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How to Cook With Poblano Peppers

Written by MasterClass

Last updated: Feb 28, 2020 • 3 min read

An invaluable ingredient in Mexican cuisine, poblanos are green peppers that are mild in heat but bold in flavor.



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What Are Poblano Peppers?

Poblano peppers are large green or red peppers that hail from the city of Puebla in the state of Puebla, Mexico. Poblanos are typically mild, though spice levels can vary widely (the ripe reddish version tends to be the hottest). They’re most often stuffed to make chile rellenos, but try adding them to guacamole or soups.

How Spicy Are Poblano Peppers?

Poblano peppers are mildly spicy, measuring 1,000–1,5000 on the Scoville scale. In terms of heat level, they’re similar to Anaheim peppers (500–2,500 Scoville Heat Units). They’re spicier than sweet peppers like bell peppers (0 SHU), banana peppers (0-500 SHU), and pimento peppers (100–500 SHU) but much milder than hot peppers like jalapeño peppers (2,500–8,000 SHU), serrano peppers (10,000–16,500 SHU), and habañero peppers (100,000–350,000 SHU).

Like all peppers, the poblano pepper’s spiciness will vary depending on the varietal, harvest time, and growing practices, so it’s always a good idea to taste each pepper before you use it.

3 Tips for Buying Poblano Peppers

One of the more popular peppers, poblanos can be found at farmers’ markets and Mexican grocery stores. Here are some tips for finding the best poblanos:

  1. Look for fresh poblano peppers that are a deep, dark green. The green peppers, which are slightly under-ripe, will have a mild flavor and hold their structure well for cooking.
  2. Seek out red poblanos that have been dried. Red poblanos are fully ripe and are generally dried and sold as ancho chiles. You’ll find dried poblanos sold whole and ground into ancho chile powder.
  3. Remember the distinction between poblanos and chilacas. Poblano peppers are sometimes incorrectly labeled “pasilla peppers,” which is actually the name of the dried chilaca pepper, a much thinner variety than the poblano.
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4 Tips for Cooking With Poblano Peppers

Poblano chile peppers are found in all kinds of savory Mexican dishes such as tacos, enchiladas, and, famously, chiles rellenos. Here are some tips for cooking poblano peppers in different ways:

  1. Try them stuffed. Deep-fried stuffed poblano peppers are called chiles rellenos. Poblanos make perfect stuffed peppers because of their size and mild flavor, whether they’re filled with ground beef or black beans. To prepare poblano peppers for stuffing, char their skins over an open flame or arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet and roast or broil. Then, cover the peppers with a clean kitchen towel or place them in a plastic bag to steam briefly. This will make the skins easier to remove. Use this method for any poblano pepper recipes that require removing the skins, such as pickled poblano peppers.
  2. Eat poblanos raw. Dice raw poblano peppers and add to mashed avocado, chopped cilantro, and lime juice for an easy, mild guacamole.
  3. Purée poblanos into a sauce. For a mild green hot sauce, try sautéing seeded and chopped poblano peppers in a large skillet with garlic and onions; then add water and simmer. Strain the vegetables and purée with vinegar, salt, and cumin. For a creamy sauce, swap the vinegar for sour cream.
  4. Preserve extra poblanos by drying them. If you grow your own poblano peppers, harvest some when fully ripe. The red peppers can then be dried and used in a number of popular dishes, such as mole sauces. Mole poblano is made from dried ancho peppers, along with guajillo and pasilla chiles, spices, nuts, seeds, chocolate, and more. You can even grind dried ancho peppers with cayenne pepper and chipotle pepper to make your own chile powder blend.


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