8 of the Best Poblano Pepper Substitutes
Poblano peppers are well known around the world for their garden-fresh flavor and deep, forest-green color. They originate in Puebla, Mexico and are especially popular there, as well as in the southern states.
Poblanos are a fresh pepper that, when dried, become ancho. They are fresh and crisp and have a slight sweetness as well as a subtle smoky flavor for which they are famous!
In terms of spice, poblanos are low on the spice scale (ranging from 1,000 to 1,500 on the Scoville Pepper rating system, which is significantly lower than a jalapeño (i.e. 2 and 8 times milder). When poblano peppers are left to ripen fully (when they turn red), they can become spicier.
Poblanos grow well with lots of heat and sun and have an average growing season of 200 days from seed to harvest, fairly average for peppers. When they are ripe, they are dark green and about 4 inches long.
There are a few different varieties of poblano peppers. Pasilla peppers, which are often mistaken for poblano, are smaller and darker and can be pretty spicy. Mulato peppers are a variety of poblano that is much darker, almost brown, and much sweeter.
Poblano peppers are known for their versatility. They can be grilled, sautéed, fried, or eaten raw. They are the main ingredient in chiles Rellenos which is a must-try dish when you are in Mexico. They are also a common ingredient in mole sauce, rajas con crema, and in the popular festival dish called chiles en nogada, which emulates the colors of the Mexican flag.
The skin of poblano can be a bit tough and is often removed in the cooking process. This is achieved by roasting and peeling and is a common process when processing poblano for canning or freezing.
Poblanos of course have a season and can be very hard to find outside of it, especially in more temperate climates. Here are 10 great substitutes if you cannot find poblano.
1. Green Bell Pepper
Bell peppers are a great option as they share a lot in common with poblano peppers, and you should be able to find them anytime, anywhere. They are of course milder than poblano, and sweeter too. If you are looking for a stuffed pepper recipe, bell peppers will be a good bet because they are large and have thick, sturdy walls.
However, green bell peppers can be quite bland and are missing that spice you might love! If you’re looking for spice, you can always add your favorite hot sauce, chili powder, or chili flakes.
2. Jalapeño Pepper
Speaking of spice, jalapeños are poblano’s spicy cousin! They can be used in very similar recipes as poblanos, but it is important to note two key differences: jalapeños are spicier and smaller, so you may need more than you think for your recipe, and you may need to tone down the spice.
Jalapeño goes great with salsa, cheese, and sour cream, and will quickly become a favorite ingredient in your Mexican recipes! One of the best recipes out there is for stuffed, barbequed jalapeños. So what are you waiting for?! Get out there and start grilling!
3. Ancho Peppers
Ancho peppers, as you know, are dried poblano peppers, so you can certainly use these as a substitute in most recipes! You can rehydrate dried anchos in water and look forward to a more intense, earthy, and smoky flavor. Now, these of course will not be suitable for every recipe, so use your best judgment.
Rehydrated ancho peppers are a special treat and can be found in specialty stores and kept in an air-tight container for months or years. You can also dice them up and add them to any dish for added flavor and spice!
Ancho peppers are equally as mild as poblano, so if using this as a substitute, you may want to consider adding some spice.
4. Guajillo or Anaheim Pepper
Guajillo peppers are about the same spice as jalapeños, meaning they are quite a bit spicier than poblano. They will be a great alternative to poblano but share a similar growing season, so there is a chance that these will be equally hard to find if you cannot find poblano.
Anaheim peppers are sweet and mild, like poblano, and will increase in sweetness and heat when cooked. Although both these peppers are slightly smaller than poblano, they are sturdy peppers, and will make a good pepper for stuffing, meaning you could use either of these to make chiles Rellenos!
But don’t just trust us… get out there and try it!
5. Cubanelle or Pepperello Peppers
Both these varieties are mild, sweet, and pale green. They are commonly used for those thin sliced pickled peppers you might see on burgers or in sandwich shops, because of their tender texture and sweet flavor!
These peppers tend to have skins and walls that are much thinner than poblano, but they are still both good options for stuffing, baking, grilling, or eating raw!
6. Red Bell Peppers
Like green bell peppers, red bell peppers are super mild and have virtually no heat, so they will be a great alternative to poblano, especially if you’re cooking for kids!
Unlike green bell peppers though, red bell peppers are full of flavor and will make any recipe you’re making extra delicious, especially if you can use these peppers when they are in peak season. Red bell peppers can be grilled and peeled, stuffed and grilled, or sliced and eaten raw or in sautées.
7. Mulato Peppers
Mulato is a variety of poblano that is especially popular for making mole because of its natural dark brown color and rich flavor. Mulato peppers are a special treat if you can get them! They may, however, be even harder to find than poblano, so you may need to turn to some other alternatives on this list first!
If you can find them, you can use mulato exactly the same way you would use poblano, but just keep in mind that their skin is darker and can be a bit tougher, so you may need to make adjustments.
8. Canned Poblano
Now, hear us out… normally we would not promote using a canned product instead of a fresh, seasonal vegetable. However, the people of Mexico have really figured this out! Canned poblanos are picked in peak season and canned with care, meaning they are actually quite good!
You may want to consider this option as a last resort, but in all honesty, if you can find a trusted brand, canned poblanos are actually a pretty great substitute! You could also try canned red peppers, which will be similar in texture but will lack that earthy, smoky flavor that you can only get from poblano.
We really can’t say enough about poblano peppers—they’ve got something for everyone. A little spice, a little sweetness. They’re crisp and juicy and become super tender when cooked. Their unique and memorable deep green color makes them a unique find, and a special treat.
Whether you are making a classic poblano dish or something a little more simple such as a fajita or quesadilla, poblano peppers are an excellent addition to your pantry or fridge. We hope you’ll try any of these substitutes if you cannot find poblano, and that you’ll consider spicing it up if that’s your thing!