Anaheim Pepper: Substitutes, Origin, Flavor, Uses, Benefits

Welcome to the zesty world of the Anaheim pepper, a culinary delight that’s taking kitchens by storm! From its vibrant history to its versatile flavor profile, this mild yet tantalizing chili pepper is a game-changer for food enthusiasts. Join us as we explore the origins, uses, and delicious secrets of the Anaheim pepper, and discover why it deserves a spot in your spice rack!

What is Anaheim pepper?

An Anaheim pepper is a mild medium-sized New Mexico chili pepper that grows to 6-10 inches long. Usually, this chili is used in cooking when green but it can also be used when red or dry.

The name “Anaheim” derives from Emilio Ortega, a farmer who brought the seeds to the Anaheim, California, area in the last decade of the 19th century. This green chili is also known as California chile. Since this chili was first commercially cultivated in New Mexico, it is also called New Mexico peppers.


This green chili has its humble origin in New Mexico where the natives simply referred to it as “chile”. In fact, it was a very commonly cultivated medium-heat variety of traditional chili peppers in New Mexico but it was not known outside the region. However, in 1894 Emilio Ortega brought the seeds of this chile to Anaheim in southern California and began to grow them commercially. Ortega soon produced a canned version of fire-roasted Anaheim chile and it was one of the first canned products to have been developed in California in the early 19th century. Due to differences in climatic conditions and soil, Anaheim chili peppers have a milder flavor and tender consistency than their New Mexican counterparts.

Anaheim Pepper Facts In A Gist  

  • Capsicum species: Annuum
  • Origin: Mexico
  • Other names: New Mexico peppers, California peppers, or Magdalena
  • Harvest: 70 to 80 days after transplanting
  • Heat level: 500 – 2,500 SHU
  • Median heat: 1,500 SHU
  • Size: 6 to 10 inches long and ½ to 1-inch diameter
  • Shape: elongated, curved
  • Color: ripen from green to red
  • Flavor: sweet, fruity,
  • Uses: Culinary (roasting and stuffing)
  • Best Substitutes: bell peppers, poblano peppers, or cubanelle peppers

Anaheim Pepper Scoville

The Anaheim pepper, a type of chili pepper, ranks between 500 and 2,500 on the Scoville scale, a measure of spiciness. This spectrum, covering peppers from barely noticeable spiciness to mild jalapeño-like heat, renders Anaheims quite adaptable in cooking. Due to their gentle warmth and subtly sweet taste, they’re perfect for various recipes, including salads, salsas, roasted veggies, and chili con carne.

Is Anaheim pepper spicy? No. It’s a low-heat pepper that falls between 500 on the low end to as high as 2,500 on the high end of Scoville units. On the other hand, its New Mexican counterpart ranges from 500 to 10,000 Scoville units.

California chile has less than half the spiciness of Jalapenos. If the seeds are removed before cooking then their heat level will come down still further.

Anaheim peppers have a bright slightly peppery and fruity taste with low-level heat. When cooked it develops a slightly smoky, sweet, and tangy flavor.

Culinary Uses

Anaheim pepper is used both in raw and cooked dishes, especially in a wide range of savory dishes. Many prefer to roast the pepper until the skin is charred and then the soft fleshy chili that appears after removing the charred skin tastes amazingly great. In a wide variety of ways this chili is utilized in cooking; chopped Anaheim pepper is a great addition to sauces, stews, and salsas, served with egg dishes, layered over tacos, and nachos, or tossed into pasta. Like the bell peppers, it’s often stuffed with cheese and meat, dipped in egg, and then fried to make Chile Relleno. California chile pares well with pork, poultry, eggs, tomatoes, black beans, cheese, corn, rice, avocado, zucchini, and spices like cumin and coriander. Other than cooking purposes, the pepper can be used for flavoring cocktails such as Margaritas and Palomas.

Storage: Green Anaheim pepper stays fresh for up to one week when stored whole, unwashed, and loosely placed in a plastic bag in the refrigerator. Canned or dried peppers have a shelf life of up to one year if stored in an airtight container and kept in a dark, cool, and dry place. After opening the canned pepper, do not leave the can open for more than a few minutes; immediately store the leftovers in the opened can in the refrigerator.

Best Anaheim Pepper Substitute

As the name suggests, Anaheim pepper is easily available in California and New Mexico regions, but scarcely found in other places. However, there are a few other chili peppers that you can easily use in place of Anaheim chile. Some of the best substitutes for Anaheim pepper are bell pepper, poblano, jalapeno, serrano, and Hungarian wax peppers. Here are the top five substitutes to consider:

1. Poblano pepper

Poblano pepper appears like bell pepper but flavor-wise it’s more like Anaheim pepper. They have low levels of heat through New Mexican chiles can be slightly more potential. Both Poblano and Anaheim can be used as stuffed chiles. In fact, for stuffing purposes, Poblano is superior to California chile for its larger cavity and crispy texture.

2. Bell pepper

For those who are not fans of spicy chilies, bell pepper is the right substitution for Anaheim pepper. Bell peppers have a sweet, mild flavor with grassier notes; something that you can munch on like a fleshy vegetable. To your advantage, bell pepper is easily available everywhere – no need to hunt around for it. Bell pepper is an excellent stuffing pepper, in fact, better than Anaheim.

3. Hungarian wax pepper

Another worthy replacement for California chile is the Hungarian wax pepper despite its higher heat levels. However, it isn’t the right choice for those who cannot bear spicy heat for Hungarian wax pepper which is at least twice hotter than Anaheim pepper. The taste profile of this pepper is akin to Jalapeno chili and some varieties of them are as hot as serrano pepper. The mild tanginess of wax peppers is a distinguishable difference from Anaheim peppers. This substitute option works best as chili for stuffing than adding this pepper to your dishes.

4. Jalapeno pepper

Jalapeno, the most cultivated chile worldwide, makes a decent replacement for Anaheim pepper due to its similar taste and easy availability. Jalapeno chilies are slightly hotter than California chile when they are green but turn sweet once ripened. They aren’t great for stuffing because of their smaller size, otherwise, they can be used in most recipes that call for Anaheim chile.

5. Serrano pepper

When you haven’t got poblano or bell peppers, the next best substitute for Anaheim chili pepper is serrano pepper. In terms of heat, serrano is a few times hotter than Anaheim but they have a sweet smoky flavor in common especially when cooked. Serrano works great in salsa, soups, stews, and savory dishes that call for Anaheim pepper.

Health Benefits

Nutritionally, Anaheim chili pepper is a good source of vitamins A and C that help to boost your immune system and make your organs healthy. This pepper also contains vitamins B6 and K. An ample amount of fiber in it is great for digestive health. Eating two or three Anaheim chiles can supply your body with the daily requirements of potassium that is necessary for fluid balance, and nerve and muscle health, and helps to prevent potential health hazards like stroke and nerve damage. Anaheim pepper is very low in calories and contains Capsaicinoids that benefit weight loss. In general, peppers may also help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.

Anaheim Pepper Vs Poblano

Anaheim and poblano peppers, both integral to Mexican cooking, are mild chilis known for their size. The Anaheim is generally longer and more slender compared to the heart-shaped poblano. Additionally, Anaheim peppers have a bit more heat than poblanos.

Both varieties are known for their gentle, sweet taste with a touch of smokiness. Anaheims are commonly found in dishes like chiles rellenos, whereas poblanos are a key ingredient in chiles en nogada.

Differences Between Anaheim and Poblano Peppers

Shape: Anaheims are elongated and slim, whereas poblanos resemble a heart.

Heat level: Anaheim peppers range from mild to medium in heat, while poblanos are consistently mild.

Flavor: Anaheims offer a sweet, peppery taste, contrasting with the earthy, smoky flavor of poblanos.

Common uses: Anaheims are preferred in chiles rellenos and salsas, while poblanos shine in chiles en nogada and moles.

Similarities Between Anaheim and Poblano Peppers

  • Both are classified as mild chili peppers.
  • Each pepper has a subtly sweet and slightly smoky flavor.
  • Both are staples in Mexican dishes.

Anaheim peppers can be roasted or dried, while poblanos are typically roasted. Anaheims sometimes replace jalapeños, and poblanos can be used instead of pasilla peppers.

When to Pick an Anaheim Pepper?

Anaheim peppers are ripe for picking when they’ve grown to their full size and show their true color. The ideal time for harvest can change based on growing conditions, but it’s usually around 70-80 days after they’re transplanted.

Look for these indicators to know if an Anaheim pepper is ready for harvest:

Size: A mature pepper should measure around 6-7 inches in length and 2-3 inches in width.

Color: Anaheim peppers change from green to red as they mature. You can pick them while green or red, though the red ones tend to be sweeter and less hot.

Skin: The skin should feel firm and look shiny, without any wrinkles or blemishes.

Stem: It should be green and sturdy, not withering or discolored.

When harvesting an Anaheim pepper, it’s best to use sharp scissors or a knife to snip the pepper from the stem. Avoid yanking it off as this might harm the plant. After harvesting, these peppers can be kept in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is another name for Anaheim pepper?

Anaheim pepper is also known by different names such as New Mexico peppers, California pepper, or Magdalena. The green dried peppers are called “chile de la tierra”, “seco del norte”, or “verde del norte”.

What is the difference between an Anaheim pepper and a jalapeno?

Jalapenos, which grow on average three inches long, are comparatively smaller than Anaheim which grows on average eight inches long. Anaheim has a broad shoulder and pointer bottom than a more round-shouldered Jalapeno, but both have a distinct curve. Anaheim is a mild chile (500 to 2,500 SHU), which is up to 16 times milder than Jalapenos.

Do Anaheim peppers taste like bell peppers?

A typical taste of sweet bell pepper is present in Anaheim, but with a mild heat that comes forth after the initial sweetness. Just like the bell pepper, this pepper also is often stuffed with vegetables, spices, and cheese to make chiles Rellenos.

Do you have to peel Anaheim peppers?

Anaheim peppers have tougher skin than bell peppers. Usually, after roasting this pepper, there comes up tiny blisters that allow you to easily remove their skin. However, the tender peppers with thin skin don’t need to be peeled but actually, render a delicious smoky flavor.

Do Anaheim peppers get hotter when they turn red?

Like most varieties of chilies, if they are allowed to get ripened on the plant, the fruits will be spicier and sweeter than green peppers. When this pepper is fully ripe, it will turn deep red in hue.

Are hatch and Anaheim chiles the same?

Hatch and Anaheim chiles are similar but not identical. Anaheim chiles, which started in California, are a type of Hatch chile. Grown in New Mexico's Hatch Valley, Hatch chiles are usually spicier and taste slightly different.

Is chile Guajillo and California the same?

Chile Guajillo and California chiles are different. Guajillo is dried mirasol pepper, and California chile is dried Anaheim pepper. Anaheim chiles are longer, milder, and sweeter, while Guajillo has a smoky, fruity taste, great in sauces and stews.

How big do Anaheim peppers get?

Anaheim peppers typically reach 6 to 10 inches in length and 2 to 3 inches in width. The exact size of the peppers will vary depending on the growing conditions.

Are Anaheim peppers hotter than jalapeños?

Anaheim peppers are milder than jalapeños. They range from 500 to 2,500 Scoville Heat Units, compared to jalapeños which are 2,500 to 8,000 SHU. This makes Anaheim peppers about 5 to 16 times less spicy than jalapeños.

Are Anaheim peppers the same as green chilies?

Anaheim peppers are a kind of green chile. They're long, thin, mildly spicy, and sweet. They're commonly used in dishes like chiles rellenos and salsas.

How to tell when Anaheim peppers are ripe?

Anaheim peppers are ripe when they grow big and change color from green to red. They should feel firm and look shiny. The stem needs to be green and sturdy, not wilted or brown.

How to can Anaheim peppers?

Canning Anaheim peppers requires a pressure canner, jars, lids, and rings. First, wash the peppers, remove stems and seeds, then pack them into jars, leaving 1 inch at the top. Optionally, add a teaspoon of salt per pint jar. Fill jars with boiling water, maintaining 1 inch of headspace. Seal and process in the pressure canner for 20 minutes (pint jars) or 25 minutes (quart jars) at 10 pounds pressure.

Final Thoughts

In conclusion, the Anaheim pepper, a mild chili originally from New Mexico and popularized in California, is a versatile ingredient in culinary arts. With its mild heat (500-2,500 SHU), elongated shape, and sweet, fruity flavor, it’s ideal for a variety of dishes, from roasting to stuffing.

This pepper adapts well to different recipes, offering a milder alternative to spicier chilies. It can be easily substituted with bell, poblano, or Hungarian wax peppers, depending on your heat preference. Proper storage extends its shelf life, making it a handy and flavorful addition to any kitchen.

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