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Red vs Green Jalapeños – What’s The Difference?

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If you use a lot of jalapeños, chances are you have seen both red and green variants of the pepper. They are mostly sold in their green form. But during the summer, you may be able to find red jalapeños at stores or farmer’s markets.

In this article, I’ll share the important differences between red and green jalapeño peppers. You’ll learn how the flavor, heat level, and even nutrition differ between red and green jalapeños. Also, I’ll cover the ideal use cases for each type. Let’s get started!

red vs green jalapeno

What Are Red Jalapeños?

Like all peppers, jalapeños change color when they are full ripe. For most types of jalapeños, the color they turn is red. If you leave jalapeños growing on the plant for longer, they will eventually begin to change color.

Red jalapeno pepper on plant
Red jalapeño pepper on plant.

However, it is not very common to find red jalapeños at stores. Instead, they’re primarily sold in their unripe green form. This is because red jalapeños take longer to grow, and green ones are what most people like to eat.


Red Jalapeños vs Green Jalapeños

Red JalapeñoGreen Jalapeño
FlavorSweeter with less bitternessMore vegetal, smoky, less sweet, slightly bitter (especially seeds)
Heat LevelHighest when just ripeLower, but increases towards ripening time
NutritionHigher in Vitamin C, B6Less concentrated nutrients
TextureSofter textureCrisp and firm texture
UsesHot sauce, fermentation, salsaPickling, salsa, relish, poppers

A lot changes when a jalapeño turns from green to red. The red color is thanks to a compound called capsanthin which is a powerful antioxidant. So, one notable change is an increase in nutrients, including vitamin C and B6 (source).

Also, red jalapeños can be slightly spicier than green ones, though this depends more on how ripe the peppers are, and when the exact type of jalapeño. More on this topic below.

Most importantly, red jalapeños have a sweeter flavor than green ones, and a softer texture. This makes them useful for different types of recipes. I like to use red jalapeños for making delicious fermented pepper mash, hot sauces, and sometimes salsa.

Green jalapeños are better for preservation recipes, such as pickles and relishes. This is thanks to their firm, crunchy texture. Both red and green jalapeños have their use cases, so I’ll usually harvest based on what type I need in the kitchen.


Are red jalapeños spicier?

Many pepper growers aim to grow the spiciest possible peppers. That’s why we have an article all about growing hotter peppers here. But are red jalapeños spicier than green?

According to this study on cayenne peppers, capsaicin content increases during the first 40 days of ripening, then drops off significantly. So, to get the hottest jalapeños, you should probably harvest just as the peppers begin to turn red.

Jalapeno plant with ripening fruits
Jalapeño just turning red on the plant.

In other words, red jalapeños can be hotter than green jalapeños, but only if picked at the right time. In my experience, green jalapeño peppers have plenty of heat. The best way to get the perfect heat level is to choose a variety that matches your needs.


Where to get red jalapeños

Since green jalapeños are much more popular, red jalapeños can be tricky to find. The most reliable way to find red peppers is to grow them yourself. Then, as the peppers mature, wait for them to begin turning red before harvesting.

In the summer or early fall, you may get lucky and find some red jalapeños at specialty grocery stores. Also, stop by a local farmer’s market and look for ripe jalapeños for sale.

If you’re not able to find red jalapeños, you can probably find some red Fresno peppers instead. While they aren’t as thick as jalapeños, they are similar in flavor and heat level, and work well as a substitute.


Red jalapeño recipes

Fresno hot sauce recipe

If you happen to have access to red jalapeños, here are some great recipes to try:

  • Jalapeño hot sauce (red). Try our smoky red hot sauce. You can use red jalapeños or Fresno peppers to make this delicious, quick homemade hot sauce.
  • Fermented pepper mash. Fermenting red jalapeño peppers brings out amazing flavor. After fermenting, you can store the mash in the fridge to add to dishes, marinades, sauces, or make into simple hot sauce.
  • Homemade sriracha. The main ingredient in sriracha is red jalapeño. So, if you have a bunch on hand, try our delicious, sweet sriracha hot sauce recipe.
  • Pineapple jalapeño salsa. I love the combination of sweet and spicy in our pineapple jalapeño salsa. Green or red peppers will work in this one, but the sweetness of the red jalapeños works well with the tropical fruit.

Green jalapeño recipes

jalapeno popper mac and cheese

For green jalapeños, I recommend trying one of these tasty recipes:

  • Jalapeño poppers. The classic popper should be made using fresh, green jalapeños. Our fried recipe is delicious, or you can try our sausage stuffed jalapeños for an easier option.
  • Pickled jalapeños. If you’re going to make pickled peppers, it’s always better to use unripe green ones. The unripe peppers are more firm, and will hold up much longer, staying crisp for weeks.
  • Jalapeño hot sauce (green). Our dedicated jalapeño hot sauce recipe uses fresh green jalapeños from the garden. The flavor is fresh and zingy, perfect for pizza, tacos, or pretty much anything that needs a kick!
  • Jalapeño mac n cheese. For a comforting, spicy meal, try our amazing jalapeño popper mac n cheese. The creamy cheese sauce pairs perfectly with the smoky and spicy flavor of jalapeños – my mouth is watering just thinking about it!

Jalapeño peppers are one of the most beloved peppers, and for good reason. Whether you find red, green or even yellow and orange jalapeños, they should never go to waste!

Calvin Thumbnail

Calvin

One of the original Pepper Geeks! When Calvin isn’t gardening or learning more about peppers and botany, he might be traveling new places or playing some music.

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