The serrano pepper is one of the most popular and readily available peppers in the United States. It hails from the mountains of Puebla and Hidalgo (Mexico) and is widely used in Mexican cuisine. In fact, they are the second most common chili used in Mexican cooking!
While sometimes confused with the jalapeño, serranos are usually picked when they are slightly smaller and thinner in size, and they are significantly spicier. Serranos start out green and are usually eaten green, and then they mature into a dark red similar to most jalapeños.
Serranos are typically eaten raw but can be used in place of jalapeños anywhere that you want a little more heat. Their flesh is particularly thick compared to other peppers, making them ideal for eating raw. They’re also preserved in a variety of ways, including being dried and ground to powder and pickled as in serranos en escabeche and giardiniera.
Facts about Serrano Peppers
Serranos are similar in taste to jalapeños, but up to five times spicier. They have been described as “grassy” in flavor.
Serranos are extremely versatile, and one of the most popular peppers both in Mexico and the US. They are most commonly eaten raw, but can be sauteed, used in curries, grilled, pickled, or dried. They are also extremely common to find in commercial products like hot sauces and chili flakes.
Products that use serrano peppers
If you live in the US, you most likely will be able to find fresh serranos in your local grocery store. You’ll also find some of the products below locally, while others are more easily sourced online.
Yellowbird is my favorite brand of serrano pepper sauce — it is extremely bright, moderately spicy, and uses cucumbers as a primary ingredient, making it reminiscent of spicy pickles.
Growing serranos at home
I grow serrano peppers in a 3 gallon bag at home. Nothing beats salsa made from home grown tomatoes, tomatillos, and serranos! They are extremely easy to grow (seeing as the soil I use is bargain-basement grade), but they require warm weather and lots of sunshine.
Serrano pepper powder
Serrano peppers are dried and powdered both when they are green, as well as when they mature to red. Green serrano powder will be brighter and grassier, while smoked red serrano powder will be richer and deeper.