Jalapeños have been around since before the Aztec civilization. The Aztecs smoked these peppers to dry them since their thick flesh made sun-drying difficult. When smoked, jalapeños are referred to as chipotle peppers. Smoking was necessary since the peppers tended to rot rather than dry out when left in the sun.
The Aztecs used jalapeños to flavor meats including venison and seafood. The peppers were an ingredient in the spicy chocolate sauce known as mole in which the meats were sometimes cooked.
The name jalapeño comes from Xalapa or Jalapa, which is the capital of Veracruz in Mexico. The name came about in the 1950s and is used in Mexico for pickled jalapeños but not the fresh peppers. In the US, it is used to refer to both pickled and fresh peppers.
The jalapeño pepper has become the most widely used chili pepper in North America. Its mild but detectable heat is most likely one of the reasons for this. That heat is preserved perfectly in jalapeño powder, which is made from dried and ground peppers that have not been smoked. Modern technology has made it possible to dehydrate the peppers without the need to smoke them (otherwise you’d have chipotle powder).
Jalapeño powder flavor profile
Jalapeño powder offers a medium heat that is slightly less intense than that provided by cayenne powder. Along with its gentler pungency, jalapeño powder also offers a mild flavor similar to that of bell pepper – think more grassy and bright than the more neutral cayenne powder flavor. It’s typically found green (ground from dried green jalapeños), though there is red jalapeño powder as well (dried from mature red jalapeños). The red jalapeño powder is typically more earthy and often slightly spicier since the heat of peppers increases with time on the vine.
Health benefits of jalapeño powder
Jalapeño powder has several health benefits that come from the nutrients it contains, those nutrients include:
- Vitamin A: The vitamin A in jalapeños comes from carotenoids. Carotenoids are pigments found in plants that also function as antioxidants. The carotenoids in jalapeños can benefit your health in several ways, such as by improving reproductive health and the health of your immune system. Possibly the most important role that vitamin A plays is in the area of eye health. Carotenoids are converted to retinol, which helps your eyes adjust to light changes and keeps them moist. While a 1-teaspoon serving of jalapeño powder only provides about 8 percent of your daily vitamin A requirement, this is still significant given the relatively small quantity.
- Capsaicin: Capsaicin is the pepper component that causes the burning sensation in your mouth. The higher the capsaicin concentration is in a pepper, the more intense the heat. The concentration of capsaicin in jalapeños varies and is not as high as that of some other peppers such as the serrano or the habanero, but the compound is still present. Note that unlike some vitamins, the capsaicin concentration remains the same whether the pepper is fresh or dried.
- Dietary fiber: Dietary fiber is found only in foods from plants. Fiber is a carbohydrate that is not digested by gastrointestinal enzymes, which makes it different from other carbohydrates. Jalapeño powder provides about 3 grams of fiber per 1-tablespoon serving, which is about 12 percent of your daily recommended intake.
Jalapeño powder’s nutrients make it useful for preventing or treating illnesses and health conditions such as:
- Constipation: The fiber content of jalapeño powder means that it can increase stool bulk and regularity. This is important for overall colorectal health.
- High cholesterol: Fiber can reduce the level of low-density lipoprotein in your blood, which can lower your risk of heart disease.
- Cancer: The antioxidants in jalapeño powder scavenge the free radicals that can cause cancer. In addition to the antioxidant benefits, capsaicin has been found to be an effective cancer fighter. It has been shown to induce apoptosis in some cancer cells.
Common uses of jalapeño powder
This powder is versatile and can be used in many applications where the fresh jalapeño would be inappropriate. Use it to add a mild heat to your barbecue sauce, to a dry rub or simply as an alternative to black pepper. It is a great way to add the jalapeño flavor to cornbread or as a way to get the heat of hot sauce without the moisture.