I did not grow up a chili pepper lover. While my love for hot and spicy food is deep and profound, it is something I acquired over years of eating and experiencing foods of all sorts. Like the heat from those blessed chili peppers themselves, my desire for chili pepper heat began as a slow burn that overtook me and eventually developed into the obsession I proudly own today.
As a chili pepper lover, I eat and cook with all sorts of chili peppers, and there are so many to choose from. The varieties are astounding and the creative applications endless, which is perfect for a writer and cooking enthusiast like myself. And also as a chili pepper lover, I’m often asked about my favorite chili peppers, which inevitably turns to the discussion, often quite spirited - Which pepper is better? The Jalapeno or the Habanero?
It is absolutely difficult to choose one over the other because they’re just so different, but I’d like to add my perspective to the mix.
The Jalapeno Pepper
Behold the jalapeno. Who does not like the jalapeno? The jalapeno is one of the first peppers people try, not counting the green pepper which has no spice, so I’m not counting that pepper. Jalapeno peppers are everywhere, from store bought salsas to foods from your local fast food joint, to the Mexican restaurants on your every street corner. The jalapeno is just so cool. He’s your buddy, the life of the party, the suave and debonair little guy that struts through the door and makes everyone feel all warm and fuzzy, that guy you want to slap on the back and suck down a beer with.
In terms of spicy food, the jalapeno is your first kiss. He's your introduction to an expansive and exciting new world of outstanding taste and meals that dance on your tongue. He's your gateway to so many wonderful things. The jalapeno is someone you’d introduce to your mother. He’s the perfect little kick to make fun what was once a bit boring.
But to every Ego, there is an Id.
Learn more about the jalapeno pepper.
The Habanero Pepper
The habanero pepper is all things bad boy, all things seduction, and all things graduation (if you can tame it). If you go on living the spicy food life long enough, like any addiction, you start to look for more, for something stronger, for something to satisfy that mountainous desire for heat that builds until it scrapes the sky.
Jalapenos are outstanding and perfect for every occasion, but every once in a while, you want to let the party animal loose. Every now and then you want something to reach out and throttle you and remind you that you’re alive. You want to go a little crazy. You want to hop onto the back of the habanero’s motorcycle and make a little road music, and you’ll be sure not to bring him home to meet your mother.
This. Is. One. Bad. Dude.
But he’s sweet and he loves you. And you’ll love him for everything he does for you. And when you cross that edge to where your tongue can handle the ultimate heat of the habanero, you know you’ve graduated.
Of course the flavors are quite different and the consistency of the peppers aren’t the same, but I think it’s fun to boil it down to the heat. How far do you want to push yourself today? Do you feel like Rico Suave? Or do you feel more like Bone Saw McGraw? Let’s see what you’ve got.
Learn more about the habanero pepper.
So which chili pepper do you prefer?
"I did not grow up a chili pepper lover. While my love for hot and spicy food is deep and profound, it is something I acquired over years of eating and experiencing foods of all sorts. "
--that's how the romance usually starts. As did I.
So according to your premise, if I had to choose...
Like you said, Jalapeno is the gateway chile. Personally exhausted all avenues with this one a long time ago--like a breakup, if you want so stay with the romance motif.
Habanero the winner then? Sure. Still a great taste and can be tamped down easy.
(But if I want to play it safe and dependable the fresh serrano or dried arbol has always been my 'go-to' choice.)
Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness says