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

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 pepper in New Mexico but it was not known outside the region. However, in 1894 Emilio Ortega brought the seeds of this chile to the city of 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.

How spicy are Anaheim peppers?

The spiciness of a pepper is judged by the capsaicin content which is measured by Scoville Scale. The commonly found Jalapeno pepper will rate about 5,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) and cayenne pepper will measure about 50,000 SHU.

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.

What does it taste like? 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. 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, nerve and muscle health, and helps to prevent potential health hazards like stroke and nerve damage. Anaheim pepper very low on calories and contains Capsaicinoids is beneficial for weight loss. In general, peppers may also help lower your LDL cholesterol levels.

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