A Spicy Guide to Jalapeños Peppers + How to Grow Them

Jalapeño peppers are a variety of chile pepper from Mexico. These hot peppers have gained popularity worldwide due to their distinct flavor and gentle heat. It's hard to imagine a salsa or guacamole without these peppers. Out of all the Mexican chile peppers the jalapeño pepper is by far the most popular.

Quick Jalapeno Facts:

Species: Capsicum annuum

Nicknames: Chile Gordo, Cuaresmeño

Growing period: 70-80 days

Color: Deep green, matures to bright red

The Known History of Jalapeños Peppers

Jalapeño peppers are believed to have been cultivated by the Aztecs over 6000 years ago. The Aztecs harvested these spicy peppers not just to cook with, but they believed they had medicinal properties.

When Spanish colonizers discovered these pepper plants they gave them the name "jalapeño", from the word "Xalapa," the capital of Veracruz. The peppers then crossed the border into the United States in the 16th century.

Nowadays you can find jalapeños used in cuisines all over the world, from Thai and Vietnamese to American potato chips. 

Red jalapeno peppers on a checkered table cloth

Two Flavor Profiles

The jalapeños pepper has a distinct flavor when green in color. It is both aromatic and slightly sweet. They are also known for their earthy and grassy undertones. The flavor of jalapeño peppers can be enhanced by roasting or grilling them.

When left on the plant to turn red, the jalapeño pods become sweeter. The amount of heat in the pepper also changes depending on how ripe it is. Are red or green jalapeños hotter? Red jalapeños are spicier than younger green jalapeños. Red jalapeños that are smoked and dried are chipotle peppers.

Jalapeño Heat Level

Are Jalapeño peppers hot? Jalapeño peppers are considered to be medium-hot chile pepper, with a Scoville rating of 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville heat units. This makes them hotter than bell peppers and poblanos on the Scoville scale, but milder than serrano and habañero peppers. The heat level can vary depending on the ripeness and growing conditions of the pepper.

Hands holding out a harvest of jalapeno peppers

How to Grow Jalapeños

Growing jalapeños is relatively easy. They are a great pepper to grow for beginners, and even advanced growers love to keep these prolific plants in their gardens. Follow these simple steps to cultivate your own spicy peppers:

Step 1: Choose the Right Time to Plant

Jalapeños thrive in warm weather, so it's best to start germinating seeds in February or March. You’ll want to harden them off gradually outside and plant them in the spring or early summer. Jalapeños like warm soil!

Step 2: Pick the Right Location

Jalapeños need a lot of sunlight. Plant them in a spot that receives at least six hours of direct sunlight per day. They can get root rot, so avoid planting them in areas with poor drainage.

Step 4: Plant Your Seedlings

Your seedlings should be planted about 14 inches apart. You can mix your soil with compost or well-rotted manure to provide necessary nutrients for optimal growth. Make sure to till the soil to a depth of at least 12 inches.

Step 5: Care for Your Plants

Water them regularly. They need about an inch of water per week, either from rainfall or irrigation. Fertilize the plants once a month with a balanced fertilizer. Be sure to follow the instructions on the fertilizer package to avoid over-fertilizing.

Step 6: Harvest Your Jalapeños

Jalapeño peppers are ready to harvest when they are firm, green, and about 2-3 inches long. If you want a milder, sweeter flavor, allow them to ripen to a red color. To harvest, simply cut the stem right above the pepper.

Tips for Growing Jalapeños

  • Pinch off any flowers that appear on your jalapeño plants before they are six weeks old. This will help the plant focus on growing instead of producing fruit.
  • If you live in a cooler climate, consider growing jalapeños in containers that can be moved indoors during the cooler months.
  • Wear gloves when harvesting jalapeños to avoid getting the spicy oils on your skin.

FAQs about Growing Jalapeños

    How long does it take for jalapeño seeds to germinate?
    Jalapeño seeds usually germinate within 7-10 days, but it can take up to three weeks for some seeds to sprout.

    How often should I fertilize my Jalapeño plants?
    Fertilize your jalapeño plants once a month with a balanced fertilizer. Be sure to follow the instructions on the package


    a dish of jalapeno nachos

    Ways to Use Jalapeño Peppers

    Jalapeño plants can be very prolific. They produce about 25-35 peppers  throughout the growing season. You should have decent harvest if you decide to grow your own jalapeños. Fresh jalapeños are great to add to your Mexican dishes. Just slice them or dice them and add them to 

    • Nachos
    • Tacos
    • Burritos
    • Salsa
    • Guacamole
    • Quesadillas

    If you're not a Mexican food fan, try using your fresh peppers in these unique ways:

    • Stuff 'em for Jalapeño Poppers
    • Wrap 'em in bacon and roast them
    • Make a cabbage and jalapeño slaw as a side or burger topping
    • Use them to spice up Thai curry or Vietnamese pho
    • Liven up your beverages, add slices to a bottle of limeade, and pour over ice!

    What are the best ways to preserve jalapeños? There are a few ways we like to preserve jalapeños.

    1. For short-term preservation - store them in the refrigerator crisper drawer instead of on the counter. Storing them in paper bags is best. If you've already cut up the peppers, keep them in an air-tight container.
    2. Can the peppers - You can preserve jalapeños for up to two years if you can them properly. 
    3. Store in olive oil - If you roast or smoke your peppers, you can cover them completely with oil and store them in a glass jar for about a year. They will soften up the longer they are there. 
    4. Make Cowboy Candy - Candied jalapeños = Cowboy Candy. Preserve your peppers in a sugary syrup for a perfect sweet and spicy condiment.
    5. Freeze - Put out the fire temporarily in the freezer! You can store peppers of all kinds for about a year in the freezer if properly prepared. We recommend freezing them on a cookie sheet first before transferring them to a resealable bag.
    6. Dehydrate your peppers - You can use your peppers as a seasoning if you dehydrate them. You can even grind them up into a wonderful powder to add to soups and sauces. 
    7. Pickle them - We think the best way to preserve Jalapeños is to pickle them, and then turn them into Jalapickle Dill Hot Sauce!

    Are Jalapeño Peppers Healthy?

    The Aztecs knew about the health benefits of this pepper variety long ago. Jalapeño peppers contain phytochemicals that are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant qualities. The peppers are a great source of vitamin C and contain capsaicin, a compound that has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Capsaicin has many health benefits, and may also aid in weight loss by increasing metabolism and reducing appetite.

    Other Notable Mexican Hot Peppers

    Mexico is full of great-tasting hot peppers that land all over the Scoville scale. Fresh peppers are great for adding spice, color, and crunch to a dish. These peppers range on the Scoville scale ratings from 500 - 350,000 SHU. 

    • Anahiem - the least spicy of the peppers
    • Chilaca - this dark green pepper is usually used dried
    • Poblano - the deep green color is a common used for Chile Rellenos
    • Habanero - the hottest of the Mexican Chiles
    • Mirasol - "Look at the Sun" is the translation of this pepper
    • Serrano - these peppers have a more intense heat than Jalapeños 
    • Chilhaucle Amarillo - a rare chile with a tart flavor
    • Pequin - Pequin peppers are small but mighty, sometimes 10 times hotter than Jalapeños
    • Chile de Arbol - one of the only peppers to be called the same name when dried
    • Bandeno - this pepper has complex fruity notes
    • Puya - a fruity tasting pepper with a similar heat to Jalapeños

    Dried jalapeno peppers

    Dried Mexican Chile Peppers

    Most of the time, when a fresh Mexican pepper is dried, it takes on another name. When these peppers are dried the flavors change.  Depending on the pepper, they can become smoky or chocolatey. Some of these peppers end up more citrusy or even tasting like mushrooms. Some notable dried peppers are:

    • Chipotle (Jalapeño when fresh)
    • Ancho (Poblano when fresh)
    • Pasilla (Chilaca when fresh)
    • Colorado (Anaheim when fresh)
    • Guajillo (Mirasol when fresh)
    • Chile Seco (Serrano pepper when fresh)
    • Chile de Arbol (Same)
    • Costeno Rojo (Bandeno when fresh)

    We love keeping a shaker of dried pepper flakes on our table to add the perfect bit of heat and flavor to our meals. Check out PexPeppers Pepper Flakes to add a shaker to your kitchen table too!

    Sauces That Need to be Jalapeño Kitchen

    Jalapeño peppers are a versatile and flavorful ingredient that adds a bit of heat to many dishes. We like Jalapeños so much that we use them in a handful of PexPepper Hot Sauces. Head over to the shop and check out Garlic Fuego, Taco Fuego, and our Jalapickle Dill hot sauces. These sauces are the perfect amount of heat for folks that aren't ready to venture into the super hot sauces.