Red Jalapeno Flakes
Red Jalapeno Flakes
Red Jalapeno Flakes (pronounced "haa-luh-pay-nyow"), Capsicum annuum, are also called dried red jalapeno, jalapeno flakes, or jalapeno red pepper flakes.
What are Red Jalapeno Flakes
Red Jalapeno Flakes are similar to the more common Crushed Red Pepper Flakes but are from dried jalapeno chiles. Red Jalapeno Flakes are a bit hard to come by even though jalapeno peppers are the most common chile pepper used in the U.S. Most fresh jalapenos are picked when they are still green in color, and only a select few are left on the plant to fully ripen. At this point, the peppers turn a deep crimson red; at that point, the decision must be made to let them dry as jalapenos, or smoke them and turn them into Chipotle Chiles. Jalapeno flakes can be used to add a bit of kick to chili, pizza, soups and stews.
The History of Jalapeno Peppers
While jalapenos have been around for hundreds of years, the word “jalapeno” first appeared in the US in 19311. The word reflects the place of origin of this beloved pepper; it was originally cultivated in Jalapa (ha-LAH-pah)—or Xalapa, if using the more indigenous spelling—the capital city of the Mexican state of Veracruz. The name for the city of Xalapa itself comes from the ancient Aztec language Nahuatl (na-WAT-ul) and roughly translates as “sand by the water” or “sand on the water2,” and refers to the natural fresh-water springs that you can still find evidence of in a few select places around the city.
Chile peppers have grown in the Americas for thousands of years. Strong evidence supports the theory that chile peppers originated in the western area of South America as long as 7,500 years ago, along the coast of Ecuador and Peru, and were cultivated in Ecuador 6,000 years ago3. While it’s generally accepted that western South America is where the first chile plants emerged, cultivation is a different question. Genetic evidence indicates that peppers were simultaneously being cultivated in the Tehuacan Valley, south of Mexico City and more than 2,800 miles from Ecuador4. Migratory birds are largely credited with carrying chile pepper seeds across the Americas, and early trade sped up and increased the spread of peppers, carrying them as far north as Costa Rica and east into the Caribbean, by 400 BC.
The Aztec civilization, which founded the great city of Tenochtitlan in 1325 and ruled the region of Mexico surrounding Mexico City for nearly two centuries, adopted chile peppers into their cultural framework5. Jalapenos grew in abundance in the area around Tenochtitlan, so their inclination was to preserve the natural foods that could be found in the area, but jalapenos presented a special problem. The fat, fleshy little chile didn’t dry in the sun very well. Chile historians believe that the Aztecs first smoked jalapeno peppers because when they were left in the sun, they tended to rot6. Smoke drying was a process the Aztecs were already using to dry meats; when they applied it to jalapenos they found that smoking enhanced the flavor and allowed the chiles to be stored for a longer period of time as well. And thus, the Chipotle Chile came into being.
Smoked jalapenos were highly prized in trading and were also used at royal rituals. At an Aztec banquet, jalapenos were used in a ceremonial sauce that was served to the emperor and his guests. It was prepared with a mixture of chiles, tomatoes, nuts, pumpkin seeds, chocolate and caramel. This sauce was used to flavor venison, fowl and seafood, and was a very early version of one of Mexico’s signature dishes, mole. The word comes from the Nahuatl term molli, which means “milled”, “ground”, or “concoction”7. This same word can also be found at the end of guacamole, indicating the avocados have been ground to paste.
Bernardino de Sahagun was a Franciscan friar, missionary priest and pioneering ethnographer who arrived in New Spain—a/k/a Mexico—in 1529. In the 60 years that he was there he conducted an incredibly thorough, systematic study of the people of Mexico and their cultures. He learned the Nahuatl language and dove headfirst into the history of the Aztecs and their culture. He described the typical Aztec market as having “hot green chiles, smoked chiles, water chiles, tree chiles, flea chiles and sharp-pointed red chiles8.” His life’s work was compiled into a twelve-volume opus called The Florentine Codex. It defines Aztec life and civilization in the 16th century and serves as a model for ethnographic studies even today.
Jalapeno plants typically reach a height of 2-1/2' to 3', with a single main stem. These multi-branched plants have light to dark green leaves that measure about 2" wide by 3" long. The flower petals (corollas) are white, contain no spots, and mature into conical and cylindrical pods that are approximately 1-1/2" wide and 2 -3 inches long. Most jalapenos are harvested while still immature and are their familiar green color, a select few are allowed to fully ripen to a deep red color. The full growing period of jalapenos is between 70 and 80 days and under ideal growing conditions each plant will produce between 25 and 35 pods.
While ingenious to Mexico, these chiles are also grown in the southwestern US and throughout South America. In Mexico, they are primarily grown in Oaxaca, the Lower Palaloapan River Valley and northern Veracruz. In the United States, California is the leader in jalapeno chile production, followed by New Mexico and Texas. Jalapeno chiles can be grown in a variety of soil types and climates, although they grow best in semiarid climates. Those that are planted in hot, humid areas tend to produce significantly lower yields per plant and tend to not be as spicy.
Where Are Red Jalapeno Flakes From
What Do Red Jalapeno Flakes Taste Like
Much like Green Jalapeno Flakes, Red Jalapeno Flakes retain a grassy, vegetal initial flavor and some sharp heat. However, because they are permitted to ripen on the vine they also have a bit of a berry-like sweetness to help mellow the heat. The heat itself comes on a little bit later than that of a green jalapeno, building toward the end instead of delivering a sharp, biting heat right away.
How Hot Are Red Jalapeno Flakes
These chiles are considered a medium heat chile, coming in at between 2500 and 8000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU).
How Do I Use Red Jalapeno Flakes
You can use Red Jalapeno Flakes in much the same way that you use Green Jalapeno Flakes. Stir them into Roasted Tomato Salsa or a tart, green Salsa Verde. Add a pop of red color to Oaxacan Guacamole. Sprinkle into Southwestern Tilapia Tacos. Make an adult version of a comfort food classic with Grilled Cheese with Red Jalapeno Flake Butter. Or use them as a surprise ingredient in Honey and Soy Glazed Chicken or as a boost of heat in Balsamic Pork Chops. Garnish your favorite pizza with their mellow heat, toss into the batter for cornbread, or spike your western omelet with a touch of jalapeno spice.
Can I Substitute Red Jalapeno Flakes for Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
Yes. While you can certainly substitute Red Jalapeno Flakes for red pepper flakes you should be aware that these are not the same thing. Jalapeno Flakes are milder and considered a medium heat chile flake at 2500 - 8000 SHU, and also have a bit more flavor. Red Pepper Flakes are considered a hot heat chile flake at 30000 - 35000 SHU and are used mainly for their heat since they don’t deliver much flavor.
Jalapeno Powder Substitution
Approximately ¾ - 1-1/2 teaspoons is equal to one fresh jalapeno (knowing that sizes of jalapenos can vary greatly).
|Ingredients||Red Jalapeno Flakes|
|Also Called||Dried red jalapeno, jalapeno flakes, or jalapeno red pepper flakes|
|Recommended Uses||Use in salsas or tacos, in chili, as a garnish for pizza|
|Flavor Profile||Grassy flavor with a mellowing sweetness and a slow-burn heat at the end|
|Scoville Heat Units||2,500-8,000 SHU|
|Botanical Name||Capsicum annuum|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||Mexico|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free|
Hungry for more information?
1. Merriam-Webster. (n.d.). Jalapeño. In Merriam-Webster.com dictionary. Retrieved January 17, 2022, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/jalapeno
2. Morton, M. (2004). Cupboard love: A dictionary of culinary curiosities (2nd ed). Insomniac Press.
3. Smithsonian Institution. (2007, February 16). Americans Cultivated And Traded Chili Peppers 6,000 Years Ago. ScienceDaily. Retrieved January 14, 2022 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070215144334.htm
4. Powis, T. G., Gallaga Murrieta, E., Lesure, R., Lopez Bravo, R., Grivetti, L., Kucera, H., & Gaikwad, N. W. (2013). Prehispanic use of chili peppers in Chiapas, Mexico. PloS one, 8(11), e79013. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0079013
5. Encyclopedia Britannica. (n.d.) History of Mexico City. In Brittanica.com encyclopedia. Retrieved January 17, 2022 from https://www.britannica.com/place/Mexico-City/History
6. Vann, M. (2012, August 26). Chipotle chiles: The history of chipotle chiles is rich and flavorful. The Austin Chronicle. Retrieved January 17, 2022 from https://www.austinchronicle.com/daily/food/2012-08-26/chipotle-chiles/
7. America’s Test Kitchen. (n.d.) Mole sauce: What it is, where it comes from, and how to make it. In Americastestkitchen.com articles. Retrieved January 17, 2022 from https://www.americastestkitchen.com/articles/1057-all-about-mole-what-it-is-where-it-comes-from-and-how-to-make-it
8. Dewitt, D. (2017) Ancho and poblano peppers: The pepper pantry (2nd ed). Terra Nova Books.
Serving Size1 tsp
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*