Fresno Pepper Substitute – 4 Similar Flavorful Chilies

The Fresno chili pepper is a medium-sized cultivar of Capsicum annuum. Unless you aren’t familiar with it, most probably you’ll mistake them for Jalapenos. Overall, these two peppers are the same but Fresno is slightly spicier and more flavorful.

Fresno pepper is a wonderful addition to several types of dishes to add great flavor; does exceptionally well for dips and salsas. Everyone would love to have this pepper with rice and black beans. And the list goes on.

This article explores some of the best substitute peppers for Fresno.

Fresno Pepper Substitutes

Chili pepper with medium-level heat like Fresno is definitely a wonderful choice of pepper for all foodies.

Unfortunately, this pepper isn’t easily available in most places outside the US. So, what’s the best Fresno pepper substitute to save your favorite recipe? To your consolation, some of the popular chilies in the world can be a good stand-in for Fresno.

Jalapeño Peppers

Undoubtedly, the best substitute for Fresno chili is the ubiquitous jalapeño. They have indistinguishably similar appearance though the Jalapenos have thicker skin.

As regards flavors, both of them have identical flavor profiles especially when they are green. Both are medium-hot chilies with a herbaceous note.

Ripe, red Fresno is slightly hotter and fruitier than its equivalent Jalapeno. Despite this difference, still jalapeno is your best alternative. For your convenience, Jalapenos are widely produced all over and effortlessly available in most vegetable stores. Even a substitute pepper for jalapeno could be used.

Chipotle Peppers

The dried and smoked Jalapenos are Chipotle. This pepper has a heat level comparable to the Fresno chili but the strong smoky flavor is a big difference. Nonetheless, the smoky flavor is quite an enjoyable taste that would very well tally with the flavors of hot recipes that call for Fresno.

Chipotle is a worthy stand-in for Fresno for they both share a similar heat profile.

If you don’t agree with the smokiness of Chipotle, then soak it in water few minutes to lessen its smoky flavor. Roasting the Chipotle in oil also reduces its smoky flavor. In case, if you don’t have this chili, try using an alternative to chipotle to manage your recipe.

Serrano Peppers

Serrano, coming from the mountainous regions of Mexico, is a hot chili. With a ranking of 10,000 to 20,000 SHU, serranos are up to five times hotter than Fresno chili. This isn’t the perfect Fresno chili substitute for those with poor spice tolerance.

Ripe, red Fresno peppers can catch up with Serrano’s basement – around 10,000 SHU maximum.  Notwithstanding, it’s a possible alternative to Fresno when you don’t have other better replacements like Jalapeno or Chipotle.

While substituting, use Serrano only in 1/3 quantity of Fresno actually required for your recipe to balance the heat. The heat levels of chilies naturally get reduced when they are used in sweet dishes, dishes that include dairy products, coconut milk, or sour cream. Also, consider other chilies that you can use in place of serrano.

Cayenne Peppers

Cayenne is mid-level hot pepper ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Serrano comes somewhat close to this pepper.

Cayenne pepper has thin walls and flavors similar to Fresno chili. Just like Fresno, this pepper is also used in recipes like salsa, hot sauce, and for making chili flakes.

In an emergency, you can certainly use cayenne as a replacement for Fresno chili, but use it in less quantity. Or use a substitute chili for cayenne pepper with a heat level similar to Fresno chili.

Red Fresno Chili Pepper


Is a Fresno pepper a red jalapeno?

No. Fresno and Jalapenos are two different peppers but their look and flavors are nearly the same. They both have a grassy, bright taste when they are green. Red Fresno peppers are spicier and develop a more complex flavor than red Jalapenos.

Can I use Holland pepper as a substitute for Fresno Chili?

Holland chilies, also known as Dutch chilies, are a variety of Capsicum Annuum. This pepper has a heat level that ranges between 5,000 and 10,000 Scoville heat units. Holland red chili peppers have a fruity, sweet, and slightly citrusy flavor with moderate heat. Overall, this pepper is closely similar to Fresno pepper and they can be used interchangeably.

How are Fresno peppers different from Anaheim pepper?

Anaheim peppers, also called New Mexican Chile, are very popular in Southwestern US cuisines. Anaheim is a mild pepper that you can even eat raw like a vegetable. They rank from 500 to 1,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale. There is nothing much common between Anaheim and Fresno peppers except their sweetness.

The Bottom Line

Beyond any doubt, Fresno is a dearie chili among the foodies for its palatable level of medium heat and wonderful flavor. In a pinch, I would recommend Jalapeno as the best Fresno chili substitute that you should try. Other alternatives worth considering are chipotle, serrano, or cayenne peppers.

For further reading, have a look at the best substitutes to use for green chilies and all important facts on Filius Blue Peppers, an ornamental pepper in deep dark indigo blue and purplish hue.