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I am making butter chicken tonight. My recipe calls for 2 jalapenos, but the store was out and I am too cranky to go across town to another store. Can I substitute a Serrano pepper? I believe Serrano are quite a bit hotter, and I don't want to burn everyone's mouths.

  • if I were to do it, I'd replace it 1:1 with poblanos. (by count, not weight). They're milder, but larger. The only issue is that you'd have more volume of peppers ... and if you have to, you can always throw in some ground cayenne or other source of heat to spice it up more. – Joe Aug 17 '16 at 1:16
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Jalapenos vary widely in heat, but, yes, Serrano is usually thought of as a bit hotter. If it were me, I would use one. I would also remove the seeds and the internal membranes to cut the heat further. Maybe even start with 1/2...you can always add more.

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    At least according to Rick Bayless in a radio interview (sorry I can't find it online to cite it), Serranos are more consistent with the heat level, too. So one Serrano will always be about the same level of heat, where one jalapeno could vary considerably. – Chris Bergin Aug 16 '16 at 21:20
  • Jalapenos run from about 1000 to 20000 Scoville heat units: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jalape%C3%B1o#Hybrids_and_Sub-Cultivars Beware the TAM Mild jalapeno, about 1500 Scoville units, which seem to be gaining market share in grocery stores. Might as well use a green bell. If you expect your Jalapenos to be hot, then moscafj has about the right substitution factor. – Wayfaring Stranger Aug 17 '16 at 21:18
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If this is an indian recipe, the jalapenos will already be a (more or less well informed) substitution for one of the common types of green chili used in india, generally called hari mirch. Heat levels are reasonably similar comparing the two types. Generally, most types of green capsicum annuum will work (including green thai chilies. Mind the heat level, though!), but yield a subtle flavor difference. Substituting capsicum chinese types (green habanero etc...) could change the flavor profile and would need experimentation; doing away with all green chilies and only using red will leave something missing - (dried or fresh, whole or powdered) red chilies are traditionally used together with green chilies in indian recipes.

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No, it's totally different. Jalapenos are much less spicy and it's also a different feel to it. Try to get jalapenos if you can. If not, try to soak the serrano peppers in vinegar for a few hours after removing the seeds and inside and see if they are a little more appropriate then. Also reduce the amount by 50% even taking that into consideration...

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    I'm not wild about the idea of soaking in vinegar. Even if they only end up very lightly pickled, that's still not really the direction you want to go in. If the goal is just to reduce the heat, just scrape the membranes out really thoroughly; they'll hardly be spicy at all. – Cascabel Aug 17 '16 at 0:48

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