Serrano peppers are originally from Mexican states called Puebla and Hidalgo. The name serrano is a reference to the mountains of those areas.
They are most commonly green. However, you can find red, brown, orange, and yellow serrano peppers too. They are quite small, around 1-4 inches long.
Serrano peppers can be a great choice for sauces, salsas, and garnishes. They have a nice, unique taste roasted and fresh as well. You can add them to many different baked and cooked dishes if you are into hot and spicy food. However, it isn’t too common to dry serrano peppers as they are very meaty.
I guess, if you haven’t tried serrano peppers yet, you are wondering about how hot they are. To measure hotness we used the Scoville Heat Units (SHU). They are between 10000-20000SHU.
It means they are very strong, especially if you aren’t used to hot spices. Just to give you a perspective, jalapeno peppers are around 5000SHU.
Serrano peppers are easy to grow. You can find them in a lot of places for an affordable price. However, if you don’t find them or don’t like to use them, you have plenty of options to replace them with.
Depending on your dish and the level of hotness you like, you can replace these peppers jalapeno peppers, cayenne peppers, habanero, Thai peppers, red pepper flakes, poblano peppers, güero chile, anaheim peppers, banana peppers, or hot sauce.
This article will show you when and how to use these alternatives in your favorite recipes.
Serrano Peppers Substitutes
If you are looking for a great substitute for serrano peppers, I suggest you go through this list and find the alternative that suits your dish the best.
1. Jalapeno peppers
Jalapeno peppers are no doubt the best substitute for serrano peppers. They are very easy to find even in places where serrano peppers are not too common. Jalapeno peppers look very similar to serrano peppers although they are larger and have thicker skin.
The taste of the two peppers is also similar but jalapeno peppers have usually less heat. If you want to keep the same level of hotness in your dish, feel free to add more jalapeno peppers. I recommend using triple amount for best results.
2. Cayenne peppers
Another option to substitute serrano peppers is cayenne peppers. They have a chili shape with a pointy end and a nice red color.
They are widely used in Cajun dishes, hot sauces, and salsas. You can find cayenne peppers fresh, but they are most commonly dried and powdered.
It is mostly a good substitute for serrano peppers if you need it only for its taste and not texture. Cayenne peppers add a lot of heat to your dish without disturbing the meal’s flavor.
However, cayenne pepper peppers are very strong, so use only 1 tablespoon cayenne peppers for 3 tablespoon serrano peppers.
If you are very fond of spicy and hot dishes, habanero can be a good option for you to replace serrano peppers. Habanero is a very strong pepper and has an orange, yellow or red color. It ranges between 100000-350000SHU.
So, use it only if you don’t mind that it is hotter and it will give your dish a different color. Habanero has a citrusy flavor with a hint of floral fragrance. You can use it to prepare hot sauces and spicy dishes. But just use a little bit of it, even ten times less as you would use from serrano peppers.
4. Thai peppers
Thai peppers are another hot peppers that can be an ideal serrano peppers substitute. They are very hot, around 50000-100000SHU.
They are called Thai dragon peppers due to their dragon’s claw shape along with the heat level reminds of a dragon’s breath.
Thai peppers are commonly used in Thai soups, curries, and dips. Again, as a serrano peppers substitute only use them if you are used to hot spices. In your recipe 1 Thai pepper can replace 3 serrano peppers.
5. Red pepper flakes
Red pepper flakes are very similar to cayenne pepper flakes so they can equally replace serrano peppers. They are perfect for pasta, pizza sauces, and seasonings.
Use 1 tablespoon of serrano peppers for 1 tablespoon of red pepper flakes. They will give you the same level of hotness but can’t provide the same texture and crunch. To compensate for that, you can add some chopped sweet bell peppers.
6. Poblano peppers
If hot spices can easily upset your stomach and you are looking for a milder pepper alternative, then I suggest you try poblano peppers. They are big and dark green peppers with a milder heat level, around 1000-2000SHU.
Meaning, you have to use a bit more quantity than you would use from serrano peppers. You can also combine poblano peppers with cayenne pepper flakes. Poblano peppers will give your dish a nice cranch and cayenne peppers flakes will add some extra hotness.
7. Güero chile
Güero chile is also known as Caribe chile and Calero chile. It is a great substitute especially if you are looking for a milder option.
This product has a yellowish color so it is best suited for dishes that need a yellow texture. The taste is not too strong, around 500-700SHU and it even has a slightly sweet flavor. To use it as a serrano pepper substitute you have to triple its amount.
8. Anaheim pepper
Anaheim pepper or California chili is milder than serrano. However, it is slightly stronger than Güero chile. It is among the most familiar chili peppers in the US.
You can easily find it in stores. As a serrano pepper substitute, you can use it in many hot dishes for example chile Relleno. Anaheim ranges between 500-2500SHU. Thus, you can double its amount in your dish.
9. Banana pepper
Banana pepper is a mild pepper (0-500SHU). So, it is an ideal substitute for serrano peppers if you don’t like too much spicy food or if you are making a dish for children.
It has a curved shape similar to bananas. You can find green, yellow, and even red banana peppers. They are sweeter and milder. Meaning, you have to use a larger quantity if you want to achieve the same level of hotness as serrano peppers.
10. Hot sauce
If you don’t have any peppers available from the list above, you can even use hot sauce to compensate for the spiciness of serrano peppers.
You can choose from different types of hot sauces in the stores, you might even find one that contains serrano peppers. It is mostly ideal for dipping sauces and salsas where you only need a spicy taste but not the texture of the pepper.
Can I use serrano powder instead of serrano peppers?
Yes, of course, you can use the powdered form of serrano if you prefer. For one serrano pepper use one tablespoon of serrano powder.
What is hotter than serrano peppers?
If you need an alternative that is even hotter than serrano peppers you can use cayenne peppers, habanero, or Thai peppers.
Where do serrano peppers grow?
You can easily grow serrano peppers in your home garden in most places, but they grow best in warm climates above 75°F.