Is there anything as versatile and interesting as the chili pepper? Chili peppers have roots as one of mankind’s first cultivated crops. Today, they have been elevated to a cult-like status thanks to the heat-seeking “chili-head” movement. There are five main species of chili peppers and more than 50,000 varieties, cultivated over the centuries for flavor, weather-hardiness, and heat. One of the most popular varieties of chili peppers is the serrano pepper which can be found in most grocery stores.
What is a Serrano Pepper?
Hailing from the mountains of Central Mexico, the serrano pepper can be identified by its torpedo-like shape. A fully grown serrano pepper measures between 1 and 2 inches long and a half-inch in diameter. They can be green, yellow, red, brown, or orange once they are ripe. In terms of spiciness, serranos clock in at 10,000-23,000 Scoville Heat Units, which is up to five times the quantifiable heat of a jalapeno pepper. Serranos are traditionally used in Mexican dishes like salsa and pico de gallo, and they can also be incorporated into sauces, stews, pickles, and any other recipe that needs an extra kick.
Serrano Pepper Health Benefits
Studies suggest that capsaicin, the chemical that gives the serrano its spicy bite, has anti-inflammatory and metabolism-boosting properties. Capsaicin has also been linked to reducing cancer risk, though research is still ongoing. Serranos are also packed with vitamins A, C, and B6, which are important for supporting the immune system and the body’s ability to process protein. And just like most fruits, serranos are a great source of fiber.
Fun Facts about the Serrano Pepper
- The name is a form of “sierra,” the Spanish word for mountain.
- A single serrano pepper plant can yield up to 50 pepper pods.
- A common misconception is that a serrano’s seeds are the source of its heat. The pepper’s heat actually comes from the ribs. The seeds grow adjacent to the ribs, which is why they taste spicy.
- Although these peppers originated in Mexico, they are now cultivated all around the world, including the backyards of many chili pepper enthusiasts.
- Serranos are one of the key ingredients in Sriracha sauce.
Safely Handling Serrano Peppers
Serranos are much spicier than jalapenos, so first-timers should start with small bites to build up their tolerance. Extra care should be taken when preparing serrano peppers as well. Capsaicin may be delicious and beneficial, but it can cause agonizing pain when it comes in contact with your mucus membranes. Avoid touching the face and eyes when handling or cutting serranos, and wash your hands thoroughly to eliminate any traces of capsaicin from your fingers. Finally, start slow. It’s easier to add more heat to a dish than to take heat away.
A half-cup serving of serranos contains 34 calories, 6.7 grams of carbohydrates, 3.7 grams of dietary fiber, and 1.7 grams of protein.