Poblano Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

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What are poblano peppers?

Poblano peppers are on the milder end of the Scoville scale, ranging from 1,000 Scoville heat units (SHU) to 1,500 SHU. But that mildness in no way belies their popularity. In fact, these hot peppers are some of the most beloved and easily found of the bunch. They are arguably Mexico’s favorite chili pepper, especially when you consider that the poblano is also the ancho pepper. The poblano is just ripened fully to a red color and then dried.

Poblano Pepper Nutrition

Table of Contents

Poblano pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)1,000 – 1,500
Median heat (SHU)1,250
Jalapeño reference point2 to 8 times milder
Capsicum speciesAnnuum
SizeApproximately 4 inches long; broad, bell-like cavity

What are the origins of poblanos?

As mentioned, this is one of the most popular hot peppers in Mexico. It comes originally from Puebla, Mexico. In fact, the residents of Puebla are known as Poblanos. Obviously, the pepper was named, very fittingly, after the region (and the people).

It should also be noted that dried poblanos go by another name completely – the ancho chili. We profile ancho peppers separately. Learn more about them here.

How hot are poblano peppers?

They are mild chilies. If you’re looking for a heat roughly mid-way between a zero-heat bell pepper and a jalapeño, the poblano is a very good match. Poblanos range from 1,000 to 1,500 Scoville heat units. Versus our reference point, the jalapeño (2,500 to 8,000 SHU), poblanos are anywhere from two to eight times milder, depending on the chilies compared.

Compared to cayenne pepper (30,000 to 50,000 SHU), another kitchen staple, poblanos are more of a hint of heat rather than a fiery contender. They run anywhere from 15 to 50 times milder than cayenne.

Versus a chili that the poblano is often compared, the Anaheim chili, the difference is a little trickier. Anaheim peppers (500 to 2,500 Scoville heat units) have a lower floor than poblanos (1,000 SHU), but a much higher ceiling for heat. In fact, at its height, Anaheim chilies can reach the same heat as a jalapeño.

For more detailed comparisons, read our showdowns where we cover the similarities and differences between a poblano and other popular chilies:

What do they look like?

Poblanos, in many ways, have similar features to bell peppers. They grow to roughly four inches long and two inches wide. They aren’t as rounded as bells, often have a more angular wedge shape. But poblanos have a good amount of width, leading to a large interior cavity. And the walls of the chili are relatively thick compared to some other peppers.

While on the vine, they age from green to red, and they do gain in spiciness as they age. It’s more common to find the green variety in stores. Red poblanos take longer to grow, and they are often used to make ancho chilies instead of being sold on market.

You may also note that poblanos tend to have a shine to them. That’s due to a waxy outer-skin on these chilies. This outer skin is edible, but the texture can taste odd to some. Learn more about it in our cooking section below.

What do poblano peppers taste like?

When green, poblano peppers have a rich, somewhat earthy flavor to them. It adds depth to the general garden-fresh pepperiness that’s present, too. As they age to red, that flavor takes on a level of sweetness as well. And when dried (as an ancho), that earthy sweetness is paired with a delicious smokiness.

Cooking with poblanos

Of course, so many Mexican and Southwestern dishes rely on the poblano as a staple ingredients. The most notable being the Mexican stuffed pepper dish, chiles rellenos. It’s also an amazing ingredient for tacos, enchiladas, burritos, and more. Their heat is very family-friendly compared to many other common options (including the ubiquitous jalapeño), so this is a chili you can serve to larger groups without as much concern.

An important thing to note when cooking with poblanos: You can eat them raw, but their flavor really comes alive when roasted or grilled. The rich, earthy flavors deepen, especially with a little charring (which brings out some smokiness.)

Also note that poblanos have a thin, waxy outer-skin that’s easy to peel when roasted, but not possible to remove when raw. As a raw ingredient, you can use them as you would a bell pepper, serving them atop salads, sandwiches, and more. But that thin, waxy outer skin may put off some. It gives the poblanos a slightly waxy texture when raw and a papery texture (on the outside) when roasted, if not peeled off after roasting.

More cooking tips:

  • Poblanos roast and grill very well. Those thick walls again help the poblanos stand up well to roasting and grilling. They make an excellent side just on their own to grilled steaks, chicken, and all sorts of BBQ. They flavor depth really comes full force here.
  • Poblanos are an excellent stuffing pepper. Don’t stop at only chiles rellenos. Any stuffed pepper dish that calls for a bell, you can swap in a poblano. They have thick enough walls to handle all sorts of meats, cheese, and fillings.
  • Remember: Mild heat is still heat. Handle your poblanos properly. Poblanos can be handled whole without much concern for chili burn. But any time you cut open a pepper, you’re releasing oils which contain capsaicin. That capsaicin creates the heat in chilies and it’s the compound that creates the feeling of chili burn. Wear kitchen gloves while cutting poblanos. And it’s best to prepare for the possibility of chili burn by reading our post on treating it.

Some of our favorite poblano recipes

What’s a good poblano substitute?

The Anaheim chili makes the best overall substitute. Its heat is comparable (though it can range up to low-medium spiciness), and the flavor has a sweet earthiness to it. For more recommendations, read our complete poblano substitute post for your top alternatives.

What can you buy poblano peppers?

Poblanos are a very mainstream pepper these days. You can find them in many supermarkets, especially in the southwest of the United States. If you live in an urban area, check out your local supermarkets too: many will carry this chili. Online retailers are also a great place to find poblano hot sauces, seeds, poblano plants, and even soups that feature this chili.

  1. Poblano Seeds by Burpee (100 Seeds)

    Burpee seeds tend to have a high germination rate, and this package contains enough seeds to fill up your garden quite well with poblanos.

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    02/18/2024 10:39 am GMT
  2. Ancho Powder (from our Spicery)

    Our ancho powder (dried poblano), available from our Spicery on Etsy, is terrific to keep around for those moments in Mexican cuisine where ancho's earthy, sweet flavor is just perfect.

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  3. Whole Poblano Peppers
    $4.48 ($1.70 / Ounce)

    You'll want to go to your local grocer or farmers' market for fresh poblanos, but you can also purchase them canned. They are a perfect back-up for when fresh poblanos aren't available, but you want the chili pepper for Mexican meals, salsas, and stews.

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    02/18/2024 09:55 pm GMT

This is definitely a chili pepper that has sparked the imagination of the United States. Between the flexibility poblano peppers have for cooking and their mild heat, it’s a chili on the rise. If you’re scared off by the heat of a jalapeño but you’re looking for something with a bit more kick than a bell, then try giving poblano peppers a turn in your cooking.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on April 12, 2022 to include new content.
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