What Is Jalapeño Powder And How Is It Best Used?

The jalapeño is a widely enjoyed ingredient thanks to its bright green color, satisfying crunch, and — above all — its ability to bring a spicy kick to dishes like carne asada and Texas green sauce. There are times when you may want the benefits of jalapeño flavor without adding the pepper itself, whether you're making a dry rub or simply looking for something more shelf stable. If you've found yourself looking for a solution, we've got just the recommendation for you: jalapeño powder.

Jalapeño powder is the result of drying and grinding fresh jalapeño peppers into a fine consistency similar to other seasonings. Not only does it taste great, but making it at home gives you a clever way to preserve any extra fresh jalapeños you may have on hand, since it retains the pepper's flavor very well. The final powder is moderately spicy and has a pleasant, vegetal taste lingering beneath its initial heat.

Jalapeño powder vs. fresh jalapeño

The primary differences between powdered jalapeño and fresh are that of taste and texture. When it comes to the texture of jalapeño powder, there is not much of one. Like other seasonings, if ground finely enough, it should incorporate into most recipes with little detectable mouthfeel. This makes it great for dishes where only flavor is desired. On the other hand, fresh peppers bring a significant bulk and crunch to a recipe, even when finely diced. As a result, they are often used in applications that are seeking additional texture.

While less prominent, the difference in taste is also worth nothing. The taste of jalapeño powder is naturally very similar to that of the whole jalapeño, but the fact that it has been dehydrated and ground leads to its flavor being much more concentrated. That is to say, you need only a small amount of powder to achieve the same amount of heat and intensity of a fresh pepper.

How to cook with jalapeño powder

You can use jalapeño powder as you would any other spice, and it often acts as an excellent substitute for seasonings with similar flavor profiles. All you need to do is take into account the heat level. Does a recipe seem plain, only calling for salt and pepper? Swap the black pepper for jalapeño powder to kick it up a notch. Alternatively, if you find that a recipe is too hot for you, you can substitute this milder powder in for whatever extra hot pepper is being used.

Jalapeño powder isn't just a stand-in, though. It can readily be the star ingredient in a seasoning blend or be used all on its own. We recommend rubbing it on a steak for a smoky bite, stirring it into soups to add a subtle spiciness, or even stirring it into ice cream for a fiery dessert experience. You can also grab it for snacks and drinks, such as sprinkling it over popcorn or using it to rim a cocktail glass.

Where to buy jalapeño powder

Jalapeño powder may be a bit niche, but it's not so unusual as to be a rare find. Depending on your location, it can sometimes be bought at everyday shops like Walmart. Failing that, specialty cooking and spice stores should have it on hand. You can also order it online from vendors such as Sonoran Spice Company.

If tracking it down ends up proving too much of a hassle, you can make your own jalapeño powder somewhat easily, provided you have the time and patience. You will need to slice and seed quite a large quantity of jalapeños in order to produce a full jar, but once that is done all you need to do is dehydrate the peppers on your lowest oven setting and grind them into a powder. The powder will last for at least one year if kept in an airtight container in a cool, dry space.