Serrano chiles, Capsicum annuum, pronounced “suh rah noh", are familiar to most of us, with this slender, jalapeno-looking-chile easily found in most local supermarkets.
In Spanish, the name Serrano translates to “of the mountains” or "highlander" and refers to the Sierra mountain region located in the Mexican states of Hidalgo and Puebla, where this chile is indigenous. The Serrano is considered by chileheads to be one of the more flavorful chile peppers on the market, which makes them quite popular.
When green, the serrano chile is sometimes referred to as chili verde, and when dried it is also known as chile seco.
We also carry a smoked red serrano chile powder that is just a tad bit sweeter because it was harvested after it completely ripened.
The Serrano pepper has a long and dignified history in Mexican cooking. It’s one of the most commonly found chiles in this region, and because of its flavor is found in many of Mexico's most heralded dishes.
In this country, the serrano chile came to prominence in the 1980’s as a pickling pepper. In the Southwestern US, the fresh peppers are combined with carrots and onions and pickled to make a popular condiment and snack food.
The plants may be either compact in size or may be much taller and range in size from 18" to over 5' tall. The leaves may be dark or light in color, are pubescent (with a hairy surface) and are 3-5" long and 1.5-2" wide. The flower petals are a solid white in color (no spots) and the cylindrical pods grow either pendant (hanging down) or erect (pointing to the sky), have a blunt end and reach a length of 1-4" long. The plants produce up to 50 pods per season.
The Serrano, when growing, is green and then ripens to deep scarlet red in color, but they may also occasionally mature to orange, yellow or brown in color.
Most of the commercially grown serrano chiles are cultivated in Mexico, with a smaller amount grown in the Southwest US. In Mexico, the states of Nayarit, Sinaloa, Tamaulipas and Veracruz are the largest producers with the most flavorful Mexican cultivars being 'Altamira', 'Balin', 'Largo', 'Panuco' and 'Tampiqueno'. In the US, the milder heat, disease-resistant cultivar ‘Hidlago’ is quite popular.
Depending on the time of the year, our green serrano powder is from chiles cultivated in either Mexico or the US.
Serrano chiles are most commonly used to make authentic Mexican spicy sauces. They also pair well with mango or pineapple for a sweet and spicy salsa, and are an excellent chile to use in homemade pico de gallo. Found in numerous authentic Mexican dishes including chilaquiles (pronounced "chee-lah-KEE-lehs", a dish made with tortilla strips cooked in a sauce with meats, vegetables, or sometimes scrambled with eggs), chiles toreados (a side dish of sauteed serranos, oil and sometimes onions served with fajitas or grilled chicken) and salsa ranchera (the salsa that accompanies Huevos Rancheros).
For an unexpected flavor twist, we like to use this chile powder in recipes that call for ground cayenne. I think that the cayenne is a good chile when you're only looking for a specific heat level, but don’t need additional flavor.
Serrano chiles are also popular in Thai dishes.
Our green serrano powder packs a bit of punch and is considered a medium hot chile coming in at 8,000 - 18,000 SHU.
Serrano chiles have a spicy crisp flavor with citrus undertones.
As hard core chileheads, we love to use this as a great substation chile powder. While the cayenne chile is used in numerous cuisines, it’s really just for the clean heat that it provides as it has virtually no real flavor, so we’ll use this instead. We’ll also use serrano chile powder in place of guajillo chile powder when we’re in search of a bit more heat.
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