Jalapeños are the most popular spicy pepper in the US — you’ll find them in nearly every grocery store. But did you know there are a number of varieties of jalapeños, each with unique characteristics?
Why are there so many types of jalapeños?
Through careful breeding, jalapeño varieties have been tailored to possess desirable traits, from color and size to flavor, heat, and disease resistance.
Read on to learn about 12 distinctive jalapeño varieties, each with its unique characteristics that set it apart in the realm of spicy peppers.
Black jalapeños, a fascinating variety of this beloved chili pepper, exhibit a unique trait during their maturation process. While regular jalapeños typically darken as they ripen, black jalapeños take this transformation to another level, turning almost pitch black briefly. What distinguishes them further is their remarkable sweetness and juiciness. Unlike traditional jalapeños, black jalapeños boast a slightly higher heat level, approaching the 10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) mark, while most jalapeños typically stay below 8,000 SHU. These distinctive characteristics make black jalapeños a noteworthy addition to the world of chili peppers.
For those who appreciate the flavor of jalapeños but prefer to steer clear of intense heat, sweet jalapeños offer a delightful alternative. These peppers exhibit a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) range of merely 0-1,000, making them notably milder than even the gentler end of traditional jalapeños, which usually begin at approximately 2,500 SHU. Sweet jalapeños provide a mild and enjoyable jalapeño experience without the fiery intensity, making them an excellent choice for those with a milder palate.
For those seeking a mild kick in their jalapeños but not as intense as the regular variety, Tam jalapeños present an ideal compromise. Developed by Texas A&M, the Tam jalapeño falls within the 1,000-1,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) range. This subtle heat level allows you to enjoy the presence of spiciness without overwhelming your taste buds, making Tam jalapeños a well-balanced choice for those looking for a milder jalapeño experience.
Early jalapeños are a specialized variety designed to yield fruit earlier in the growing season and thrive in cooler conditions than standard jalapeños. These peppers are an excellent choice for home growers in cooler climates or regions with shorter warm seasons. They offer the advantage of enjoying jalapeños earlier in the year than the traditional crop.
Apart from their accelerated maturation and adaptability to cooler climates, early jalapeños maintain the same appearance and flavor profile as regular jalapeños. This makes them a practical and flavorful option for those seeking an early pepper harvest.
Orange spice jalapeños
Orange spice jalapeños, as their name suggests, undergo a striking transformation as they mature, turning into a vibrant orange hue. Notably, these peppers are juicier and carry a subtle fruity kick, making them a delightful choice for those who appreciate nuanced flavors. In terms of heat, they are slightly milder than traditional jalapeños, with a maximum heat level of 7,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Originating in New Mexico, they are often referred to as “Jalapeno Orange NuMex,” showcasing their regional heritage and distinct characteristics.
Lemon spice jalapeños
Among the NuMex pepper varieties, lemon spice jalapeños stand out with their visually striking bright yellow fruit, with delightful citrusy undertones. Like orange spice, these peppers offer a milder heat profile on average compared to regular jalapeños. Their Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) range falls between 2,500 and 5,000, making them a flavorful yet moderately spicy option for those seeking a zesty twist in their culinary creations.
Jaloro jalapeños, while sharing a yellow hue with their lemon spice counterparts, exhibit a slightly less vibrant appearance. However, their standout feature lies in their remarkable disease resistance. These jalapeños are resistant to six common viruses, including the notorious tobacco mosaic virus. This resilience makes them a valuable choice for growers looking to protect their pepper plants from common ailments while enjoying the distinct flavor and heat of jalapeños.
For jalapeño enthusiasts, the giant jalapeño variety is a true delight. These peppers, reaching lengths of up to 5 inches, are perfect for stuffing due to their substantial size. They retain the same flavor and heat profile as standard jalapeños, making them a familiar and spicy choice. Their impressive size sets them apart, growing twice as heavy and long as traditional jalapeños.
Within this category, you’ll encounter various types of giant jalapeños, with some simply known as “giant.” In contrast, others bear distinctive names like “mucho nacho,” which is larger and slightly milder, offering versatility to those seeking a unique pepper experience.
Jalafuego peppers, falling into the category of giant varieties, reach lengths of approximately 4 inches. Despite their substantial size, these peppers pack a fiery punch. Even the mildest jalafuego pepper surpasses the heat levels of milder traditional jalapeños, starting at around 4,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
Additionally, they offer a valuable advantage in disease resistance, particularly against specific bacterial leaf spots and the potato virus. This combination of size, heat, and resilience makes jalafuego peppers an intriguing choice for those seeking flavor and protection in their pepper garden.
Purple jalapeños, a captivating addition to your home garden, offer a vibrant burst of color throughout their growth stages. These peppers transition from green to purple and eventually to a striking red when they reach maturity. In addition to the fruit, the flowers are also a light shade of violet, adding beauty and functionality to your garden.
Beyond their visual appeal, purple jalapeños introduce a touch of sweetness to their flavor profile, setting them apart from the standard jalapeños and making them a delightful choice for those looking to diversify their pepper harvest.
Pot-a-peno peppers are a specially bred jalapeño variety designed with a compact growth habit, making them an ideal choice for cultivation in hanging baskets or containers. These petite plants reach a height of just 1.5 feet, yet they boast an impressive yield potential, with the potential to harvest as many as 50 peppers from a single plant.
In terms of spiciness, they offer a slightly milder experience than regular jalapeños, with a maximum heat level of 5,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Their compact size, prolific fruiting, and manageable heat make Pot-a-peno peppers a practical and flavorful addition to any container or hanging garden.
Originating from the region of Oaxaca, the Zapotec jalapeño stands as an ancient heirloom variety with a rich history. Its distinguishing feature lies in its remarkable flavor profile, characterized by sweet and smoky notes that tantalize the taste buds. In terms of spiciness, the Zapotec jalapeño ranks slightly hotter on average than most jalapeños, boasting a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) range of 5,000-10,000. This unique combination of flavor and heat makes the Zapotec jalapeño a sought-after gem for chili enthusiasts and those seeking a distinctive culinary experience.
The world of jalapeños is a testament to the endless possibilities of selective breeding. From the mild to the fiery, from vibrant colors to compact sizes, each jalapeño variety offers its own distinct flavor and spice.