The Fresno chili is like a jalapeno impostor (or is it the other way around)?
These two look so much alike to the point some people can’t tell which is which!
But one thing’s for sure: They can add a bit of heat to any dish with a nice flavor that many enjoy.
Fresno chili is known for its medium heat and subtle smokiness, measuring 2,500 to 10,000 SHUs. If you have none at home but need them for your recipes, what’s there to use?
Don’t worry; you can easily find a Fresno chili substitute!
We share your options below, either with varying or similar heat levels and flavors:
- What Fresno Chilli is
- How it is used
- What you can use as a substitute for Fresno chili
What’s Fresno Chili?
Fresno chili would mature from green to bright red when growing, increasing its spiciness. Usually, the Fresno chili is harvested and sold when green. (*)
The green peppers have mild to medium spice levels, while the mature red Fresno is hotter. These peppers would grow 2-3 inches long with a 1-inch diameter, having smooth and glossy skin with a slightly curved shape.
Fresh Fresno peppers are in season from late summer to fall, or you can also find dry or pickled Fresno peppers. If you have none at home or it isn’t available in your local grocery, use a Fresno pepper substitute from this list:
Fun fact: The first Fresno chili was grown in 1952, named after the city of Fresno, California. Clarence “Brownie” Hamlin created it.
What Can You Use Instead of a Fresno Chili?
You can try these alternatives – jalapeno pepper, bell pepper, chipotle pepper, serrano powder, holland chilies, or thai luang pepper, tien tsin pepper, etc.
With these substitutes, you can easily add spiciness to your food even if you don’t have Fresno chili at home.
1. Jalapeno Pepper
Since they have a similar appearance and almost-similar spice level, it’s obvious that we would include jalapenos on here! Plus, these are very easy to find and readily available in supermarkets.
Since jalapenos are less spicy than the Fresno chili, you can add a bit more to your recipe to get more heat.
Also, note that red Fresno peppers are a bit spicier, smokier, and fruitier than jalapenos, so if your recipe calls for these flavors, you might want to try another Fresno chile substitute.
2. Bell Pepper
This is a good Fresno pepper substitute, especially if you don’t like overly spicy food. It has no capsaicin, so NO SHU.
We love using them because it comes in vibrant colors that can color your dishes nicely.
They are also very versatile; you can pan-sear, bake, or grill them before adding them to your meal. These chilis are readily available worldwide, all year long, usually sold fresh.
We recommend using these for soups, salads, stews, and similar recipes!
Fun fact: Bell peppers are high in vitamins and minerals healthy addition to recipes. You can add a ton of bell peppers as they have no spice.
3. Chipotle Pepper
Chipotle peppers are dried and smokey-flavored but spicier than the Fresno peppers. That said, its rich flavor and spiciness work well in so many dishes that call for Fresno peppers! So, if you want something spicier, you can’t go wrong with Chipotle peppers.
That said, we recommend adding half the amount of chipotle peppers to your recipe to avoid making it too hot. Taste test your dish and add more if desired.
Fun fact: Chipotle peppers contain a lot of vitamin C and minerals. Furthermore, they are loaded with antioxidants and fiber, making your dish a bit healthier!
4. Serrano Pepper
Serrano peppers are another backup for the Fresno peppers but are slightly spicier. These peppers have been used worldwide for decades and are now widely part of Mexican cuisine.
You’ll usually find serrano peppers in sauces, salsas, and garnishes, particularly more enjoyed when roasted.
Since this is spicier than Fresno chili, add about half the amount your recipe requires and only add more if you need more spice.
Fun fact: When comparing Serrano and Fresno, the former is hotter, with a 10,000 to 23,000 SHU rating.
5. Holland Chilies
Dutch or Holland chilies are another excellent Fresnopeppers substitute in various recipes, especially in soups, salads, or baking or roasting. They come in different colors like yellow, green, and red.
These chilies have a mild spice with a sweet, fruity, and slightly acidic taste.
We like that it has a similar spice level as the Fresno chili, ranging from 5,000 to 10,000 SHU. Combine all that with your recipe’s other ingredients, and you get a nice flavor.
Fun fact: Fresno chili is anti-inflammatory and a good source of vitamins A and C. It also contains capsaicin, a chemical compound that creates that burning sensation in your mouth!
6. Thai Luang Pepper
These Thai Luang peppers come in orange, yellow, or pink colors. Furthermore, these peppers can get very spicy, having a heat level ranging from 50,000 to 100,000 SHU.
We love that these peppers have a fruity and earthy flavor that gives a nice touch to any dish. But since these are up to ten times spicier than the Fresno chili, it’s best to add smaller amounts of these peppers to avoid an overly spicy meal.
7. Tien Tsin Pepper
The Tien Tsin Pepper was named after a China in the province where it is harvested. This is great for East Asian cuisine, particularly soups, stews, lemon rice, chicken curry, and infused oils. These chilies will increase the spice and your dish’s flavors.
Note that this is hotter than the Fresno chili but still suitable in various dishes that call for Fresno. The heat level ranges from 50,000 to 75,000 SHU.
8. Red Chili Pepper
The red chili pepper is a famous chili you can find in any supermarket, though they are pretty spicy!
Fun fact: When Fresno chili matures, it becomes hotter but loses some of its taste. On the other hand, red chili peppers remain hot!
These peppers are considered to be beneficial and healthy. But don’t eat too much of it as they are very spicy, with heat levels varying from 100,000 to 125,000 SHU!
9. Habanero Pepper
The Habanero is a unique Fresno chili replacement, unlike other peppers mentioned here.
It’s a hot, crunchy, and sweet pepper that packs on high spice levels, ranging from 100,000 to 350,000 SHU.
They have a crust taste, and smokiness adds a unique touch to any dish but watches out for their spiciness!
10. Thai Jinda Chili
This is another Thai chili that makes the best Fresno pepper substitute, coming in red or green. These chilies are very spicy regardless of the color, with a heat level measuring between 50,000 to 100,000 SHU. The smaller the pepper, the hotter it gets!
11. Scotch Bonnet
And lastly, there is the Scotch bonnet, named such because of its unique bonnet shape. These peppers have a hot, sweet, and spicy flavor that boosts any meal. Their hotness will vary depending on where they are grown, having a heat level between 100,000 to 350,000 SHU.
Since these peppers are very hot, expect your dish to be very spicy if you add too many.
We recommend this substitute for curry chicken, shrimp, and soups, among other similar recipes that call for Fresno chili.
Fun fact: Red Fresno chili resembles the jalapeno, but they are spicier with a fruitier, smokier flavor! The significant difference between the Fresno chili and jalapeno is their pepper wall thickness, with the former having thinner walls.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you still have questions about the Fresno chili or its substitutes, take a look at our frequently asked questions:
Wrapping It Up
No Fresno chili? No problem! You can always use a Fresno chili substitute with a similar or varying degree of spiciness to suit your tastebuds. From the jalapeno down to the Scotch Bonnet, these chili peppers are excellent choices that will surely spice up your favorite dishes.
Don’t let your lack of Fresno pepper ruin your dish!
Check your local grocery or your kitchen to add heat and pleasant flavor to your recipe the right way.