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26 May 2020

The Fresno pepper looks and tastes much like a jalapeno, but slightly hotter. Fresno peppers mature from green to red as they grow, and increase in hotness. Learn more from Chili Pepper Madness.

Scoville Heat Units: 2,500-10,000 SHU
Capsicum Annuum

The Fresno pepper looks and tastes almost like the world’s most popular chili pepper, the jalapeno, but it can be slightly hotter. At its hottest, it reaches the heat level of a mild serrano pepper, which can be somewhat spicy for some.

In fact, the Fresno pepper looks so much like a jalapeno that people often confuse them for one another. This is not a problem, as they are both delicious in their own right.

What Does a Fresno Pepper Look Like?

Fresno peppers change from green and turn red as they grow, and increase in hotness, but they are often harvested and sold as green.

The green peppers are mild to medium hot, while the mature red Fresno is quite a bit hotter, surpassing the jalapeno.

They grow to about 2-3 inches long and have a diameter of about one inch. The skins are glossy and smooth, and the peppers curve slightly.

Fresno Pepper Uses

Fresno chiles are commonly grown in the U.S. and are popular for making ceviche and salsa, and general every day cooking. The green peppers can be used in many types of dishes to add great flavor, but the hotter red version may be better for dips or salsas. They are often an accompaniment to rice and black beans and other simple dishes.

Because of their overall flavor, it’s no wonder the peppers are frequently added to salsas and used for hot sauces.

Fresno Pepper Flavor – What do Fresno Peppers Taste Like?

Fresno peppers are just slightly spicier than jalapeno peppers, but they also offer a fruitier taste. Some say they are smokier, but I don’t feel that is very pronounced.

Green Fresno peppers have a more vegetal flavor compared to the mature red peppers, which grow hotter and lost some of their flavor as they age. Red Fresno peppers still offer wonderful flavor and a touch of heat for spicy recipes.

The biggest difference between a Fresno and a jalapeno pepper is the thickness of the pepper walls. Fresnos have thinner walls, which can change how you cook with them. They aren’t thin like a habanero pepper, but definitely thinner than a typical jalapeno, so consider this for your recipe planning.

I personally enjoy dehydrating them for grinding into powders. They make excellent spicy red seasonings or chili flakes. I love them for hot sauces as well.

How Hot is a Fresno Pepper?

On the Scoville Scale, Fresno Peppers range from 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville Heat Units. This is similar in range to the jalapeno, which tops out at 8,000 SHU, with an average of about 5,000 SHU.

It’s a great heat level for your everyday cooking, at least for those who enjoy a bit of a spicy kick, but not too much.

Pepper Origin

The Fresno pepper was first cultivated by Clarence Brown Hamlin in 1952. It is named after Fresno, California, where Hamlin worked and propagated the pepper.

Looking for Fresno Pepper Seeds or Plants?

Check out my chili pepper plants and chili pepper seeds resources pages.

Fresno Pepper Substitutes

If you’re unable to find Fresno peppers in your location, here are some alternatives.

  • Jalapeno Pepper – In just about any case, the jalapeno is the best substitute for a Fresno pepper in terms of both heat and flavor, as they are so similar in many ways.
  • Cayenne Peppers – Cayenne peppers are quite a bit hotter, but their thin walls and similar flavor profile would work for recipes like hot sauce, salsa, and making chili powders.

Mike’s Personal Notes

I have grown Fresno peppers in my home garden several times over the years. They are very productive with lots of pods on the plants, and quite easy to grow. You can’t grow wrong with a Fresno chili plant.

The thinner walls can be an issue if you want to use them as part of a mire poix or Cajun Holy Trinity, where you’re just chopping them and cooking them. They still work, though. The flavor is definitely fruitier than a jalapeno.

As mentioned, I really enjoy them for making chili powder blends or for making either salsas or hot sauces. I definitely encourage you to give them a try.

Got any questions? Ask away! I’m happy to help.

NOTE: This post was updated on 5/26/20 to include new information. It was originally published on 9/22/13.

21 comments

  1. Just ate our first homegrown Fresno pepper. Roasted 2 with tomatoes. Made salsa. Absolutely delicious! Next time will pick sooner

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Great, Cindy! I’ve grown these many times. Great for salsa!

  2. I got interested in fresno peppers when I saw a cooking show doing piri piri chicken, and I just had to try that recipe. I took the seeds out as I didn’t want to really burn everyone’s taste buds, even though scotch bonnets are much hotter. (And my husbands fav) After seeding them, my fingers were burning, no gloves, I’ve handled hotter. Chicken was really good and so I brought a pepper back to the Caribbean with me to grow. It is funny, just like jalepeno’s, sometimes they are very hot, then others they aren’t. I made a roasted corn salsa tonight and used only one small pepper and my fingers felt it. They do have a good flavor though.
    Rhere is one pepper, not hot that I like and have never gotten seeds to sprout. Poblano peppers. Is there something soecial you need to do to get them to grow? They are not a pepper to find here, so I would live to grow them.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Cathy. I agree, great peppers. There isn’t anything special to do for growing poblano peppers. You should be able to grow them in the Caribbean. They like warm weather! Be sure to give them an organic feed.

  3. Do you have any pruning tips for Fresno Chilis? I’m growing peppers for the first time this year – for years peppers made me nauseous but recently I discovered I can eat them again!
    I’ve done a good bit of reading, and the one thing I’m still unsure about is if they benefit at all from pruning, other than taking off the first few pods to encourage further root and green growth.

    Thank you, great site!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Bianca, a healthy Fresno plant can yield many dozens of pods, and will keep producing, depending on your growing zone. It’s a very productive plant.

  4. Kenneth Howes

    How can you maximize production of Fresno peppers when growing them?

  5. Just discovered your page and found it very informative. I’m growing seven different peppers this year but my favorite the last few years has been the Fresno. I find it has a smoky flavor and isn’t overpowering like my Thai chili, habanero, or ghost peppers. I put them on just about anything.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Jacques. Yes, I love them also and have grown them several times over the years. Great flavor with a nice heat level, ideal for everyday cooking.

  6. Frost is upon us in a few days. I need to preserve the Fresnos for later use. I read where they are a good addition to bread. Would it be best to dice and freeze them, or pickle them to use in breads (like cornbread)

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Nancy, I believe you can do BOTH for bread, but if picking just one for bread, I’d probably freeze them over pickling. Not sure how well the pickling flavor will translate over to bread. Let me know how it turns out!

  7. Todd Burgess

    My first ever attempt at growing chili peppers, just happen to have chosen the Fresno.
    The very first growth was 3 little buds that turned red in 75 days. The rest of the full sized peppers are still quite green. I have eaten 4 green ones, and they have a little bite. The red buds had no seeds, but were they ever flavorful, without heat. I can’t wait for the full size ones to ripen. Do they ripen before or after harvest? They are past 75 days by a couple weeks.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Todd, a number of conditions can affect harvesting times, so it is best to wait for them to ripen on the plant. Be sure you are properly watering and feeding the plants for best results.

  8. Robert Strack

    I too have noted that Fresno peppers, fully ripe, freshly picked, lost perhaps two-thirds of their heat when heated with sugar and vinegar to make hot sauce. Yes, a bite of one just off the plant suggested that there would be plenty of heat but after bringing to a boil all became most wimpy. The seeded and chopped peppers were used two pounds to three quarts of liquid.

  9. Jennifer Pederson

    I am growing red fresnos this year but none are turning red. How long does this normally take?

    REPLY: Jennifer, Fresno peppers mature in 75 days on average, so keep an eye on them. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  10. Do you know if the Fresno pepper can be grown in Miami, Florida?

    REPLY: I can’t image why you couldn’t grow any pepper there. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

  11. I have been growing Fresno peppers in my garden this year. When picked and eaten fresh they are quite hot, but when I cook with them they don’t seem to impart any heat at all. I cut them up very fine and have used them in an omelette, a tomato sauce and a stir fry with some swiss chard. Why is it that they don’t have any heat when cooked? Should I throw them in at the end of cooking instead of the beginning?

    REPLY: Hi, Sarah. It could be the amount of peppers you are using. You might try adding more of them to see if you get a better heat level. Some foods tend to absorb the pepper heat. I have noticed some peppers lowering in heat after being cooked, like jalapeno peppers. You can also try adding a few fresh peppers toward the end for a nice heat addition. Let me know how it goes. — Mike from Chili Pepper Madness.

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