicy than jalapeños. If you want to substitute, just use extra green chilis or less jalapeños so get the same substitute in spice.

A few green jalapenos.

Overall Comparison

In short, they are all fairly similar in spice level, but each pepper can vary. On average Fresno is the spiciest then jalapeños then green chilis.

Jalapeños are the easies fresh chili to find and green chilis are easiest to find canned.

You can swap out one for the other just add a little extra if using a milder chili.

Recipes with Peppers

All of these peppers are common in Mexican and southwest united state cooking. A few of my favorite ways to use jalapeños and greens chilis are in these recipes.

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