Serrano peppers (pronounced seh-RAH-noh) are hot, literally. With a ranking of 5,000 to 15,000 Scoville units on the chili heat scale, serranos...

Share story

Serrano peppers (pronounced seh-RAH-noh) are hot, literally. With a ranking of 5,000 to 15,000 Scoville units on the chili heat scale, serranos are up to five times hotter than their cousin, the jalapeño.

(Jalapeños are rated at 2,000 to 5,000 units. In comparison, sweet bell peppers score zero units while the fiery habañero has been charted at 300,000 units.)

This small, thin, pointy pod can be found fresh, canned or dried in supermarkets and ethnic food stores. Dried, the serrano is called chili seco.

Buying tips

Look for smooth, firm, unblemished peppers about 1 ½ inches long. As the serrano ripens, its color changes from bright green to scarlet red to yellow, according to “The New Food Lover’s Companion.”

Storing hints

Fresh serranos may be stored for a week or so in your refrigerator’s vegetable drawer. The peppers can also be frozen or dried.

Preparation tips

The thin skin makes the pepper easy to work with, but consider wearing rubber or plastic gloves when handling them to avoid skin or eye irritation, or wash your hands thoroughly after touching them. For less spiciness, seed them and remove the interior ribs before cooking.

Cooking suggestions

Use serranos in salsas, guacamole, chili, stews or any dish in which you want a clean, hot flavor. Mexican and Asian recipes often call for serranos, which can be used cooked or raw.