Scoville Heat Units: 5,000 – 23,000 SHU
The serrano chili pepper is a smaller version of the jalapeno pepper, similar in color, but smaller, about 1 to 4 inches long on average and 1/2 inch wide. They generally grow between 1 – 4 inches long and about 1/2 inch wide though they have been known to grow longer.
They are meaty peppers and are not the best choice for drying. The serrano pepper originated in the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo. They are commonly red, brown, orange, or yellow, though you are likely to find them in their more common green color, much like a jalapeno pepper.
Serrano peppers are perfect for salsas, sauces, relishes, garnishes, and more. They are usually best when roasted. I personally love serrano peppers for their delicious spicy kick. Where a jalapeno has a nice bite to it, the serrano steps it up a nice level, and has a fresh flavor similar to the jalapeno.
Roasted serrano peppers are delicious and make a welcomed addition to many a meal.
When to Pick Serrano Peppers
Unripe serrano peppers start out green in color and will typically grow to 3 or 4 inches in length on the plant. As with any chili pepper, you can pick and eat them at anytime in the growing process, though the flavors will change as they ripen.
Eventually the serrano pods stop growing and will then change color, from green to red, brown, orange or yellow. After that they will fall off of the plant and can even rot on the plant, so it is best to pick your serrano peppers while they are still green or as they begin to change color.
They will snap right off of the plant quite easily with very little pull when they are ready. Sometimes I enjoy leaving the serrano pods on the plant longer, allowing them to change colors. They are slightly sweeter in flavor, and the colors can make a dish truly pop with visual interest.
History of the Serrano Pepper
The serrano pepper has a long and dignified history in Mexican cooking. It is one of the most commonly found chilies in this area of the world and is very flavorful, thus many of Mexico’s most heralded dishes involve this pepper as a flavoring.
Serrano peppers get their name from the fact that the area of Mexico where they are principally from – the Mexican states of Puebla and Hidalgo – are incredibly mountainous. The word “sierra” means mountain in Spanish, so “Serrano” is considered a permutation of this word.
Serrano Chili Peppers
Generally speaking, the plants themselves reach about one to one and a half feet tall, and each plant can produce fifty or more pepper pods. When unripe they are green, but ripe Serrano peppers can be any number of colors, from green to red to brown, orange, or yellow.
Most people consider serranos to have a “crisp” flavor, and they are very commonly used in pico de gallo. They are hotter than their more famous cousin, the Jalapeno pepper, but despite this many people enjoy eating serranos raw.
They are considered to be one of the more flavorful hot peppers on the market in general, which is part of what makes them so popular.
We enjoy cooking with serrano peppers for their heat and flavor. Take a gander through the majority of our recipes, most of which can incorporate serrano peppers as a substitute, but here are some specific Serrano Pepper Recipes on the site.