Fresno Pepper: Scoville, Type, Flavor, Uses, FAQs

What Is Fresno Pepper?

The Fresno Chili pepper is a medium-sized cultivar of Capsicum annuum. They are grown throughout California, specifically in the San Joaquin Valley. In fact, Fresno chiles are named after Fresno, a county in California’s Central Valley containing the city of the same name.

Some mistake them to be Jalapeno peppers because of their close similarity in appearance and flavor. But they are different as Fresno gets matured faster than Jalapeno and has thinner walls, slightly more heat, and a more complex flavor.

Fresno pepper grows to a size of about 2-3 inches long and has a diameter of about one inch. Their skin is glossy and smooth, and the pepper curves slightly. They turn green to red as they get mature, and increase in hotness and sweetness as well.

Most people consider this pepper to be spicy; a fully mature Fresno pepper reaches the base heat level of serrano pepper.

Key Facts In A Gist

  • Capsicum species: Annuum
  • Origin: the United States
  • Other names: Fresno chile, Fresno chili pepper
  • Harvest: plants bear mature fruits in about 75 days
  • Heat level: 2,500 – 10,000 SHU
  • Median heat: 6,250 SHU
  • Size: Approximately 2 to 3 inches long, 1-inch diameter
  • Shape: conical, slightly curved
  • Color: ripen from green to red
  • Flavor: sweet, fruity, smoky
  • Uses: flavoring foods, condiments
  • How to Use: roasted, pan-cooked, fresh garnish
  • Best Substitutes: serrano, jalapeno, and chipotle chilies

How Hot Are Fresno Peppers?

Fresno chili pepper has a heat level that ranges from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville heat units on the Scoville scale. It’s very close to Jalapeno (2,500 to 8,000 SHU) but its upper limit comes close to a mild serrano pepper (10,000 to 23,000 SHU). When compared to cayenne pepper (30,000 to 50,000 SHU), it can be up to 25 times milder than the hottest cayenne. Fresno pepper is miles apart from the popular super hot pepper habanero (100,000 to 350,000 SHU).

Like the jalapenos, Fresno peppers are mild or moderately hot peppers that almost everyone can enjoy; indeed a fantastic pepper that every kitchen should have.

What Does Fresno Pepper Taste Like?

Green Fresno peppers have a grassy, bright taste. When this pepper matures from green to red, it becomes spicier and takes on a more vivid sweet, fruity flavor with a distinct hint of smokiness.

In comparison to Jalapeno, red Fresno peppers are spicier and fruitier in taste. You’ll experience it a more complex flavor than a mature Jalapeno. Also, green Fresno chili has a more vegetal flavor but a lower intensity of heat. Surely you’ll enjoy this chili if you love to relish a good spicy kick, but not too much.

How Do Fresno Peppers Are Used?

Fresno chiles are popular in many American cuisines, especially, for making salsa, salads, hot sauces, and ceviche. You can easily use this pepper in everyday cooking, especially as green peppers.

Dried and ground pepper is an excellent spicy red seasoning or for making chili flakes.

Red Fresno peppers have a more complex flavor than Jalapenos thus this chili is loved by foodies and gourmet restaurants. Once you have them regularly for a few days, then you may lose your love for Jalapenos. It’s a very usable day-to-day chili for sure. Also, it’s the best substitute for both Jalapenos and Serranos.

Red Fresno Chili Pepper

Frequently Asked Questions

What does Fresno pepper look like?

They look quite similar to the regular jalapenos, so much so that it’s difficult to distinguish one from the other. They grow about 3 inches long, slightly curved, and tapering to a pointed tail-end. Their skin is smooth and glossy and changes color from green to red as they mature.

How does Fresno differ from Jalapeno?

From the appearance, it’s difficult to distinguish jalapeno from Fresno. In fact, many supermarkets falsely label Fresno peppers as Jalapeno and vice versa. The only major difference lies in their taste. Fresno peppers are slightly spicier than jalapenos, and also offer a fruitier taste. They also have a subtle smoky flavor which isn’t noticeable in Jalapeno. Green Fresno peppers have a more vegetal flavor compared to mature red peppers. Overall, both have a grassy bright flavor in general, but Fresno peppers have additional flavors that make them a complex pepper in taste. When you cut open them, you’ll see that Fresno chilies have thinner walls than Jalapenos. This makes Jalapenos a better option for frying and roasting but Fresno chilies are better for drying.

Where can you buy Fresno chilies?

Fresno peppers are most popular on the west coast of the United States, thus it’s a rare pepper in most parts of the world. Look for them in supermarkets and farmers’ markets, and, as discussed, it’s difficult to identify the difference between Fresno and Jalapeno peppers. If you have a green thumb, buy the Fresno pepper seeds from online vendors and grow them. Fresno hot sauces, flakes, powder, and pickles can be bought from online stores.

When to pick Fresno chili peppers?

After transplanting, about 75 days time Fresno pepper plants yield mature peppers ready to use. They can be harvested when they’ve grown about 3 inches long and turned deep green, orange, or red.

How are Fresno chili peppers different from serrano peppers?

Heat-wise, serrano chilies range from 10,000 to 23,000 Scoville heat units. But a ripe red Fresno pepper can have a maximum heat of 10,000 SHU only; less than half the heat of serranos. However, these two peppers are a lot similar in appearance and taste.

What is the difference between red Fresno pepper and red chili pepper?

The red Fresno peppers are similar to red jalapeno, ripe fruits. Their ripe red fruits are sweeter and spicier than the green fruits. Red chili pepper is a generic term for all mildly hot peppers. In that sense, Fresno and Jalapeno peppers are red chilies. Generally, the term “red chili pepper” refers to chilies of red color and many believe that red chiles have more zip to them than other chiles, which is not always true. Some chili sellers often label cayenne pepper as red chili pepper.

For further reading, have a look at the best substitutes you can choose for jalapeno and all about Chipotle Peppers in other articles published here.