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Heat Up Your Cooking! 7 Types of Mexican Peppers to Try

Chile peppers are the foundation of traditional Mexican cooking. But with the vast variety of peppers and the fear of choosing one that is too hot to enjoy the dish you are cooking, it can be a bit intimidating to venture outside of the jalapeño.

Red and green peppers on a cutting board

That’s why we’ve put together this guide to different types of Mexican peppers, how they’re used, how hot they are. Plus, you’ll find a few tips for adding more of these varieties into your pantry.

Discover 7 of the most common types of Mexican chile peppers and heat up your cooking!

Jalapeño peppers

Jalepeno Pepper

Let’s start with the one we’re probably most familiar with. The jalapeño is a medium size pepper that has a mild heat. They’re particularly palatable when you remove the seeds, which contain much of the pepper’s spice.

Most often, jalapeños are picked while still green but you can also find the red variety, which have been allowed to fully ripen on the plant.

Jalapeños are used in salsas, pickled, stuffed, baked, fried and can even be muddled into cocktails to add a soft warmth to a margarita.

Serrano peppers

Serrano chiles

The serrano pepper originates in the mountainous regions of Mexico. It’s smaller than a jalapeño and quite a bit hotter. Like a jalapeño, if left to ripen the pepper will turn deep red. Serrano peppers are used in salsas and are one of the few peppers those don’t do well with drying.

Chipotle peppers

Chipotle Pepper

Chipotle peppers are ripe jalapeños that have been smoked, which means they give dishes a rich, smoky flavor. Often you’ll find them rehydrated and made into a salsa or a meat marinade, called adobo. Chipotle peppers can be found whole, ground or canned and referred to as “chipotle in adobo”. They have a moderate amount of heat.

Chiles de árbol

dried chiles de arbol

This small, vibrant red chile is also known as bird’s beak chile or rat’s tail chile. Chiles de árbol can be found fresh, dried or powdered. And, if you can’t find them, cayenne can be substituted. They’re a medium-high heat level.

I like to tuck one of two dried chiles de árbol into the pot when I’m cooking beans, or even when I’m making a stock that I know is destined for something with a bit of a Latin flair. Outside of cooking, these peppers are often used to make wreaths, as they maintain their vivid color when dried.

Habanero pepper

Habanero pepper

Watch out — these ones bite! Habanero peppers are the hottest pepper used in Mexican cuisine. It’s wise to wear gloves when working with any kind of pepper, but this one in particular requires great care when preparing it.

Habaneros range in color depending on when they’re picked and how old they are. With a flavor that is both citrusy and floral, habaneros are often used to make hot sauces.

Poblano pepper (aka ancho chile)

Fresh poblano pepper

The poblano is one of my favorite peppers. Roasted and stuffed with beans and cheese? Yes, please.

Poblanos have a more mild in flavor, although the fully ripened red ones contain quite a bit more heat. A dried poblano is known as ancho chile, which is a common ingredient in mole sauce.

Guajillo peppers

Dried Guajillo Pepper

Guajillos are made from dried mirasol peppers. They have a mild flavor, deep red color and a thin skin. They’re commonly used to make a sauce for tamales or finely ground into a paste once rehydrated with hot water, to make a marinade for meat.

There are still so many more Mexican peppers we could discuss, so this is by no means an exhaustive list. But as you begin experimenting spicing up your cuisine with a little Latin heat, these peppers will be a great starting point.

Re-edited from a post that originally appeared July 15, 2014.



I really enjoy the recipes the sandwiches come the soups and all the recipes that I received from your site.

Carla Noziska

Can you tell me what kind of pepper this is? I planted a package of pepperoncini and one plant has all black peppers on it. not splotchy or broken up but solid black, and that’s how they started. All the rest of the seeds from the same package have regular color green peppers on them.

MANNY Gutierrez

Theres like 3oo types of chili peppers in mexico


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