Substitutes For Serrano Pepper – 5 Excellent Options

The delicious spicy kick of roasted serrano chili is something that I’m personally fond of. I’m sure that everyone would love to relish a salsa with serrano pepper.

Unless you live in Mexico, it may not be that easy to find this spicy chili. Don’t worry if you’ve run out of it or not available to you. This article brings home to you the best serrano pepper substitute that you can use.

Serrano Pepper Substitutes

Today the majority of green serrano chili pepper production comes from Mexico and it’s hard to find in other parts of the world. So, if you are preparing salsa or other hot sauces, what’s a good serrano pepper substitute?  Here we have got a few good alternatives to serrano; other peppers that match its flavor, especially those in the same range of heat.

1. Jalapeño pepper

Can you use jalapeno instead of serrano peppers?

It’s a wonderful choice, undoubtedly, a fantastic substitute for serrano.  The bright and grassy taste of jalapenos is a perfect match for serrano but they have a much lower level of heat.

Jalapeno peppers are medium heat peppers that rank 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville heat units that are about 9 times lower than serrano. If heat is important for you, then certainly you need to use more quantity of jalapenos to catch up with serrano.

To make things even easier for you, jalapeno peppers are commonly available in most places.

In summary, you can always substitute a serrano pepper for a jalapeno, and vice versa, but keep their heat differences in mind. In case you don’t have jalapenos, the best substitutes for Jalapenos are serrano, Fresno, and Anaheim.

2. Cayenne pepper

Can you use cayenne peppers instead of serrano? Yes, but with some catch.

Cayenne peppers don’t have the bright flavor of serrano, but they are neutral enough to keep your recipe’s authentic flavor intact.

Cayenne peppers are upper medium heat chilies – 30,000 to 50,000 SHU that is about 5 times spicier than serrano. It’s way more up for those with sensitive palates. Still, you can opt for cayenne for replacing serrano, but consider lessening the chili used in the recipe.

Cayenne peppers are typically harvested and sold in their mature red color but it is the green color for serranos.  Keep this in mind if color is going to make a serious difference to your dishes. Despite the differences in heat, substitute peppers for cayenne pepper such as Paprika, Serrano Pepper, Jalapeños Pepper, or Red Chili Flakes are also usable.

3. Hungarian wax peppers

Another good choice of chili to replace serrano is the Hungarian wax peppers. It runs between 1,000 and 15,000 Scoville Heat Units that come very close to serrano but twice hotter than a jalapeno.

The wax peppers have a bright flavor like the serrano and have a tangy sweetness with a mild heat layered on top. The yellowish-green color of wax peppers is not a good match to the bright green colors of serrano.

If you are choosing wax pepper to substitute for serrano chili, use them in a little more quantity to spice up your dish.

4. Other Alternatives

I believe that something is better than nothing. When you’re left with no perfect substitution for serrano chili, you can still save your recipe with less agreeable alternatives.

Red pepper flakes have a heat level agreeable to serrano pepper and it’s appropriate to use them in salsa and other sauces that call for serrano pepper.

Banana peppers, a dash of mild pepper with 5000-10000 SHU, are another great option to use in place of serrano chili. Use 2 tablespoons of sliced and diced fresh banana pepper for every 1 tablespoon of serrano pepper.

Serrano Peppers


What is the difference between a jalapeño and a serrano pepper?

Serrano peppers are smaller than jalapenos though they are similar in appearance. Serranos are about 4 to 9 times hotter than Jalapeno pepper which has an average heat of 5,000 SHU. Serranos have thinner skin and flesh than jalapenos. Taste-wise, serranos have a more intense earthy, grassy flavor than jalapenos.

Can I Use Serranos and Jalapenos Interchangeably?

Yes, you can substitute serranos for jalapenos and vice versa. They have a similar flavor but serrano a slightly more intense. The only significant difference between them is the heat. Just know that serranos are both hotter (3-9x spicier) and smaller than jalapenos. Note that serranos are not suitable for stuffing, unlike jalapenos.

Can I substitute serrano for poblano?

Poblanos are quite a mild chili pepper measuring in at 1,500 SHU versus 10,000 to 23,000 SHU of serrano. Compared to poblano, serranos are smaller, thinner, and spicier chili peppers. Poblanos are larger in size and are generally dark green, with thick skin, and a wide base. In short, poblanos aren’t a good substitute for serrano.

Is a serrano pepper hotter than a habanero?

Habaneros, scoring 150,000 Scoville Heat Units, are definitely hotter than serrano peppers, and it’s not even close. Habanero pepper has a minimum of 4 times the heat of the hottest serrano with the chance of 35 times hotter when you compare the hottest habanero to the mildest serrano.

Which is hotter cayenne or serrano?

Cayenne peppers sit at the upper end of medium-hot chilies with heat ranging from 30,000 to 50,000 SHU. Cayenne pepper is at least two times hotter than the spiciest and up to 5 times hotter than the mildest serrano.

Is Anaheim pepper the same as serrano?

Serrano peppers are often mistaken for Anaheim pepper as they both have a similar appearance. Serranos are smaller in size and change colors from green to yellow, orange, and red as they mature. An Anaheim pepper, averaging six to ten inches long, is almost three times bigger than serranos. Anaheim ranks from 500 to 1,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale against the 10,000 to 23,000 SHU of serranos.

The Bottom Line

The serrano chili pepper is closely similar to the well-known jalapeño pepper, identical in color, but smaller in size. In the end, Jalapeno peppers are agreeably the most suitable serrano chili substitute. In a pinch, you may also use cayenne pepper, Fresno pepper, banana pepper, wax pepper, or red pepper flakes to replace serrano pepper.