Skip Fresh Peppers For Better Control Over The Spice Level In Your Dishes

Spicy peppers are a fantastic ingredient to keep in your kitchen. They pack a punch of hot, vegetal flavor and can be used for everything from intensifying main dishes to making various types of salsa to making homemade jalapeño vodka. If you have ever bitten into your favorite dish and unexpectedly found your mouth on fire, though, you know that fresh peppers can be a little bit unpredictable when it comes to just how hot they might be. If you find playing hot pepper roulette isn't really your style when cooking, try spicing up your recipes with alternatives for a more consistent level of heat.

Fresh peppers aren't manufactured; they're grown. Just like everything in nature, they can have variances that make them look or taste slightly different from one another, even if they are the exact same kind of pepper. Many factors can impact how hot a single pepper gets, including its growing conditions, its age, and the location in which it was grown. Physical characteristics of the pepper, like how large and thick the white membrane, or placenta, inside the pepper is, also impact its spice level. While you may be able to temper some of these issues with, for example, creative slicing, most of how your fresh pepper will taste is beyond your control. For this reason, if you know you prefer a certain level of heat in your dishes, you may want to reach for another option.

Alternatives to cooking with fresh peppers

If you are committed to the idea of using whole peppers in your recipes, but don't wish to use fresh peppers, preserved peppers may be a good substitute. Pickling peppers tends to make their heat a bit less intense, as doing so dilutes the capsaicin that is responsible for the spicy sensation you feel when biting into one. While this may not correct any inconsistencies that come from one pepper being hotter than another, taking down the spice a notch will protect you from getting that unbearably hot bite that some fresh peppers back unexpectedly.

To be even more sure you are getting a predictable level of heat, we recommend reaching for other spicy flavoring agents you have in your kitchen. Condiments like hot sauce and chili oil are made with consistency in mind, meaning you'll get exactly the level of heat you are looking for every single time. For more unorthodox sources of heat, try swapping in more novel condiments, like some hot honey or spicy mayo.