The serrano is one of the most iconic chili peppers. You’ll recognize these peppers because they are typically between one and four inches long and about half an inch wide, shaped like a small torpedo. At first glance, you might think a serrano is a jalapeño, but these peppers are typically smaller. The most common color is green, which can make it even easier to mistake for a jalapeño. However, you can also find these peppers in red, yellow, orange, and brown.
Serranos of different colors aren’t actually different varieties. Rather, they are picked at different stages in the growing process and will all have slightly different flavors. The green peppers are milder serranos in terms of heat compared to other colors of peppers. If you want a pepper that has a more developed, spicier flavor, choose orange or red serranos.
The Origins of the Serrano
The serrano pepper comes from the Sierra Madre mountainous region in Mexico. The name itself is a nod to the mountains because “mountain range” is “sierra” in Spanish. Since it was first cultivated, it has been a staple in Mexican cuisine. Today, it is one of the most commonly found peppers from this region.
However, serranos aren’t just popular in Mexican cuisine. They are also a favorite in various Southeast Asian dishes. These peppers can also be grown in the Southern United States. If you want to try your hand at growing peppers in a Northern state, it will have to be done indoors.
As recently as 2019, a new variety of serrano peppers that is milder but larger was discovered by the Chile Pepper Institute in New Mexico. They named this pepper the NuMex CaJohns Serrano to pay homage to John Hard of CaJohns Fiery Foods.
Growing Serrano Peppers
Serrano peppers are generally considered not only one of the most easily accessible peppers but also one of the easiest to grow. Like most peppers, the serrano grows the best in warmer climates that are above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, frost can be extremely detrimental to their growth. The best soil for serrano peppers will have a pH between 7.0 and 8.5, and the typical pepper plant grows up to five feet tall and has as many as 50 serrano peppers.
If you’re going to try to grow your own serranos, make sure you have plenty of drainage. Peppers grow the best when there is plenty of organic matter in the soil but not too much nitrogen.
Storing Serrano Peppers
Hot peppers have a tendency to spoil quickly, so it’s important to know how to properly store your serranos. Don’t wash your serrano peppers before you store them. Keep them nice and dry and place them in a plastic bag before refrigerating, preferably in your veggie crisper. They should stay fresh for up to two weeks. When you’re ready to use your serranos, just pull them out and wash them. They will be ready to eat or cook with!
If you want your serranos to last even longer, you can also freeze them for future use in a recipe. First, cut the peppers up and lay them out on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Place the pan in the freezer. Once the peppers are frozen, you can move them from the baking sheet to a freezer bag. Make sure you get rid of all the air in the bag before placing it in the freezer. These delightful peppers should last up to three months when frozen.
Eating and Cooking Your Serranos
One of the peppers that is the most similar to the serrano in its flavor profile is the jalapeño. If you have a recipe that calls for jalapeños, you can add an extra kick by substituting serranos since the average serrano is spicier than the typical jalapeño. Typically, the serrano pepper measures between 10,000 and 23,000 Scoville Heat Units.
That being said, the heat of the serrano is known as a “delayed fuse.” This means you may not detect the heat when you first take a bite. But after a moment, you’ll begin to feel the intensity. The smaller the pepper is, the more intense the heat will be.
There are many ways to use serrano peppers. They’re great for hot sauces, salsas, and relishes. While they are most often roasted, they are delicious when cooked in a variety of ways as well as eaten fresh. Pickled serranos make a great snack, especially when combined with onion and garlic. Not only do serranos add some spice to your favorite dish but they can also add a pop of color.
If you’re going to cook with serranos, start by rinsing them and removing the stems. If you don’t mind a little heat, you can cut up the pepper and use the flesh, seeds, and all. But if you’d rather tone down the heat a bit, you should remove the veins and the seeds.
Make sure that while you are cooking with serranos, you’re careful not to touch your face. Wash your hands thoroughly after you’re done cutting them to avoid any accidents. If you want to be extra safe, you may want to wear gloves while chopping and handling your peppers. Safety goggles are another smart precaution.
Health Benefits of Serrano Peppers
Not only are serrano peppers delicious, but they are also nutritious! They are rich in vitamins C and A while being low in calories and fat. They are a fantastic source of fiber! There is also a lot of research that’s been done on how capsaicin—which is present in all chile peppers including serranos—has very specific health benefits.
Capsaicin may help people lose weight because it boosts their metabolism. It may also help reduce inflammation, relieve arthritis, and even improve heart health. If you’re looking for a way to make a dish a little more unexpected and healthier, serranos are a great secret weapon!
Discover the Serrano Pepper
If you’ve never indulged in a serrano pepper before, you’re missing out! There’s no time like right now to taste your first serrano.