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Poblano Pepper Substitute – Top 8 Flavorful Options

Poblano peppers are a spicy addition to your recipe and many people prefer them to other types of peppers because they’re not as sweet and they give the right kick to your meal. But what is a good poblano pepper substitute when you don’t have the original?

Spicy peppers are a large family with many varieties, and many of them are often interchangeable with a little-to-no difference in the final result, so you can dive into our list of alternatives to poblano peppers and have fun experimenting with your recipes!

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The best substitutes for Poblano Peppers are Anaheim peppers, Cubanelle peppers, Cayenne peppers, Jalapenos peppers, Ancho Chillies, New Mexico Chillies, Guajillo peppers, and Bell peppers.

The best substitutes for Poblano peppers

Poblano peppers are made popular by their earthy and rich flavor, together with their low spiciness and the possibility of stuffing them with meat and vegetables for your recipes.

When choosing a substitute for poblano chili, you will first want to look at the spicy level. In fact, some peppers similar to poblano may nonetheless be spicier and it’s not something everyone can handle.

However, there are also tricks to make your peppers less spicy, so you should also consider the overall flavor they give to your recipe.

There is no right or wrong answer when choosing a poblano pepper substitute, it’s all up to personal taste and which one fits your recipe best.

1. Anaheim peppers

Anaheim peppers are very similar to poblanos both in shape, girth, and recipes we can use them in. Anaheim peppers have thick walls and fairly large cavities that you can stuff with food.

They owe their name to the city of Anaheim in California, even though they’re originally from New Mexico.

Anaheim peppers are considered the best poblano chili substitute and can be sliced or diced to be used in most of the recipes that require poblano peppers.

Their taste is not exactly the same as the poblanos, though: they are slightly spicier (some of them can actually be twice as spicy as the poblanos) and they have a sweeter taste, so keep that in mind when deciding the amount to use for your dish.

2. Cubanelle peppers

If you like poblanos you probably enjoy their spiciness, but if you’re up for something milder, then cubanelle peppers are the non-spicy addition you’re looking for.

These peppers are good for stuffing, but their walls are rather thinner than poblanos or even anaheim peppers, so you will need to be more careful, but it’s definitely possible to use them for stuffing recipes.

Cubanelle peppers taste sweeter than anaheim peppers, which are already sweeter than poblanos, so they’re not ideal for recipes that require sliced or diced peppers unless you enjoy their taste.

3. Cayenne peppers

Cayenne peppers are close cousins with jalapenos and bell peppers and have their origin in Central and South America.

Despite being part of the same family, these peppers are too long and thin to be good for stuffing and are usually used dry or as a powder to spice up dishes.

If you’re looking for a poblanos substitute that can give your recipe that spicy kick it needs, cayenne peppers are a perfect choice.

These peppers are known even outside of the food world for their health benefits, due to capsaicin, the active ingredient they contain:

It helps reduce hunger

It boosts your metabolism

It aids digestion

It helps relieve pain

It lowers blood pressure

It might reduce the risk of cancer

It might improve psoriasis

These benefits are shared by other types of spicy peppers and for this reason, it is actually recommended to add chili peppers to your recipes, for example to your spaghetti sauce.

4. Jalapenos peppers

While poblanos look more like the common bell pepper, jalapenos have a “chili pepper” look to them. Despite this difference, both peppers are good for stuffing, so you can definitely swap a poblano for a jalapeno in your stuffing recipe.

Be mindful however that jalapenos are spicier than poblanos. In fact, if the spiciest poblano reaches 1,500-2,000 Scoville heat units, the spiciest jalapeno easily reaches 8,000 heat units.

If you can’t handle jalapenos at their spiciest, remember to remove the pith and ribs before cooking them — it’s where most of their spiciness comes from.

Regarding their taste, poblanos have an earthy feeling to them, while jalapenos are brighter and grassier. That’s why jalapenos are best used for standard salsas or as topping for your salad. However, that’s not to say you will not enjoy their taste in your recipe!

5. Ancho chilies

When a poblano pepper is almost ripe, it turns red and becomes sweeter, and if you leave it dry, you obtain an ancho pepper. There is also another variety that is obtained from fully ripe poblano peppers, which is called Mulato pepper and is brown colored.

Despite coming from poblanos, ancho chilies are not the same as poblanos. In fact, when they become sweeter they also balance out their spiciness, so they become milder than the green poblanos we know.

Ancho chilies are usually sprinkled over a dish or incorporated in sauces, but if you want to use them as a substitute for poblanos in more traditional recipes, you must rehydrate them.

These peppers will have a smokier flavor than poblanos, which can greatly impact the overall flavor of your dish, so start by using them in smaller amounts than you would with poblanos.

6. New Mexico Chiles

New Mexico Chiles have a similar spiciness to poblanos, which makes them a good substitute for poblano peppers if you’re looking to spice up your recipe.

Like poblanos, red New Mexico chiles have an earthy flavor, but with hints of sweetness and grassiness. Green New Mexico chiles are usually a good substitute for garlic and onions because they give a similar crisp taste.

These peppers are mostly used for red sauces and they’re usually toasted, which only requires 5-10 minutes in a medium heated pan. They can also be added directly to your recipe.

7. Guajillo peppers

Mexican cuisine is very much loved around the world, so it’s no surprise that Guajillo peppers are gaining more and more popularity.

These peppers are red or dark red in color, with smooth skin. They’re usually found dry or already powdered, and sometimes also in paste form, which however might contain a lot of unknown ingredients or additives that aren’t as healthy.

Together with ancho peppers and pasilla peppers, the guajillo is part of the so-called “holy trinity” of Mexican peppers. As one can guess, it’s mainly used in Mexican recipes and it’s especially loved for sauces and salsa.

Its spicy level matches the jalapenos, so it’s slightly spicier than poblano peppers, but can be used as a substitute for poblanos if you regulate the amount and the proportion of the other ingredients to tone down its spiciness.

8. Bell peppers

Last but not the least, as the milder cousin of poblano peppers, bell peppers are a good alternative for poblanos and the two peppers are somewhat interchangeable.

Specifically, green bell peppers are the type of bell pepper that is closest to resemble poblanos’ aspect and taste, with their earthy and rich flavor that is less sweet than colored bell peppers.

As both poblanos and bell peppers have rather large cavities and thick walls, if you’re considering a stuffing recipe, bell peppers are surely one of the best options to replace the poblanos.

The only problem with bell peppers is that they’re basically non-spicy peppers, but you can fix this issue by sprinkling a little chili pepper powder over the finished meal or by adding other spices during the preparation.

Bell peppers are also the easiest pepper to find because they’re present in virtually every supermarket or grocery store and it’s also common to place them right next to the poblanos.

How to choose a Poblano pepper substitute. 

Despite the similarities, even the best poblano pepper substitute may just not work for your palate. When it comes to personal taste, it is hard to say what will be a guaranteed success, so it’s often a trial and error process.

When looking for a poblano pepper alternative, pay attention to the following:

– Spiciness level: not everyone can handle the heat of spicy peppers. Poblanos are still relatively mild peppers, but many alternatives could be higher on the Scoville scale. Choosing the wrong type or the wrong amount of pepper to put in a recipe could completely ruin your meal and not to mention, be harmful to your health. In fact, extreme spiciness could cause stomach ache and other gastrointestinal issues.

– Physical characteristics: are you looking for a pepper you can fill? Or just something to make your dish a little piquant? Large peppers with thick walls are ideal for stuffing recipes, while smaller peppers are better when used to prepare sauces or as toppings.

– The type of recipe: this is strictly connected to the characteristics of the pepper. It would be wiser to have the type of meal you want to prepare in mind when you’re looking for an alternative to poblano peppers. Not all peppers are good sliced or diced, for example. Some are just meant for salsa recipes or sprinkled over the food.

The quality of your ingredients is also fundamental for a good outcome, which means you should know how fresh peppers should look like.

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