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All About Common Fresh Chiles

By Cook's Illustrated Published July 2010

For many cooks, fresh chiles are a bit of a mystery. And it’s no wonder.

Common Fresh Chiles

The same chile can go by different names in different parts of the country and can range from green to red, depending on when it was harvested. To ensure that you’re buying the chile called for in a recipe, it’s a good idea to look at a photo before shopping. Whatever the variety, you should choose chiles with tight, unblemished skin and flesh that’s firm to the touch.


Appearance: Large, triangular; green to red-brown Flavor: Crisp, vegetal Heat (on a scale of 1 to 4): 1 Substitutions: Anahein, bell pepper


Appearance: Large, long, skinny; yellow-green to red Flavor: Mildly tangy, vegetal Heat (on a scale of 1 to 4): 2 Substitutions: Poblano


Appearance: Small, smooth, shiny; green or red Flavor: Bright, grassy Heat (on a scale of 1 to 4): 2 Substitutions: Serrano


Appearance: Small; dark green Flavor: Bright, citrusy Heat (on a scale of 1 to 4): 3 Substitutions: Jalapeno

Thai Bird's Eye

Appearance: Narrow and petite; bright red Flavor: Rich, fruity Heat (on a scale of 1 to 3): 3 1/2 Substitutions: Serrano


Appearance: Bulbous; bright orange to red

Flavor: Deeply floral, fruity

Heat (on a scale of 1 to 4): 4

Substitutions: Double dose Thai Bird's Eye