Substitutes For Serrano Pepper – 5 Excellent Options

The delicious spicy kick of roasted serrano chili pepper is something that I’m personally fond of. I’m sure that everyone would love to relish salsas 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 it’s not available to you. This article brings to you the best serrano pepper substitutes that you can use.

5 Best Substitutes For Serrano Peppers

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

1. Jalapeño pepper

Can you use jalapeno instead of serrano peppers?

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

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

To make things even easier for you, they 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 them, the great substitutes for Jalapenos are Fresno and Anaheim.

2. Cayenne pepper

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

Cayenne peppers don’t have the bright flavor of serrano, but they are neutral enough to keep your recipe’s authentic flavor intact. I love to use them in guacamole and salsas.

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

Cayenne is typically harvested and sold in its mature red color, but it is the green color for serranos. Keep this in mind if color is going to make a serious difference in your dishes. Despite the differences in heat, substitutes for cayenne pepper such as Paprika, Jalapeños, 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, which is very close to Serrano but twice as hot as a jalapeno.

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

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

4. Bell peppers

For stuffing, red or green bell peppers are the best choice you can make. However, they are sweet peppers with nearly zero heat. For this reason, they are often considered to be vegetables. This swap is exclusively for those who cannot stomach anything overly spicy.

While using it as a substitute for the serrano, you can use any variety of them, such as yellow, orange, green, or red bell peppers. Yellow and orange are the sweetest of all.  They work best for stuffing, toppings on pizzas, salads, and even stir-fries.

Also, any of the alternatives to bell peppers may work in some recipes.

5. Other Decent 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 similar to serrano pepper, and it’s appropriate to use them in salsa and other sauces that call for them.

Banana peppers, which are mild chilies with 5000–10,000 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 the former.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a dried serrano pepper called?

A dried serrano pepper goes by several names such as "chile seco," "balin," "chico," "tipico," or "largo," and the name can change based on where you are.

Is a serrano pepper a jalapeno?

A serrano pepper isn't the same as a jalapeño. They're both spicy but serranos are smaller, skinnier, and much hotter with a stronger taste than the larger, milder jalapeños.

When to pick a serrano pepper?

Pick serrano peppers about 80-90 days after planting them when they're firm yet a bit soft to the touch. They're spicier if you wait for them to turn red, orange, or yellow instead of green.

Is a serrano pepper hotter than a jalapeno?

Yes, a serrano pepper is hotter than a jalapeño. On the Scoville scale, which measures the spiciness of peppers, serranos range between 10,000 to 23,000 units, while jalapeños are milder, with a heat range of 2,500 to 8,000 units.

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

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

Can I use serranos and jalapenos interchangeably?

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

Can I substitute serrano for poblano peppers?

You can't really swap serrano peppers for poblanos because serranos are much spicier, smaller, and thinner. Poblanos are big, dark green, and have thick skin. They're milder, scoring lower on the Scoville scale, so they won't match serrano's heat.

Is a serrano pepper hotter than a habanero?

Habaneros, scoring 150,000 SHU, are hotter than serrano peppers, and it’s not even close. The Habanero pepper has a minimum of 4 times the heat of the hottest serrano with a chance of 35 times higher heat 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. It has at least two times higher heat levels than the spiciest and up to five times higher heat than the mildest serrano.

Is Anaheim pepper the same as Serrano?

No, Anaheim peppers aren't the same as serrano peppers. Although they look alike, Anaheims are much larger and milder, ranging from 500 to 1,000 on the Scoville scale, while the smaller serranos are way hotter, with a heat level of 10,000 to 23,000.

Final Thought

The serrano chili pepper is closely similar to the well-known jalapeño pepper, identical in color but smaller in size. In the end, Jalapeño chilies are agreeably the most suitable serrano chili substitute. In a pinch, you may also use cayenne chile, Fresno pepper, banana pepper, bell pepper, bird’s eye, wax pepper, or crushed red pepper flakes to replace serranos.