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Jalapeno vs. Chili: What's the Difference?

Edited by Aimie Carlson || By Janet White || Published on February 18, 2024
Jalapeno is a medium-sized chili pepper with moderate heat, while chili refers to a broader category of hot peppers with varying sizes and heat levels.

Key Differences

A jalapeno is a specific type of chili pepper, known for its distinct size and moderate heat level. Chili, in contrast, is a broader term encompassing a wide variety of hot peppers, including jalapenos, with diverse heat levels, sizes, and flavors.
Jalapenos typically have a moderate heat level, measured between 2,500 to 8,000 on the Scoville scale. Other chilies can range from mild to extremely hot, like the Carolina Reaper, which far exceeds jalapenos in heat.
Jalapenos are widely used in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisines, often raw, pickled, or cooked. Chilies, in general, are used in various cuisines worldwide, with each type lending its unique flavor and heat to dishes, from curries to hot sauces.
Jalapenos are medium-sized, usually green when unripe, turning red when mature, and have a smooth, firm texture. Other chilies vary greatly in appearance, from small bird's eye chilies to large bell peppers, and come in various colors.
Jalapenos have a strong association with Mexican cuisine and culture. In contrast, chilies as a category are integral to many world cuisines, including Indian, Thai, and Korean, each using different types with distinct cultural significance.

Comparison Chart


A specific type of chili pepper
General term for various hot peppers

Heat Level

Moderate (2,500-8,000 Scoville)
Varies from mild to extremely hot

Common Culinary Uses

Used in Mexican and Tex-Mex foods
Used globally in diverse cuisines

Physical Characteristics

Medium-sized, green to red
Varies in size, color, and texture

Cultural Significance

Strongly tied to Mexican cuisine
Integral to many global cuisines

Jalapeno and Chili Definitions


Jalapenos are a staple in Mexican and Tex-Mex cuisine.
Jalapenos are essential in preparing authentic Mexican guacamole.


The heat of chilies is measured using the Scoville scale.
Some chilies have such high Scoville ratings they must be handled with care.


Jalapenos are often used green but turn red and sweeter when ripe.
The red jalapenos added a colorful and sweet twist to the dish.


Chilies vary greatly in size, color, and heat intensity.
The range of chilies in the market was impressive, from tiny to large.


Jalapenos can be eaten raw, pickled, or cooked in various dishes.
I topped the nachos with pickled jalapenos for extra flavor.


Chili peppers are a key ingredient in spicy dishes worldwide.
The curry had a rich flavor and heat, thanks to the added chilies.


A jalapeno is a medium-sized chili pepper with a moderate heat level.
I sliced jalapenos for the salsa to add a spicy kick.


Chilies are used in various forms, including fresh, dried, and powdered.
I sprinkled dried chili powder over the meal for an extra zing.


Jalapenos have a Scoville heat range from 2,500 to 8,000.
The jalapenos in the chili provided a pleasant but not overpowering heat.


Chili refers to a variety of hot peppers used in many cuisines.
I added some chili to the sauce for a spicy touch.


A cultivar of the tropical pepper Capsicum annuum having a very pungent green or red fruit.


The pungent fresh or dried fruit of any of several cultivated varieties of capsicum, used especially as a flavoring in cooking. Also called chili pepper.


The fruit of this plant.


Alternative spelling of jalapeño


Plant bearing very hot and finely tapering long peppers; usually red


Hot green or red pepper of southwestern United States and Mexico


Can jalapenos turn red?

Yes, jalapenos turn red and sweeter when they are ripe.

What cuisines commonly use chili peppers?

Chili peppers are used in various cuisines, including Mexican, Indian, Thai, and Korean.

What is a jalapeno pepper?

A jalapeno is a medium-sized chili pepper known for its moderate heat.

What's the hottest type of chili pepper?

One of the hottest known chili peppers is the Carolina Reaper.

Do all chilies have the same flavor profile?

No, chilies have a wide range of flavors, from fruity to smoky or earthy.

How do you store fresh chili peppers?

Fresh chili peppers should be stored in the refrigerator to prolong freshness.

What does "chili" refer to?

Chili refers to a broad category of hot peppers of various sizes and heat levels.

How hot are jalapenos compared to other chilies?

Jalapenos have moderate heat, while other chilies can range from milder to much hotter.

Can eating jalapenos benefit health?

Jalapenos contain vitamins and capsaicin, which may have health benefits.

Are jalapenos used fresh or cooked?

Jalapenos can be used both fresh and cooked, as well as pickled.

Are jalapenos hotter than bell peppers?

Yes, jalapenos are hotter than bell peppers, which have no heat.

What's the main use of jalapenos in cooking?

Jalapenos are commonly used to add moderate heat and flavor to dishes.

Can jalapenos be used in desserts?

Yes, jalapenos can be used in desserts for a spicy-sweet combination.

How long do jalapenos last when pickled?

Pickled jalapenos can last for several months when stored properly.

Can you reduce the heat of a chili pepper?

Removing seeds and membranes from chili peppers can reduce their heat.

What is the Scoville scale?

The Scoville scale measures the heat level of chili peppers.

How are chili peppers usually prepared?

Chili peppers can be used fresh, dried, powdered, or as pastes in cooking.

Are chili peppers good for weight loss?

Some studies suggest the capsaicin in chili peppers may help with weight loss.
About Author
Written by
Janet White
Janet White has been an esteemed writer and blogger for Difference Wiki. Holding a Master's degree in Science and Medical Journalism from the prestigious Boston University, she has consistently demonstrated her expertise and passion for her field. When she's not immersed in her work, Janet relishes her time exercising, delving into a good book, and cherishing moments with friends and family.
Edited by
Aimie Carlson
Aimie Carlson, holding a master's degree in English literature, is a fervent English language enthusiast. She lends her writing talents to Difference Wiki, a prominent website that specializes in comparisons, offering readers insightful analyses that both captivate and inform.

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