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What is a Good Substitute for Jalapeño Peppers?

Jalapeño peppers are some of the most common peppers available in supermarkets. They are a medium-spicy pepper with a unique, delicious flavor. But what can you use in place of jalapeños when they are needed in a recipe?

We have a number of suggestions for the best ingredients to use as a jalapeño alternative. Which substitute you choose will depend on the intended purpose of the jalapeños.

If you are trying to make poppers, you will need to use another type of fresh pepper. If you just need to add a little heat to your stir fry, you have other options. So, in this article, I’ll share our favorite jalapeño substitute options.

Sliced Jalapenos Lengthwise
Fresh jalapeño slices.

Read Next: All about the jalapeño pepper.

1. Serrano Peppers

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

Suggested: Serranos vs jalapeños

Serrano pepper on plant
Serrano pepper.

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

Making jalapeño poppers?

For poppers, look for Fresno peppers, as they are similar in size and shape and will work as a replacement for jalapeños. They are bright red and slightly more pointed than jalapeños. We have found them at Whole Foods and other specialty grocery stores.

Try our jalapeño popper recipe here >

Red fresno pepper fresh off the plant
Fresno peppers are an ideal jalapeño substitute, especially for poppers!

While serranos are not ideal stuffing peppers, they are another spicy green pepper with similar flavor properties to jalapeños. The main differences are their slender shape and a higher heat level.

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

More fresh pepper varieties to substitute jalapeños:

  • Fresno – Milder, slightly larger, red, best alternative for making poppers
  • Poblano – Milder, much larger, thinner walls
  • Cayenne – Spicier, thin walls, red

2. Cayenne Pepper Powder

Maybe you’re in a pinch – you don’t have any peppers in the fridge. What can you substitute jalapeños 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 it has a decent punch. Cayenne peppers have a Scoville rating around 50,000 SHU, meaning they are more spicy than a jalapeño when fresh.

Homemade cayenne pepper powder in glass jar
Cayenne powder.

How much cayenne pepper to substitute for jalapeño pepper?

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

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

If your recipe calls for fresh jalapeños, 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.

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

3. Smoked Paprika Powder

Another jalapeño 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 in wooden bowl
Paprika powder.

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 jalapeño 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 jalapeño replacement.

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

4. Bell Peppers

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

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

Calvin holding a lot of bell peppers.

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

Tip: If you still want heat, try adding bell peppers and cayenne pepper powder for the best of both worlds!

5. Hot Sauce

This may be a bit more obvious, but another option for substituting jalapeño 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 and heat 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 jalapeño 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.

How spicy are jalapeño peppers?

Jalapeños range in heat level from 3,000 – 8,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale. This spiciness is usually in the sweet spot for those who enjoy hot food.

There are hotter jalapeño varieties, such as the jalafuego, that were specifically bred for higher heat. On the flip side, mild jalapeños, such as the Tam jalapeño, were bred for those who don’t like as much spice.

I hope you found a perfect jalapeño substitute for your recipe! Let us know if you used one of our suggestions or if you have any other ideas for those who need it. 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 27th of October 2023

Can you make poppers with Hatch Chili Peppers? Thank you, Rick


Sunday 29th of October 2023

I haven't tried it, but Im sure they would taste great! Only concern might be the tougher skins on the peppers.


Saturday 8th of July 2023

Would a purple Cosmo pepper be similar to a jalapeño? We just bought a plant because the fruit are beautiful but now I’m not sure how to use them.


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.


Monday 2nd of January 2023

We visited Hawaii and were fascinated by some of the peppers we could find on Kauai - those little red Hawaiian chiles were seriously spicy!