Jalapeños are one of the more mild hot peppers in the market. Even those of us who are heat adverse can enjoy the gentle warmth that comes from a small amount of finely-minced jalapeno in our favorite salsa. But did you know that jalapeños are also a nutritional powerhouse? They add a ton of flavor and do some great things for your body, so let’s learn all about these little hot peppers!
What do they look like?
Jalapeños are dark green, narrow, and are about the length of half a pencil. They usually come with their small, curved stems attached. As jalapeños mature, they may turn yellow, orange, or bright red.
What do they taste like?
Even though they have the texture of sweet peppers—thick-walled and crunchy, they are definitely spicier! Raw jalapenos are quite spicy, but the spiciness milds the longer you cook it (which makes it a great option for adding just a touch of heat to baked goods like cornbread). The spiciest part of jalapeños is inside the pepper—the seeds and the white membranes. For the most spice, toss in the seeds and membranes when you’re chopping. For a milder flavor, scrape those out and discard them before chopping.
Why are they good for me?
A compound called capsaicin is what gives hot peppers like jalapeños their spice, but it also packs a serious nutritional punch, too. Capsaicin is a powerful anti-inflammatory in the body and it helps promote healthy blood flow. Also, some studies have shown that capsaicin may be a promising natural cancer treatment—it seems the capsaicin turns off the protein that helps grows tumors. Capsaicin also has been shown to help with weight loss—studies have shown that people who eat a diet high in spicy peppers have a higher energy expenditure compared to those who do not, meaning you get a higher calorie burn for all activities.
When and where do I get them?
Jalapeños (and many other hot peppers) are available year-round at the grocery store, but we recommend trying to grow your own! A common myth is that you have to live in a hot climate to grow hot peppers, but that isn’t true at all. Peppers grow in the same regions that grow other common summer crops like tomatoes and cucumbers—and because hot pepper plants are condensed, they are an excellent option for growing in pots on an apartment patio or a deck!
How do I prepare jalapeños?
You can use jalapeños both raw and cooked—but remember, raw is much spicer! And we recommend putting on some kitchen gloves before chopping jalapenos. If you’ve ever rubbed your eyes after chopping a jalapeño, you know how the juices from the peppers can last on your hands for hours and hours afterwards (even after washing).