What Do They Taste Like?
Jalapeño peppers have a vegetal flavor similar to a green bell pepper and a front-of-mouth heat effect. The spiciness can vary widely among individual peppers. Jalapeños are picked green and generally used in this unripened state. Jalapeños turn red as they ripen, both on and off the plant. They do not get any hotter as they ripen, but the flavor becomes somewhat fruitier and less grassy.
You can use jalapeños in pretty much any recipe calling for mild to moderate heat. They also make a good substitute for hotter peppers when you want to tame the flame in a dish. Keep pickled jalapeños in the fridge for a quick addition to tacos, nachos, and other dishes that would benefit from their assertive bite.
Where to Buy Jalapeños
Jalapeños are one of the most common chile pepper varieties found in U.S. grocery stores. Look in the produce section among a display of chile peppers, which you can usually find with the bell peppers. Generally harvested when they’re between two and four inches in length, fresh jalapeños should be bright green, firm, and smooth with the stem still tightly attached. White striations near the stem end can indicate a hotter pepper. As they age, they may start to turn darker green and then red, with a slightly shriveled appearance. Avoid peppers that appear mushy or with a loose or missing stem.
You can purchase smoked and dried whole jalapeños, called chipotles; crushed or ground dried jalapeños; canned chipotles in adobo sauce; and jars of pickled jalapeños at Mexican grocers or in the Mexican foods section of most grocery stores. They’re also available fresh at farmers’ markets, where you may find less common varieties, and from bulk retailers and online grocery services. You could also consider growing your own jalapeños at home if you have a warm location with all-day direct sun.
Store fresh jalapeños in a paper bag or wrapped in paper towels in the crisper drawer of your refrigerator for up to a week. You can freeze whole jalapeños in plastic freezer bags or airtight containers, or chop them first and freeze them in individually portioned packages; for best quality, use within three months.