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Supermarkets and retailers will often sell a packet of spicy chiles labeled ‘green chiles.’ This is a general term used for any chile that is green, as there may be a mix inside the bag. The most common chile you will find in these bags is Anaheim, also known as the New Mexico chile. If you want to buy a more specialized substitute or have run out of green chiles, you may be looking for some substitutes that work in the same recipes, cuisines, and dishes.
Table of Contents
- What are Green Chiles?
- Substitute for Green Chili peppers
What are Green Chiles?
When speaking in a botanical sense, there is no difference between a green chile and a jalapeno. However, any chef or home cook will tell you that there is. Green chiles are typically a New Mexico chile known as Anaheim, which is very mild. They are favored and used by a lot of chile fans because their mild spice levels mean that you can use them in large quantities to flavor dishes.
Anyone with a good spice tolerance, and their natural ability to handle a higher Scoville chile, will be fine with using jalapenos in dishes instead, but for the average person, using a milder green chile will help the dish still taste great but not be too spicy for them. Jalapenos are used in smaller quantities as a condiment, relish, garnish, or topping as they are a bit spicier than green chiles.
Another big way to differentiate green chiles from jalapenos is by their color and size. Green chiles are significantly larger and have a blocky shape, whereas jalapenos are skinny and small. The color of green chiles would obviously be green, although they are sometimes left on the vine until they are just about to turn a different color; jalapenos are picked while they are still young, green, and firm.
Green chiles can be found in stores in multiple forms. Most often, they are found fresh in packaging, but you can also buy diced green chiles as well as canned green chilies. They are both used in different recipes but are more of a time-saver so that you do not have to dice or prepare them before using them in any recipe.
Are Green Chiles Healthy?
You would hope that along with the spice, chiles would have at least some nutrients. Thankfully, you would be right. People may enjoy them for their spicy and somewhat painful flavors, yet, green chiles also provide a number of significant and surprising health benefits.
The same bioactive compound responsible for their fiery sensation is also the main reason that chiles can be so healthy for you. Capsaicin is the chemical compound that gives a chile the hot and spicy sensation that it is renowned for. As well as this, capsaicin also has a number of health benefits that will benefit almost everyone.
If you can get over the burning sensation or tolerate it enough to eat chiles with most of your meals, then you will be improving your immune system and pain tolerance. The spicy element of chiles are used as natural pain relievers as they do not actually cause any harm; they just simulate it. Over time your body gets used to this and starts to stop worrying about it so much, which is why they increase your general pain tolerance overall. Anyone who suffers from heartburn due to acid reflux may be pleased to hear that eating chiles will also block out the pain caused by heartburn.
Spicy food and chiles, in general, are also good for helping weight loss. It will not help you overnight, but chiles raise your metabolic resting rate and slow your appetite, which means you will be less hungry. On top of this, studies have shown that eating chilies are good for stress relief and promote better mental health.
How is the Spicyness of Chiles Measured?
There is a unit of measurement for the pungency of spicy foods such as chile peppers, and it is called the Scoville scale. It is recorded in Scoville heat units (SHU) but is commonly referred to as ‘Scovilles’ instead. The measurements are found by using the Scoville organoleptic test, which consists of dissolving the chile pepper in alcohol to isolate the capsaicin and then diluting it in water. After this, there are 5 professional taste testers who decrease the concentration of the capsaicinoids by 100 SHU at a time until at least 3 of them can no longer detect the heat from the chile.
For reference as to the numbers, a chile can show that a jalapeno has 2,500-8.000 Scovilles depending on how ripe it is and other growth factors. The bell pepper has 0 Scovilles as it lacks capsaicin, and the Carolina reaper has 2 million Scovilles. To put that into perspective, if you find a jalapeno too spicy, then a Carolina reaper is 800 times spicier.
Chile or Chilie
Some people may spell it as ‘green chilis’ or ‘green chilies’ depending on where they are from. American English-speaking areas will use ‘chili’, whereas Spanish-speaking countries will use ‘chile’ instead. Both are perfectly correct and work in either context, it just changes depending on where you are from or where you learned to spell.
Substitute for Green Chili peppers
If any of these substitutes are actually viable to you will heavily depend on your spice tolerance as some are hotter while others are milder. Depending on what spice levels you are used to, you should be able to find at least a handful of substitutes to use in the future when you’re cooking with chilies.
1. Jalapeno Peppers
The jalapeño pepper has been mentioned enough already that it is no surprise to find it in this list. Jalapeno peppers are considered relatively mild when compared to the entire list of chili peppers. Their Scoville measurement is in the range of 2,500-8000 SHU, which is quite low, yet some people still struggle with them as they have enough capsaicin to cause a burn.
Jalapenos are flavorsome and strong, which is why they are seldom used as the main ingredient in a dish. Typically they are used as a seasoning or as a special element in a side dish such as jalapeno mozzarella sticks. Jalapenos are eaten raw for the most part after being sliced, which differs from most other chile peppers as they are roasted or fried before cooking. Jalapenos are popular as a topping on pizza as they add a kick of spice while not overpowering the rest of the toppings and flavors from the pizza.
2. Bell Peppers
If your spice tolerance is incredibly low, or you just don’t fancy a spicy dish, then sweet bell peppers are perfect for you. They have a Scoville level of 0 which means they are not spicy in the slightest. Despite missing the key feature of most chili peppers, they are still full of flavor and can be used in many different ways.
One of these ways is that they can be used to make paprika. This is a powdered spice that is used in a number of different meals and dishes as a seasoning which is liked for its smoky flavor. Paprika can also come in other forms, such as spicy paprika, smoked paprika, and mild paprika. To make the spiced paprika, it is combined with chili flakes or chili powder from mostly cayenne peppers.
As they are not spicy, bell peppers can be used as the main ingredient in a lot of dishes and have a similar texture to that of green chili peppers. Bell peppers come in three colors of maturity which are green, orange, and red. The green bell peppers are the most commonly used, although there is little difference between the three of them.
3. Poblano Peppers
If you are looking for a similar smokey flavor that green chilies produce but with added heat, then the poblano pepper is for you. They are known to have a slightly waxy texture which can be countered by them being roasted and peeled. Alternatively, you can hold them near an open fire until they are charred on the outside and peel away the char.
Mexican cuisine utilizes the poblano pepper the most, and they are used in cooked when they are young, fresh, and green. Despite this, they turn a dark red color when matured and will eventually go black. Poblano peppers have a Scoville rating of 1,500 SHUs, which makes them a milder alternative to jalapenos or a spicier alternative to Anaheim peppers.
4. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne peppers are for the more daring of spice lovers. They are a very good way to introduce a lot of heat to a dish by simply adding diced cayenne peppers to it. They can be used in a lot of ways, but most importantly, they work as a spicier alternative to green chiles for those looking for a bigger kick from their food.
The spice of cayenne peppers can be minimized if you use a lower quantity; you can replicate the same level of heat found in jalapenos by using a very small amount of cayenne pepper. The kick will still be there, but it will not be as intense or strong as if you were to use the whole thing.
The main way cayenne peppers are sold is when they are dried or powdered. They are dehydrated until completely dry and then shipped in airtight containers or bags. They can easily be rehydrated if your recipe calls for fresh cayenne pepper; just boil them in water until they look less shriveled and have a vibrant red color.
Cayenne peppers are great for helping you burn more calories as they raise your body temperature and boost your metabolism. It is common to find ground cayenne pepper in shops to use as a seasoning or spice rub on different dishes. This is made by dehydrating the pepper and then grinding it down into a powder.
5. Banana Peppers
Instead of being a spicier alternative to green chiles, a banana pepper will offer a sweeter flavor with less heat. The spice from banana peppers is still noticeable, but it is not as bad as green chilies or jalapenos. They are yellow when first picked but will eventually turn red or orange as they naturally mature. Banana peppers are used alongside other spicier peppers and chilies to create a variety of flavors that do not overpower each other.
The most common ways of using banana peppers are to either pickle them with garlic and white vinegar and then use them in a salad or to stuff them with ingredients like cheese and meat as a healthier alternative to a taco. Stuffing peppers is nothing new, but due to the sweetness of the banana pepper, it creates a whole new flavor and works really well with more bitter or sour food on the inside.
6. Serrano Peppers
While being very similar to jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers have almost five times the heat level. This makes them a great alternative for someone who does not want to change anything in the dish except the spice. They work great in guacamole as they add a huge kick yet pair well with the creamy avocado mixture, all the while without tinting the color as they are green.
7. Green Fresno Pepper
Green Fresno peppers are quite easy to mistake with jalapenos, although they have thinner walls and take less time to mature. The green Fresno is also milder than a jalapeno, so it sits right in the middle between jalapenos and green chilies. This makes it a perfect substitute for someone that wants a bit of extra heat but nothing crazy.
8. Red Chili Peppers
The red chili is arguably the most iconic and famous chili in the entire family. It is a long and thin dark red chili that is synonymous with the word spice. They are actually ripened and matured green chilies that have turned red with age. They can be used fresh but are more commonly used when dried or turned into a powder and used as a seasoning.
9. Anaheim Peppers
The Anaheim pepper, also known as the New Mexico pepper, is slightly hotter than green chilies but not by much. They add a slight kick to whatever they are in but overall are quite mild and enjoyable. They can be used fresh and look very similar to green chilies.
While they are mild enough to be used as the main ingredient, they also provide enough heat that they work as a perfect stepping stone for someone trying to challenge themselves with getting into chilies and peppers.