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Hot vs. Mild Chiles - how to tell?

I have a recipe that calls for roasted green chiles, but doesn't specify what kind. Since I can't handle super spicy food, I asked the produce guy at Whole Foods to recommend a mild green chile...he said that a batch of "mild" hatch chiles just came in. Once roasted, they were probably THE hottest thing I've ever eaten...and that's no joke. I've eaten habaneros and ghost peppers but I guess I just didn't expect such a punch from these hatch chiles.

When I'm in a store, is there something that I'm looking for to distinguish between a hot chile and a mild chile? My local Whole Foods carries Anaheim, serrano, jalapeno, and hatch chiles. Are any of those mild?

What are the names of some mild green chiles, if none of the above fit the bill?

I want to be able to give some of this dish to my kids...so it CANNOT be super spicy. Please help.

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  1. Heat rank:

    Serrano

    Japapeno

    Anaheim- Probably your best choice. Moderately hot.

    I don't know what a 'hatch' chile is.

    1 Reply
    1. re: arktos

      A New Mexico chile grown in Hatch, NM

    2. Hatch can be mild, medium, or hot. I'm not sure how much this helps, but I always taste a tiny bit of pepper before I would put it into an entire dish. I have gotten surprisingly hot "jalapenos" (it was shocking). The taste isn't nearly as good, but if you really want to be safe with spice, you could get the canned roasted green chilies.

      1. http://ushotstuff.com/Heat.Scale.htm

        1 Reply
        1. re: acgold7

          For an explanation, search the web (or Wikipedia) for "Scovile Scale". However our local markets are notorious for not labelling (or knowing) the correct name of the peppers they sell other than "bell", so I would proceed with caution. The Anaheims are your best bet, the ones I grow are only "mildly hot".

        2. There's really no way to be sure in the store; just going by name, peppers are notoriously variable, often two on the same plant will be far different in heat. Tasting them raw is the most accurate, but not really advisable if you don't have a pretty high tolerance. Smell is a very good indicator; capsaicin has a very distinctive odor to it, but at least my nose isn't sensitive enough to get much from uncut chiles, so not much help in a store.

          1. Short answer- you can't tell. A friend and I went to a U-pick farm last year and while we were hunting in the tomato patch we found some renegade chile plants. We were fairly tired out from picking all afternoon, so we picked a bunch of the big, beautiful, long, ripe chiles. Well- when we got them home and roasted them, they were hotter than hell- almost unusable for both of us. We resolved to pick from the mild and medium rows from then on. i've not used Hatch chiles much because about 20 years ago they were too goddamn hot for normal people- a bit of bravado for them, but they were too painful. They've ratcheted down since then and offered a variety, but you need to make sure what pile you're puling from.
            One last thing- chiles grown in Arizona are every bit as good as Hatch chiles. California chiles probably are, too. I don't know why everybody doesn't just grow poblanos- they run the heat gamut and they're more thick and rich and beautiful than the anaheim types.

            3 Replies
            1. re: EWSflash

              Poblanos are great chiles, their mature form Anchos better (imnsdho), but hardly an excuse to ignore the many other flavors to be had from this large and variable group.

              1. re: oldunc

                Ancho is the name for the dried poblano.

              2. re: EWSflash

                I would disagree with your assessment of Arizona and California chiles vs. Hatch, but we'll have to agree to disagree there.

              3. For what it's worth, every recipe I've ever seen that calls for "roasted green chiles" they mean the ones in a can that you find with all the other Old El Paso stuff. They have almost no heat, in my experience. It is very, very hard to tell how hot a fresh (or dried) pepper will be. That is why (again, in my experience) many recipes calling for fresh chiles suggests starting with a small amount then tasting as you cook and adding to get a spice level that you enjoy.

                1 Reply
                1. re: centralpadiner

                  The OP said s/he wanted to serve the dish to children, so I'd go with the canned mild green chiles. If you want a bit more heat, dish out some of the recipe separately and add Anaheim or whatever other mild-ish heat chile you want for the adults.

                2. Very generally speaking, the smaller the pepper variety, the hotter it will be. However, as others have noted, peppers are notoriously varied in their levels of heat. I used some roasted hatch peppers last year, and they were so mild they were practically sweet. Smell will sometimes give you a clue, but even that won't give you the whole picture. Diving in and eating a little bit raw is really the only way to tell whether you got a hot or mild one.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: gilintx

                    I've heard this as well, the smaller the chile the hotter it will typically be.