How Do I Cook with Fresh Chili Peppers?

We Midwesterners are not known for our adventurous palates— it’s Minnesota Nice, not Minnesota Spice after all! And we’re missing out. In all the world’s great cuisines, there’s a premium on that perfectly calibrated balance of salty, sweet, sour and spice. It’s an essential building block of flavor that wakes up all the other elements of a dish. But don’t worry, it’s never too late to learn to love the burn. The active chemical in chilies is capsaicin, which works by acting on our mouth’s pain receptors. You can desensitize those nerves by eating a little something spicy every day, and gradually building up tolerance. So think of them less as a double-dare and more of a daily challenge. A New Year’s resolution even. We’ve put together a guide to the Wedge’s chilies to help you find your inner, hotter you.

Scoville Units are a measurement of spicy heat. The larger the number, the hotter the pepper! 

Cherry bomb

SCOVILLE UNITS: 2,500–5,000
A squat pepper with bright red skin and a round, sometimes triangular shape. Because of their extra-thick walls they’re most often used in pickling— throw one in a jar with cucumbers or other veggies to add a bright bite.

Anaheim

SCOVILLE UNITS: 500–2,500

A big, mild chile with a thick, waxy skin that softens with roasting. The lime green-colored pod often reaches five to six inches and are perfect for stuffing with rice, meats and cheeses. Flavor is bright, sweet and a little bit tangy

Jalapeño

SCOVILLE UNITS: 2,500–8,000

This petite pepper has smooth bright to dark-green skin that ripens to vivid red when fully mature. A versatile chile, the jalapeño has a vegetal flavor and spicy bite that increases with maturity. Serve fresh in salsas or guacamole or pickle them to make a classic condiment for everything from hot dogs to scrambled eggs.

Habañero

SCOVILLE UNITS: 100,000–350,000

Small and bulbous with a lovely orange hue, this pepper packs a wallop. If you can get past the heat it has a fruity flavor and is a great addition to hot sauces or a fiery jerk chicken marinade.

Thai chilies

SCOVILLE UNITS: 50,000–100,000

The most common type of Thai chile in the U.S. is the bird’s eye—a diminutive pepper that comes in red or green with a slightly floral taste and tons of fire. Ideal for Asian dishes, puree them for curry pastes or drop them in whole to add a kick to soups and stews.

 

Fighting Fire with Fire (and Knives and Vodka)

Three tips for mellowing out the heat of even the spiciest pepper—so you can enjoy them without a gallon of milk on hand.

CHAR – Cooking peppers briefly over a high flame helps take their edge off. You can throw them on a hot grill, under a broiler, or directly on to a stovetop gas burner. Peel off the burnt layer, and you’re good to go.

SEED – The spongy white membrane with seed’s attached is where most of the chile’s heat is concentrated. Slice each pepper in half and scrape out all those bits to tone it down. (And don’t forget to wash your hands afterward)

SOAK – Capsaicin is alcohol soluble. For the hottest specimens, remove seeds and then soak the chiles in vodka or other neutral alcohol for a day or two. Rinse before using.

 

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