This is easily one of the most common questions I get...how spicy are poblano peppers?
I'll give some detailed evidence below but the quick answer is...they're not as spicy as they look!
Are Poblano Peppers Hot?
Luckily there are some very precise people in the world, and one of them invented a way to measure the heat and spiciness of peppers. It's called the Scoville scale. Capsaicin gives chili peppers (and pepper spray!) their characteristic heat and measuring its concentration will give you a snapshot of a chili peppers' heat.
Take a look at the chart below. It shows various chili pepper varieties and their corresponding Scoville measurement:
Poblano peppers are way down the list, with pure capsaicin being at the top of the list. Also note that green bell peppers essentially have no capsaicin and that's why they taste like peppers but without any spiciness!
A handy trick to keep in mind is that the size of the chili pepper has an inverse relationship to its heat level. In other words, the smaller the pepper the hotter it is. That's why you'll see Habanero peppers towards the top of the list in the above Scoville chart.
Keeping that trick in mind, here's a closer look at the three most common chili peppers you'll use in your Mexican cuisine journey:
The corresponding Scoville units are listed below the peppers. Notice how the poblano has significantly less heat then the jalapeno and serrano. Good to know right?
Even though poblanos look relatively mild on paper, keep in mind that they still have a palpable heat (especially compared to green peppers.) For example, we used six poblano peppers in our recent Roasted Poblano Soup and it was right on the threshold of 'Wow this is spicy!'.
Which brings up another key point regarding poblanos. Now that you're aware of their mild nature, it's equally important to know that roasting the poblanos is the key to getting the most flavor out of them! Roasting the poblanos will create a rich, complex flavor that raw poblanos can't match.
There are many ways to roast poblanos: on a grill, directly over a gas flame, in a skillet, in the oven. The common denominator is sustained HEAT. The heat will awaken dormant flavors and bring out all the potential of the poblano.
The easiest method is to throw them in a 400F oven for 20-30 minutes. That's what we did in the above pic for the Poblano Soup. I usually flip them over once during the roasting period.
Also keep in mind that you'll frequently see recipes suggesting a final step of putting the roasted poblano peppers in a sealed ziploc to steam them so you can pull off all the skin. I used to do this but stopped as I found that the skin doesn't affect the flavor much. I usually pull off any wrinkled bits but don't sweat it if some of the skin remains on the pepper.
So are poblano peppers hot? Not really! They are mild by nature but they do have quite a bit more heat than a traditional green pepper. And it's definitely worth getting to know them a little better as they are one of the most useful and versatile chili peppers in all of Mexican cuisine. You'll usually find them in the produce section next to the green peppers and jalapenos.
An equally important question is...how can I use poblano peppers to make some real deal Mexican dishes? I'll list a couple good choices to start with below. They all use the rich flavor of roasted poblanos to create some otherworldly dishes. Update: for a current list see 10 Recipes You Can Make with Poblano Chiles.
Feel free to get in touch if you have any questions. You can use the comments section below or you can always send me an email. Okay, here are the poblano recipes: