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What Is A Good Substitute For Jalapeno Peppers?

Sliced Jalapenos Lengthwise

Jalapeno peppers are some of the most common peppers available in supermarkets. Jalapenos are a mildly spicy pepper with a unique, delicious flavor. But what can you use in place of jalapenos when they are needed in a recipe? What is the best substitute for jalapeno peppers?

We have a number of suggestions for the best ingredients to use as a jalapeno alternative. Which substitute you choose will depend on the intended purpose of the jalapenos. If you are trying to make poppers, you will need to use another type of pepper. If you just need to add a little heat to your stir fry, you have other options.

In this article, we’ll go through our favorite jalapeno substitute options.

Read Next: All about the jalapeño pepper.

Serrano Peppers

If you are looking for a slightly different pepper to use as a jalapeno alternative, the serrano pepper is a good choice. Serranos will amp up the heat level while maintaining a familiar hot pepper flavor.

Serranos look similar to jalapenos, however they are more narrow with a thinner wall. The smaller size may prevent them from being the right jalapeno replacement for your needs. They are also slightly less common in supermarkets than jalapenos, but are still very easy to come by.

Suggested: Serranos vs jalapenos

In short, serranos are another spicy green pepper variety with a smaller size and a higher heat level.

Tip: Jalapenos also make a great substitute for serranos! If your recipe calls for serrano peppers, jalapenos are a more commonplace pepper to find in markets.

More pepper varieties to substitute jalapenos:

  • Fresno – Milder, slightly larger, red
  • Poblano – Milder, much larger, thinner walls
  • Cayenne – Spicier, thin walls, red

Cayenne Pepper Powder

Maybe you’re in a pinch – you don’t have any peppers in the fridge. What can you substitute jalapenos with now?

If you just need to add some quick heat to a meal, cayenne pepper powder will do the trick. This spice is made of dried, ground cayenne peppers, meaning a decent punch. Cayenne peppers have a Scoville rating around 50,000 SHU, meaning they are more spicy than a jalapeno when fresh.

The drawback of replacing jalapenos with cayenne pepper is obvious: Its a powder.

If your recipe calls for fresh jalapenos, you’ll be missing out on that crunchy, fresh pepper flavor. However, if it is just a minor ingredient meant to add heat, cayenne is a reasonable fallback. Plus, it is a staple on most kitchen spice racks.

We recommend using 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper per jalapeno for approximately the same heat level. If you want to amp up the heat, the sky is the limit!

Tip: Learn how to make your own dried pepper powder to save for later use!

Smoked Paprika Powder

Another jalapeno substitute spice is smoked paprika. While paprika won’t give any heat to your meal, it can add wonderful flavor and color. We especially love using smoked paprika for its wonderful smoky flavor and aroma.

Paprika is simply dried, finely ground red chili peppers. Usually, these are sweeter, milder peppers without much heat. This is why paprika isn’t spicy, but adds a familiar sweet red pepper flavor and color, making it a potential jalapeno alternative.

Smoked paprika is the same thing, but with smoked red chili peppers which adds a ton of flavor. We like to use smoked paprika when we make homemade salsa or hot sauce. It isn’t on everyone’s spice shelf, but if you have it, try it as a jalapeno replacement.

Tip: Smoked paprika works especially well as a replacement for any chipotle-flavored recipes!

Bell Peppers

To some, this may seem to defeat the purpose of using jalapenos in the first place. However, if you happen to be looking for a replacement pepper variety that has no heat, bell peppers can fill the space of jalapenos.

Bell peppers, like jalapenos, are of the Capsicum Annuum species which produces many of the non-spicy pepper varieties. Characteristically, the bell pepper is not very similar to jalapenos, other than having a similarly thick wall and a crunchy texture.

Calvin holding a lot of bell peppers.

Substituting jalapenos with bell peppers will give you a less spicy meal, but a similar flavor and crunch factor.

Tip: If you still want heat, try substituting jalapenos with bell peppers and cayenne pepper powder!

Hot Sauce

This may be a bit more obvious, but another option for substituting jalapeno peppers is with hot sauce. Grab your favorite variety and splash a few dashes into your meal for some added heat and flavor.

Keep it simple: Try using Tabasco or Frank’s RedHot. These hot sauces add a ton of pepper flavor without too much complexity. For example, Frank’s has just 5 ingredients.

Complex and versatile: Try a new hot sauce. Here is a list of our favorite Habanero hot sauces with incredible versatility and flavor.

We use hot sauce on almost every meal, even if it has jalapeno peppers in it. In a pinch, if we need jalapenos and don’t have any, we’ll use some chunky hot sauce as a jalapeno alternative. Better yet, we’ll try to use a combination of the substitutes on this list.

I hope you found a perfect jalapeno substitute for your recipe! Let us know if you used one of our suggestions or if you have another idea for substituting jalapeno peppers. Enjoy!

Calvin Thumbnail


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.


Friday 19th of August 2022

I want to make cowboy candy. After harvesting my jalapeño for poppers they didn’t really produce a lot. But.. I have a ton of yellow banana peppers. Can I make cowboy candy for canning with them and maybe add a few jalapeños or Serrano?


Saturday 20th of August 2022

Definitely, any pepper that has nice thick walls is a good candidate for candying


Saturday 16th of January 2021

Thanks, this was very helpful! Just the info I was looking for!

Suzanne Reiter

Sunday 6th of December 2020

I live in Hawaii and want to make Texas Caviar as a gift for some friends; there are no jalapeno peppers on the Island, and I appreciate the suggestions for substitutes.

Valeria Truitt

Wednesday 25th of November 2020

Thanks for the go-ahead to use bell peppers in place of jalapenos in recipes that call for jalapenos. Believe it or not, there are people who are particularly sensitive to whatever it is that makes jalapenos and other "spicy" peppers spicy, thus avoid recipes calling for jalapenos. If I want a piquancy in a recipe, I use horseradish, not capsaicin.

I never thought of using smoked paprika! Thanks for the tip.

Patricia Kitto

Sunday 6th of September 2020

Thanks so much for the information! I’m making a vegetable korma and I don’t have any jalapeño peppers (it only calls for one) so I’m going with the 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper!