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They say that variety is the spice of life. But when it comes to jalapeno peppers, it’s all about adding some spiciness to the variety.
And thankfully for spice and variety lovers everywhere, there are plenty of both to go around in the world of these Mexican chilies.
Sugar and Spice
Jalapeno peppers are by far one of the most popular types of chilies out there, showing up in all our favorite appetizers, from cream cheese-filled jalapeno poppers to cheddar cheese and salsa-topped nachos.
Combine that with their occasional appearance on the (cheese-free) rim of a margarita glass and these little beauties have nearly become synonymous with Happy Hour itself. Which may be why jalapenos are the number one type of chili sold in the United States – rivaling only their cousin sweet peppers for our peppery affections.
Another reason for their widespread likability might be the jalapeno pepper’s unique flavor, which comes in much more vegetable-like, earthier and almost grassier than many other capsicums. And jalapenos actually register pretty low on the Scoville scale, making them a perfect introductory pepper for anyone looking to expand their tongue’s heat index.
But regardless of why these little green chilies have captured our hearts and minds, they’ve managed to also capture plenty of space in our physical world, with more than a dozen different cultivars developed over the years.
Degrees of Separation
With so many different varieties out there, it’s almost like there’s a jalapeno for every season.
The capsicums are truly versatile, in flavor, color and even spice level.
For the most part, the dark green jalapenos typically found at the grocery store have been picked before their prime, giving them less time to develop a fully-fledged heat resulting in a taste that’s milder and sometimes even sweet. Red jalapenos, on the other hand, are more mature, and have hotter tempers to show for it.
Though, as a whole, jalapenos can fall along a fairly wide range of the Scoville scale – the official measurement of pepper spiciness. Depending on variety and ripeness, they can register anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units – a relatively low score when you consider a fair share of chilies rank somewhere in the six-digits and the very hottest of all, the Carolina Reaper, commands a mind-boggling score of 2.2 million.
Still, no matter your heat tolerance, there’s likely a type of jalapeno pepper for you, including:
Mild Jalapeno Peppers
The group of jalapeno peppers that take it easiest on our tongues and tummies, these varietals include:
One of the most mild-manered types of jalapenos of all, Chichimeca jalapeno peppers can hit as high as 8,000 on the Scoville scale, but they’re much more likely to hover somewhere around 3,500.
Still, they more than make up for their spicy shortcomings in size, ranking as one of the largest types of jalapeno pepeprs out there.
Not to be outdone, the Mammoth jalapeno can grow up to 5 inches long (a full 2 inches longer than average), and measure as much as two inches in diameter, truly letting the peppers live up to their massive name.
They’re also even less hot than the Chichimeca, with only enough capsaicin to capture between 1,000 and 5,000 Scoville heat units.
Despite the “chili” right in their name – and rocking a fiery red color when fully ripe – these types of jalapeno peppers are all bark and no bite.
Like their other mild cousins, they max out on the spicy scale around 5,000, and are more likely found much closer to 2,500.
Medium Jalapeno Peppers
Not your entry-level heaters, but not quite as mouthwatering as it gets, these types of jalapenos are perfect for a novice looking to step up their spice game.
Like all the versatility of jalapenos personified, Jalaro Jalapeno peppers come in a wide range of spiciness, running anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units.
The peppers have an equally flexible hue, popping up in shades of yellow and orange, though almost always ultimately ripening to red.
Fuego AKA Jalafuego Jalapenos
“Fuego” is Spanish for “heat,” and these jalapeno peppers deliver, with a more consistent – and consistently hotter – score on their respective spice scale, typically weighing in between 4,000 to 8,000 SHUs.
And that big flavor comes in a big package, with the peppers averaging an impressive length of 6 inches – nearly 3 inches longer than most of their capsicum cousins.
Mucho Nacho Jalapenos
Another jalapeno pepper that sits in the 4,000 – 8,000 sweet spot of the Scoville scale, this varietal can pack mucho heat.
But they also pack mucho flavor, with a more distinctively veggie-like taste that doesn’t get lost in the spice.
These peppers may still register as mild for a spicier pallet – especially compared to the other members of their chili family – but as far as jalapeno peppers are concerned, they represent the top of the heat.
Black jalapenos indeed don their namesake dark hue, giving off a dramatic appearance that practically screams out ‘buyer beware.’
While the beautifully dark peppers can come out rather mild, they can reach as high as 10,000 Scoville heat units, officially bringing jalapenos into 5-digit territory.
These colorful capsicums also hew closely to their vibrant name, maturing to a beautiful deep purple that might look like a grape popsicle – but taste like anything but.
That’s thanks in big part to their big spicy factor, which consistently measures between 5,000 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale.
Biker Billy Jalapenos
A jalapeno so hot it starts encroaching on other peppers’ territory, these heaters can routinely reach as high as 30,000 SHUs. That’s practically cayenne pepper status – officially making Biker Billies the hottest jalapeno peppers on the road.
Now that’s our favorite kind of hot rod!