When To Pick Serrano Peppers

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Serrano peppers are an easy pepper variety to grow at home. They will happily thrive in containers or in raised beds. They are also one of the earliest pepper varieties to harvest, and they keep producing peppers all summer long.

When is the perfect time to harvest serranos? In this article, I’ll share a quick guide for when to pick serrano peppers for all use cases. Whether you’re pickling or eating them fresh, this is how to know they’re ready to pick.

When To Pick Serrano Peppers

Serrano peppers are usually harvested while they are still green (unripe). This can make it difficult to know exactly when the peppers are mature enough for picking.

In general, harvest serrano peppers 1-2 weeks after they have reached a mature size. The peppers can technically be harvested at any time, but there is a sweet spot for the best flavor and crunchy texture.

Signs of mature serrano peppers:

  • Peppers have stopped growing larger
  • Slightly darker green color
  • Corking (white stretch mark lines on skin)
  • Red coloration (beginning to ripen)

If you harvest your serranos before they are mature enough, the fruits may have a bitter, unpleasant flavor. The skin may also be thin and more difficult to chew, making for an all-around poor eating experience.

I find that the sweet spot for harvesting is around 2 weeks after the pepper has stopped growing larger. At that point, the pepper has begun maturing, but is not yet fully ripe. This leads to a smoky, rich flavor, along with a snappy, crisp texture.

Note: You can wait longer until your serrano peppers have fully changed color. However, the flavor becomes much sweeter, and the skin will be softer. Ripe serranos are better used for making hot sauces or salsas.

How To Harvest Serranos

Once you are ready to pick your serranos, be careful to avoid damaging the plant in the process. Use pruning shears or sharp scissors to get a clean cut. Or, just pull the peppers off, being careful not to break the connecting branches.

As you harvest, your serrano plants will continue to produce more fruits. As long as the weather is warm and the sun is shining, your plants should have the energy to grow more flowers and peppers until the cold weather comes.

Why Are My Serranos Turning Red?

Serranos, like all peppers, will change color when they are fully ripe. Most serranos will turn red when ripe, though there are yellow and orange varieties, too.

If your serranos are turning red, that is perfectly okay! The flavor will develop into a sweeter profile, perfect for making homemade hot sauce. They are also great for making hot red pepper powder.

If you wish to save seeds from your serrano plants, make sure to take them from a fully-ripened pepper that has turned red. This will make sure the seeds in the pepper are fully formed and mature before harvest.

Serrano Pepper Uses

Once you harvest your first batch of serranos, there are countless ways to use them in the kitchen. Here are some of our favorites:

  • Make hot sauce. Homemade hot sauce can be delicious and a source of pride. Try making our serrano pepper hot sauce if you have a batch of peppers to use up.
  • Pickle them. Pickled serranos are so easy to make, and they will last for months in the refrigerator. Learn how to make quick-pickled serrano peppers here.
  • Make powder/flakes. Whether you want to make your own taco seasoning, or just want a cayenne powder substitute, dried serranos work great. Simply dehydrate the peppers and grind them into the desired consistency using a spice grinder. They’ll last for a year or longer when stored properly!
  • Freeze them for later. Freezing serranos is the easiest method of preservation, easily lasting 6 months to a year when done properly. When you’re ready, grab a few from the freezer and cook them fresh or use them for hot sauce.
  • Try fermentation. I love fermenting peppers with other produce. It is a completely natural preservation technique used for thousands of years. It also adds amazing flavor and can be used as a base for hot sauces and other tasty condiments or marinades. Learn how to make a fermented mash.
Quick-pickling peppers in a jar
Quick-pickling a variety of peppers.

Don’t forget to simply use your serranos fresh, too! With the perfect heat level, you’re safe to share a few with friends or neighbors (without getting a complaint the next day).

I hope you have a great harvest of fresh serrano peppers this season! Remember, harvest regularly to encourage more consistent yields and to get the most out of each of your plants.

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.

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One Comment

  1. Clear points on when to harvest the serrano peppers. I grow scotch bonnets in my garden. I think Serrano peppers are far different from scotch bonnet because of its sweety taste. Serrano peppers look exactly like Indian green chillis which are too hot but I was surprised to know that they are not as spicy as that.

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