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Where to find jalapenos that are actually hot

These little green guys seem to have been dumbed down in recent years as they've penetrated the US market. Is there a particular national brand or source that retains the unique sharp flavor I remember from by youth?

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  1. I am not certain about this but I believe that the heat factor depends on the growing conditions. The colder climates produce hotter peppers.

    1 Reply
    1. re: bolivianita

      I think you have it backwards. The hotter climate produces hotter peppers. I've noticed jalapenos that I buy from the farmer's markets at the end of the summer vary greatly from one to the other. From the same batch I've had one jalapeno that tasted like a bell pepper and another that could peel the paint of a wall. For consistency and a definite heat factor, I think you might want to move onto another pepper

    2. heat factor is dependent on many factors of growing conditions, including the season. perhaps your tolerance for heat has increased, and it's time for you to step up to another variety?

      1. Some years ago the Texas Aggies developed a mild jalapeño called "TAM Mild Jalapeño." They have recently released or are about to release a newer variety called "TAM Mild Jalapeño II." In addition to being milder, these peppers are resistant to disease and are good producers. So, I'll suggest that most complaints about wimpy jalapeños should be addressed to Texas A&M. Good luck trying to find a consistent, reliable source of good, hot, older varieties.


        5 Replies
        1. re: Jim Washburn

          Jim Washburn hit the nail on the head here. This is exactly the reason why many jalapeños in the USA are so wimpy.

          There are chiles which fight one another, creating very badly flavored prepared dishes. It's not as simple as mixing a few wimpy jalapeños with some hotter-than-the-hinges-of-hell habaneros. The habaneros have the heat, but they also have a strongly floral flavor which battles with the jalapeño flavor. No Mexican cook worth her salt would indiscriminately mix chiles just for more heat.

          What you want is the chile serrano, close in flavor to the jalapeño but with a much higher heat quotient than those TAMs. Even here in Mexico, I rarely buy jalapeños as the serrano (commonly called just chile verde) are much more reliably picante.

          By the way, the jalapeño with 'the brown lines' is called jalapeño acorchado.

          1. re: cristina

            Thanks for the suggestion. Thing is though, I'm thinking of putting some japs on homemade pizza and serranos might not do the job physically (skinnier, crispier, whatever). Seems like they might be worth a shot, however.

            1. re: broncosaurus

              Serranos would work just fine! Or you can do what we do here in Mexico: use sliced pickled jalapeños as a garnish after the pizza is baked. I've learned to love it that way. Now I want one!

              1. re: cristina

                I saw a you tube of Rick Bayless (chef in Chicago) where he says that he prefers serannos because they are consistent whereas with jalapeños--you never know what you're going to get.

                1. re: lenwood

                  I'm with Bayless on this. I've had too many no-heat jalapeños. Now I always use serranos instead. I sure hope they don't "dumb-down" the serranos.

        2. I'm sure that certain growing conditions affect the heat of the peppers, but have you considered the possibility that your senses have changed over the years?

          It is quite common for people to develop higher tolerances of spicy foods over time and/or the more you eat.

          You may have to switch to habaneros!

          4 Replies
          1. re: michael23

            So Michael and others who suggested switching to other peppers, are you suggesting that other peppers are reliable at all times of the year and that it's just jalapenos that vary? I'm pretty sure that's not true. I've bought serranos and Thai peppers at various times and found they were also bland.

            I don't know of any way to tell whether jalapenos are blando or pinquante without buying them and tasting. Anybody have any suggestions? Color, etc.? It's really irritating to come home with a bunch of jalapenos only to cut them open and find they have almost no taste as well as no heat.

            1. re: oakjoan

              At the store where I buy chiles they don't mind people asking to taste their stuff, and they oblige.
              I always bite a chile before buying, only way to know what I'm getting.
              I bet pretty much the same must happen all over, just ask.
              And I don't think "switching up" is the way to go, different chiles serve different purposes.

              1. re: oakjoan

                Why not buy a couple of habaneros with the bunch of jalapenos? Once you taste the jalapenos, you'll know whether to kick it up a notch. (sorry...) If you need it, chop some habs up, mix with the filling (ie, cream cheese) or just use some along with the chopped jalapenos in your recipe.

                I don't know about walking along and munching habaneros... I'd be looking for an ice cream stand somewhere along the path.

                As far as just intensifying the jalapeno flavor, there are powders - both plain jalapeno and smoked (chipotle), which is what I tend to use.

              2. re: michael23

                No, jalapenos used to be hot when you bought them. Now they arent. I grew a plant this summer, and they're really really hot like the jalapenos of my past. I don't know if they're just planting Tam jalapenos or what, but they should have a fair amount of heat to them- period. The store-bought ones are watery and bland. I'm not against toning down the heat a little, because that distinctive jalapeno flavor is so good I can eat a lot of that. But watery and mild? That's kind of sad.

              3. I've been told that the perfect looking, all green jalapenos are not as hot as the ones that have the brown lines on the skin.

                1 Reply
                1. re: xena

                  But I've found that those coarse brown streaks increase as the weather gets colder--and peppers like it hot.

                2. Hot jalapenos in the US are a very seasonal crop. They need hot temperatures, long daylight hours and dry conditions. That means August and early September. Commercial growers produce them year round, but the heat factor isn't there out of season. Even in season, overwatering can make them wimpy as can cool night temperatures. The plants don't develop the proper deep root systems to produce thick walls, seeds and heat.

                  What I don't grow, I buy from a Salvadoran at the farmers' market who knows how to grow them. He pulls up the entire plants at the end of the season for drying. I freeze my crop for use in winter. Same for the other varieties of peppers I grow.
                  When you find peppers that you like, buy a lot and freeze or dry them. That will give you enough to cook with until they come into season again.

                  However, if all you are looking for is heat, the jalapeno may not be your pepper anyway. Mine were good and hot this year but nothing like my habaneros or serranos.

                  1. I've found that TAM's tend to be all bright green, but the hotter jalapenos tend to have black or dark purple steaks or shading at the stem end.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: JMF

                      There will be different colored peppers on the same plant as they ripen. The green ones are the least mature. They get the streaks as they get riper. Then they turn red. The red ones don't have the same heat.
                      There are different varieties of jalapenos - some hotter than others. I get the old fashioned varieties for my garden, not the newer hybrids, which were developed for those who enjoy the flavor but not so much heat for rellenos or other dishes.

                    2. a very general rule of thumb for me is to look for smaller, yet fully-formed, peppers that are NOT heavy for their size; heavy often means a wet environment, which is anti heat. also, if you're not already doing so, leave the membrane in to preserve their heat.

                      you might try growing them, they're ridiculously easy. they grow well in containers. when in the garden, i never fertilize them, and only water if they become droopy. container gardening will be a little more intensive, but still easy as that sort of thing goes. they do require long warm days; if you're in a northerly clime you might approximate that with a container garden in a microclimate. thin walled peppers (tabascos, thais, habaneros, etc) dry well, thick walled ones (jalapenos, serranos, etc) pickle/can well. they have very few predators; the only critter i've ever found on them was a hornworm that was happily munching on my thai reds (if he can handle that, then more power to him).

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: mark

                        I agree with you about overwatering and think it's one of the reasons why commercially grown peppers tend to be milder. Automatic irrigation systems don't let them develop properly. My home grown peppers, grown in hot, dry conditions, tend to be hotter when they are thick-walled and heavy for their size.

                        I disagree about canning peppers unless you want them cooked, which happens when you process the jars in the home canning process.
                        It's a lot easier to pop them into ziplock bags for freezing, stems, membranes, seeds and all. Treat them just like fresh when you grab them one at time out of your stash. They lose their crispness but if you're cooking with them, that will happen anyway.

                      2. if you grow your own this is about as hot as jalapenos get; from burpee seed co.:


                        1. i think with peppers it's the harsher the growing conditions the hotter the pepper. (hot and dry weather)

                          1. Grow your own and let them ripen on the vine. Growers pick veggies green and then gas them to get them to change color. Jalapeños need to ripen on the vine. the longer they go the hotter and redder they get.

                            You cut a smokin hot jalapeño open and you see red and lots of seed density.

                            You can tell the hotter ones by the leathery skin and the tan "stripes" in the dark green. If you cut a really hot one you will see red. sometimes you will see red coming through green skin.

                            Store bought product does not get to "cook" on the vine and therefore jalapeños don't get a chance to build that heat.

                            If you want hot jalepenos find heirloom seeds and grow your own. I can eat habaneros from publix straight. My boss gave me some habbies off his bush at home. I made it into a sauce. If you just stuck the tip of a spoon in that sauce it would warm a bowl of chili.

                            You want hot. grow your own and let them ripen on the vine. Organic or heirloom seeds.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: cereme

                              old thread, but not everybody lives in a proper jalapeno climate or has outdoor space to grow crops. i live in an urban 4-th floor walk-up condo, ya know?

                              1. re: hotoynoodle

                                I will say for the record if you want to find hot jalapeños, the best consistently hot ones I have found are La Victoria Hot Nacho Slices.

                                Yeah they come in a jar, with a light brine (Not real vinegary), many times still quite firm and always very hot.

                                You can buy them at the grocery store usually in the ethnic food section. If you don't see them ask your grocer.

                                If you look inside the rings you will many times see red and many seeds, like packing them in. These are what the hottest peppers have.

                              2. re: cereme

                                I don't know about the organic heirloom jalapenos being any hotter. We joined a CSA last summer, and i could pick the heirloom jalapenos and serranos right off the bush and eat them without breaking a sweat, and I have never liked super spicy foods. I just figured it was the climate (we're in New England) or perhaps the soil.

                                1. re: Isolda

                                  It's not the climate, it's the breed of pepper.. I've grown my own hot peppers (multiple varieties) here in Boston for years and get some SERIOUSLY hot ones, climate notwithstanding.

                                  But the OP is right, commercial jalapeños have intentionally been bred to be less hot in recent years. You have to go to a good nursery and be sure you're not getting the dumbed-down versions.

                                2. re: cereme

                                  Sorry, cereme, but I need to correct some of your information.

                                  Red jalapenos are sweet, not hot. Plus, the longer you leave them on the plant, the more capsaicin they lose.

                                  The trick is to keep them water stressed then start checking them 20 days after flowering. Taste it. . .then keep tasting them for the next 10 days to 2 weeks. Peppers reach a set level of capsaicin and then it begins declining. By the time it's red, it's lost a lot of its heat.

                                  1. re: Lance82

                                    Lance, red jalapenos are sweet and hot. There's no dimming of the heat, they just pick up another dimension with the ripening. You can watch them to death, but the heat does NOT diminish with ripening.

                                3. If I buy a jalapeno I expect heat and I am not getting it, yes we bought them from a grocery store and very dissatisfied. I feel that this is false advertisement, which it is because what they are selling is in no means a jalapeno, it has no heat at all but we are paying $1.75 a pound. This is really ridiculous and needs to stop.