Jalapenos are among the most popular hot peppers in the United States. Although they aren’t the spiciest vegetable in the group, they can pack a punch and add a spicy crunch to sauces, soups, and other dishes.
Even though jalapenos are considered only moderately hot compared to other varieties, the spice might still be too powerful for you. You might need some ways to make your jalapenos less hot so you can enjoy a flavorful dish in peace.
Below we’ll answer your most burning questions about the spiciness of jalapenos and what you can do about it.
Certain peppers, such as jalapenos, are known for their spiciness. What often remains unknown is why this vegetable is hot and spicy. The culprit behind the fiery flavor of hot peppers is a chemical called capsaicin.
Capsaicin is a compound that binds to sensory neuron receptors in your mouth. Certain receptors react to capsaicin with a burning sensation, which many of us can instantly recall or recognize.
These receptors were made to react to physical damage, but the chemical reaction of capsaicin causes them to react as well. And the more capsaicin a food has, the more intense the burning reaction will be.
The amount of burning you feel depends both on the type of pepper as well as your receptors.
Despite the burning, effect Capsaicin produces when we eat a spicy pepper, it has actually has some surprising health benefits. Capsaicin is an active ingredient in many topical creams that are used to alleviate the pain of muscle spasms and arthritis.
Many recipes call for the tart flavor of a jalapeno and a little bit of heat, but those of us with a more sensitive pallet may want to turn the heat down just a smidge. How can we do that while still using these peppers? Keep reading to find out.
You may not know this, but the seeds hold most of the heat in a pepper. When you cut a jalapeno in half, you’ll notice a whitish membrane and several small, whitish seeds. Before you use a jalapeno pepper in a recipe, cut open the jalapeno, slice out the membrane, and remove all of the seeds.
This small step may add a bit of extra time to your recipe, but it will remove a significant portion of the heat from the pepper. You’ll still get some spiciness, but not nearly as much as if you left the seeds in place.
You Can Actually Cut Your Jalapenos to Remove the Seeds and Ribs to Cut Down on the Spiciness
If removing the seeds doesn’t take the heat level down enough for you, you can also try soaking the peppers. After cutting the pepper in half long-ways and removing the seeds, put the halves in a mason jar or another airtight container.
Soaking the Peppers in Soda Water and Lime Can Help to Blunt the Heat
Fill the jar with lemon-lime soda to cover the peppers. You can also use plain soda water plus one teaspoon of lime juice.
Put the lid on the jar or container and let it sit in the fridge for at least two hours. The liquid will absorb the heat in the pepper. When you’re ready to use the pepper, drain the liquid, rinse the jalapeno peppers, and dry them.
When it comes to mitigating spiciness, dairy products are your best friends. You may have seen videos or have heard people say to drink a glass of milk if your tongue is too spicy. Just as jalapenos have a chemical called capsaicin, dairy contains its own chemical: casein.
Casein is the perfect match for capsaicin. The former is a fat-binding chemical that adheres to capsaicin and quickly pulls it away from your mouth’s sensory receptors.
Adding a dairy ingredient to or alongside your dish can help take the heat down a notch or two. For example, adding cream cheese to jalapeno poppers makes the spice more bearable. Having sour cream with nachos and hot sauce has the same effect. If your taco is too spicy, try drizzling melted cheese on it.
If you cannot add a dairy element directly to the food, try serving it with a dairy drink such as milk, a smoothie, or a milkshake.
A great way to partially neutralize capsaicin is with an acid. Capsaicin is an alkaloid, which means that you can at least partially neutralize it using a food high in acid.
Not only are there plenty of acidic foods to choose from, but many of them are already used to complement the types of dishes that commonly use jalapenos. For instance, tomatoes are acidic and mix well with jalapenos in things like tacos, hot sauce, chili, and salsa
You can also add a dash of lime juice, lemon juice, or vinegar to any overly spicy dish to take away some of the heat.
It’s one thing to cool down a jalapeno or a dish that incorporates the hot pepper, but have you ever chopped one up only to end up with spicy fingers? It’s not fun when you lick your fingers, rub your eyes, or scratch your nose.
Here are a few tricks to tone down the leftover hotness on your hands.
It may be too late for this tip now, but it will be a lifesaver for the next time you chop up some hot peppers. Always wear rubber gloves when handling a spicy vegetable. That way, you can prevent the oils from getting on your skin.
The spicy chemical doesn’t easily wash off with water. Instead, try rubbing your hands with olive oil. The oil will dissolve the capsaicin more effectively. Be sure to get under your fingernails, too.
Regular hand soap may not do the trick, but many dish soaps can cut through grease and oil. Wash your hands with dish soap and hot water to remove a lot of the spicy oil. You may need to repeat this a couple of times.
Again, our good friends, the dairy products, come to the rescue. Dairy products are excellent for ridding your tongue of spiciness and can do the same for your skin. Take any dairy product - milk, yogurt, sour cream - and soak your hands in it for several minutes. Rinse off to finish.