Updated: May 2
Jalapeño peppers are a staple in many kitchens and cuisines around the world. However, not all jalapeños are created equal in terms of their heat level. The Scoville rating is a measurement used to determine the heat of various chili peppers, including the jalapeño.
With some basic understanding of the Scoville Scale, it can help you choose the right level of heat for your dishes and ensure that you're not caught off guard by a pepper that's hotter than you intended.
So we want to dive into the history of the Scoville rating, the factors that affect jalapeño heat, and how to use this knowledge to your advantage in the kitchen.
What is A Scoville Rating
The Scoville rating, developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, is a measure of the concentration of capsaicin, the chemical responsible for the heat of chili peppers.
The Scoville rating is determined by diluting a chili pepper extract with sugar water until the heat can no longer be detected by a panel of tasters. The number of dilutions required to reach this point is then translated into Scoville heat units (SHUs), with higher numbers indicating greater heat.
Initially, the Scoville rating process was subjective and used human tasters to determine the heat. However, in recent years, technology has enabled a more accurate measurement of the concentration of capsaicin, resulting in a more objective and quantitative measure of pepper heat.
Today, the Scoville rating is still widely used by chili pepper enthusiasts, hot sauce makers, and food manufacturers.
The Jalapeño Pepper
Jalapeño peppers originated in Mexico, and are named after the city of Jalapa. They are a popular chili pepper used in a variety of dishes, known for their mild to moderately spicy heat and slightly sweet flavor.
Jalapeños are generally 2-3 inches long and range in color from green to red. The pepper's heat is primarily found in the pith and seeds, with the flesh having a milder flavor.
Jalapeños are often used in Mexican cuisines, such as salsas, guacamole, and nacho toppings, but they can also be used as a topping on various dishes, including pizza, burgers, and sandwiches.
The versatility of jalapeños, paired with their unique flavor profile, make them a popular choice when cooking with chili peppers!
Now let's dive into the heat of jalapeño and their Scoville rating.
The Heat of A Jalapeño Pepper
The spiciness of jalapeños is due to the presence of capsaicin, a chemical compound found in the pith and seeds of chili peppers. Capsaicin stimulates the pain receptors in our mouth, resulting in the sensation of heat.
The heat level of jalapeños can vary depending on a number of factors:
Growing conditions (such as humidity and rainfall)
The time of harvest
Individual plant genetics
The thickness of the inner placenta
The number of seeds and pith
These all can greatly affect just how the pepper is going to be.
In general, younger jalapeños tend to be spicier than more mature ones. Additionally, jalapeños that are exposed to stress during growth (such as high temperatures or drought) will often produce hotter peppers.
The heat level can also vary based on how the pepper is prepared. Removing the seeds and the pith of a jalapeño can reduce its overall heat by quite a lot due to the seeds carrying the majority of its heat. Cooking jalapeños can also reduce the heat level, although the degree to which it is reduced is dependent on the cooking method.
The Scoville Rating of Jalapeños
Jalapeños have a Scoville rating that ranges from 2,500 to 8,000. While this may seem low compared to some of the hotter peppers like the 7 pot primo or Carolina reapers, jalapeños still pack a decent amount of heat.
To put it into perspective, here is the Scoville rating of the jalapeño pepper alongside some other well-known peppers:
Bell pepper: 0 SHU
Anaheim pepper: 500-1,000 SHU
Jalapeño pepper: 2,500-8,000 SHU
Serrano pepper: 10,000-25,000 SHU
Tabasco pepper: 30,000-50,000 SHU
Scotch Bonnet: 100,000–350,000 SHU
Habanero pepper: 150,000-570,000 SHU
It's important to note that while the Scoville rating can be a good indicator of how hot a jalapeño pepper is, there is still a level of variance due to the many factors that can affect heat levels in peppers.
Additionally, the Scoville rating only measures a pepper's heat level based on capsaicin concentration and does not take into account other flavor components that can contribute to a pepper's overall spicy flavor profile.
Jalapeño Hot Sauces
Jalapeño hot sauces are a great way to add some heat and flavor to dishes without having to directly utilize the chili pepper. They are also a great way to control the level of spiciness, as hot sauce makers often blend jalapeños with other ingredients such as vinegar, salt, garlic, and other herbs and spices in order to create unique flavors.
Most jalapeño hot sauces will have a Scoville rating between 1,500-10,000 SHUs depending on the specific recipe used. This can range from mild to quite spicy and allows for a wide range of flavor profiles that appeal to different palates.
With that being said, here are a few of our favorite and recommended jalapeño hot sauces.
Texas Ex's - Made with 7 different peppers including jalapeños
Sam Sauce - Made with jalapeños and the 7 pot primo pepper
Dill Pickle Reaper Hot Sauce - Made with jalapeños and the carolina reaper
Dill Pickle Jalapeño Hot Sauce - Made with just jalapeños
Cooking and Consumption of Jalapeños
In 2019 here in the United States, we harvested over 10,00 acres of jalapeños. Which have been valued at around 63 million dollars. It's become an extremely popular pepper in the U.S. and many other counties because of how versatile it is.
Jalapeños can be cooked in a variety of ways to add flavor and heat to dishes.
Here are a few tips for cooking with jalapeños:
Roasting jalapeños can add a smoky flavor to the peppers and reduce their heat level. To roast jalapeños, slice them in half lengthwise and remove the seeds and pith. Place the jalapeño halves cut-side down on a baking sheet and roast in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit until the skin is blistered and charred.
Deseeding and Dicing
If you want to reduce the heat of jalapeños, removing the seeds and pith is the most effective method. Simply slice the jalapeño in half lengthwise and use a spoon to scrape out the seeds and white membrane. You can then dice the jalapeño and add it to salsas, guacamole, or any other dish that calls for a bit of heat.
Pickling jalapeños will reduce their heat level significantly, while also preserving their flavor. To pickle jalapeños, combine vinegar, water, sugar, and salt in a pot and bring to a boil. Add sliced jalapeños to the mixture and let cool before storing in the refrigerator.
Eating Raw Jalapeños
Eating raw jalapeños can be a flavorful and spicy addition to salads, sandwiches, or as a snack. However, eating raw jalapeños can be quite intense for those who aren't used to the heat.
Utilizing Jalapeños As A Versatile Pepper
Jalapeños are a popular pepper that adds flavor and heat to dishes. The heat level of jalapeños can vary depending on the growing conditions, harvest time, genetics, and other factors.
In general, though, younger jalapeños tend to be spicier than older peppers. The Scoville rating of jalapeños ranges from 2,500 to 8,000. Depending on the preparation of the pepper, you can enjoy its full heat levels or reduce it to just the pepper's flavors.
With sweet earthy tones and versatile heat levels, the jalapeño is a fantastic pepper that can be used in many different and flavorful ways! The question is... How will you use it?
Leave a comment down below on some of your favorite ways to the pepper or how you plan on using it next.