Ancho vs. Jalapeno


If you are fond of Mexican cuisine, you've undoubtedly eaten both ancho and jalapeno peppers (Capsicum annuum "Poblano" and "Jalapeno"), which are among the most popular types of hot peppers used in cooking. The ancho is the dried form of the poblano pepper. According to Jean Andrews in "Peppers: The Domesticated Capsicums," it is probably the most commonly used dried pepper in Mexico. Jalapenos are the most widely used hot pepper in the United States.

Size and Shape

  • Poblano pepper plants are shorter and broader than jalapeno pepper plants. Poblanos reach 18 to 24 inches tall and 24 by 36 inches wide. Jalapenos range from 24 to 48 inches tall and are 18 inches wide. Both plants grow as warm-season annuals. Fresh poblano peppers are 2 1/2 to 6 inches long by 2 inches wide and broadly triangular, but the dried ancho peppers are smaller. "Ancho" means "wide" and refers to the broad, flat, heart-shaped dried pods. These peppers have characteristic wrinkles in the fruit near the stem end. Jalapeno peppers are 2 to 3 inches long with thick walls. They can have grayish corking marks on the skin when mature which does not affect the taste or health of the fruit.

Color and Origin

  • Poblano chilies are dark black-green to almost black or blackish-brown, depending on the variety, turning red to reddish-brown when ripe. The dried ancho peppers are reddish-brown to blackish-brown. Mature jalapenos are deep green, usually ripening to deep red. Different varieties produce yellow, orange, purple and black fruits. Ancho peppers come from the valley of Puebla south of Mexico City, giving the fresh poblano fruit its name. Jalapeno peppers originated around the town of Jalapa, the capital of the southern Mexican state of Veracruz.


  • Ancho varieties have different degrees of hotness and dried pod color. You can't tell what color the pepper will ripen to by looking at the green fruit. Some varieties are red, and others, called mulatos, ripen to brownish-black. The mulatos are sweeter and tend to have tougher skin. Cultivars include "Ancho Esmeralda," "Ancho Flor de Pabellon," "Ancho Verdeno," "Chile de Chorro," "Miahuateco," "Mulato Roque" and "Mulato V-2." Generally, anchos are mild, with a Scoville heat unit rating between 1,000 and 1,500, but the variety "Ancho 101" has a 3,000 rating and an apple flavor. Jalapenos go from mild to hot, with variation among cultivars and even peppers from the same plant. "NuMex Jalmundo" is mild and sweet, as are the "TAM" and "Jalaro" jalapenos. Medium-heat cultivars are "Jalapeno M" and "NuMex Primavera." Hot varieties are "NuMex Vaquero," "Early Jalapeno," "NuMex Pinata," "Purple," "Black," "Mucho Nacho" and "Billy Biker" jalapenos. "NuMex Pinata" and "Jalaro" produce multiple colors of fruit.


  • Ancho peppers are mostly ground and used in pastes and sauces, especially mole poblano. The green fresh poblano form yields stuffed peppers called chiles rellenos. Sliced into strips, they are ingredients in casseroles, vegetable dishes, sauces and soups. Use jalapenos fresh in salsas, where multicolored fruits shine; sliced in rings for nacho toppings; pickled; or cooked in sauces. Ripe red jalapenos are thick walled and don't dry well on the plant. You can pick them and dry them or smoke them over hardwood fires, with the resultant dried, smoked jalapenos called chipotles.

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