Strategies, techniques, and tips on chiles and peppers—from the Real Simple Test Kitchen to yours. 

By Grace Elkus
Updated July 31, 2018

Ready to turn up the heat? Our guide to chiles and peppers—in peak season now—will help you distinguish your poblanos from your serranos.

Related Items

1 The Basics: Habannero

Super-spicy and distinctively fruity, habaneros range in color from green to red. Their robust heat stands up well to grilled meats.

2 Shishito

Wrinkled, sweet, and delicate, these Japanese peppers are best when blistered in a hot pan. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a sprinkle of flaky salt.

3 Jalapeño

Commonly used in salsas and hot sauce (sriracha is made from red ones), these are your gateway chile. For less heat, remove the seeds and pith.

4 Serrano

Just up the Scoville scale (that’s the chile heat index) from jalapeños, these slender green chiles give an extra kick.

5 Bell Pepper

Mild, juicy bell peppers come in green (slightly bitter) and yellow, orange, and red (sweet) varieties. Cooking them brings out their natural sweetness—try them in ratatouille or atop pizza.

6 Bonus Points: Hatch

Grown in Hatch, New Mexico, these fleshy peppers are harvested beginning in late summer (and are celebrated in September at the village’s annual Hatch Chile Festival). Roast, peel, and chop, then add to enchiladas or queso dip.

7 Piquillo

Look for these pointed red peppers, stuffed with meat or cheeses, on tapas menus. They’re tame like bell peppers and easy to find roasted and jarred.

8 Scotch Bonnet

Often confused for habaneros, these give jerk chicken its characteristic heat.