8 Amazing Anaheim Pepper Substitutes

Anaheim peppers originated in California and are now popular all around the world. They have a fruity and smokey flavor that makes them a great pepper to eat on their own or as part of a recipe. However, depending on where you live it may be difficult to find some of these peppers. 

The best anaheim pepper substitutes are:

  1. Bell peppers 
  2. Poblano peppers
  3. Hungarian wax peppers
  4. Jalapenos
  5. Fresno peppers
  6. Shishito peppers
  7. Serrano peppers 
  8. Chilaca peppers

This list of peppers varies greatly in spice level from the completely non-spicy bell pepper to the super spicy serrano. This makes it easy to pick the exact spice level that you want while maintaining the delicious flavor that anaheim peppers are known for.

Anaheim Peppers Overview

Anaheim peppers are a type of pepper that was originally bred in Anaheim California. Since then it has become popular all throughout the United States and even in other parts of the world. It is an extremely mild pepper, but it still has a fruity and smokey flavor that other mild peppers, like the bell pepper, tend to lack. 

These are a larger variety of pepper and one of the most popular ways to eat them is stuffed. All you have to do is cut the peppers in half then fill them with whatever you want. One of the most popular stuffings is seasoned beef which you then top with melted cheese. It makes for a great low-carb dinner that includes plenty of protein.

How Hot Are These?

One of the primary reasons that these peppers are so popular is that they are extremely mild while still maintaining a nice smokey flavor. They usually sit between 500 and 2500 on the Scoville scale, making them milder than jalapenos and other common peppers. They are slightly more spicy than bell peppers, but it does not burn and even children enjoy this type of pepper.

What Can I Use Instead of Anaheim Chili Pepper?

Depending on where you live, it may be difficult to get anaheim chili peppers throughout the year. In these cases, you’ll want to find a substitute that still has the pepper’s fruity and smokey flavor in order to make sure your recipes still taste the same.

1. Bell Peppers

One of the easiest substitutes that you can use for anaheim peppers are bell peppers. These are the best peppers if you have a low spice tolerance and want to stick to something that won’t burn your mouth at all. For this reason, a lot of people actually like to eat bell peppers on their own with some type of dipping sauce like hummus.

They are super accessible and you would be hard-pressed to find a grocery store that doesn’t carry them. You can also do a lot of fun recipes with them that you can’t with other peppers due to their spice level.

You can chop up bell peppers and add them to a stir fry or eat them plain with some ranch or hummus. A super popular recipe that you can do with bell peppers is to cut them in a half and then stuff them with some kind of meat. This makes a great low-carb meal with lots of vitamins and protein to keep you healthy.

If you decide to use bell peppers, you may want to consider adding some extra spice. Since they’re so mild, they’re great for kids but for this same reason, you may find them a little bit boring.

2. Poblano Peppers

Another pepper that you can use as an anaheim pepper substitute is the poblano pepper. The poblano pepper is a large green pepper that is native to Mexico where it is used to prepare many traditional dishes. If you’ve ever eaten “chiles rellenos” at a Mexican restaurant, chances are you were eating poblano peppers.

Compared to anaheim peppers, poblano peppers are around the same spice level. They typically rest in the range of 1,000 to 2,000 units on the Scoville scale. Generally speaking, this will make them one of the best choices as an anaheim pepper substitute, you won’t have to alter the recipe too much considering the spice level.

It has a slightly more earthy and deep flavor than the bright anaheim pepper, but overall it makes a good substitute. Since these are larger peppers, they are also great for stuffing with different fillings like the bell pepper.

Sometimes these peppers can be a little bit difficult to find in a regular American supermarket. If this is the case, just make your way to the local Hispanic food shop and you’re sure to find what you’re looking for there.

3. Hungarian Wax Pepper

Now, this is a pepper that a lot of people haven’t heard of, but it can also be a great anaheim chili pepper substitute. It makes an especially good substitute if you’re a fan of spice because this one can be 20 times hotter than milder anaheim peppers.

You may find these peppers in a range of colors ranging from green to a bright red color depending on how ripe they are. As fully ripe peppers, they will have a more full flavor but the spice won’t mellow out at all. They are usually significantly spicier than the more common jalapeno pepper, so use caution when trying this one out. 

Flavorwise, these peppers usually fall on the tangier side of things which can make them pop a little bit extra in your recipe. These are also on the larger side, just the peppers that have already been mentioned, so you can use them for stuffing as well. 

You can also use them to make some delicious Hungarian wax pepper poppers with cream cheese to cut down on the heat. If you choose to do this you’ll want to remove at least some of the seeds to reduce the overall spice level.

4. Jalapenos

If the sound of poppers caught your attention then chances are you’ve been craving some jalapenos. No matter where you are in the world, chances are you’ve heard of these peppers. 

Just like the poblano pepper, jalapenos originated in Mexico where they are used in much of the local cuisine. If you’ve ever had an authentic Mexican salsa or guacamole, chances are you’ve tasted this pepper. They are also increasingly popular in the United States where they are used to add spice to a variety of recipes.

These small green peppers are also a cookout favorite when prepared on the grill as jalapeno poppers. Just remove the seeds, fill the peppers with some cream cheese, then wrap them in bacon and you’re good to go.

Jalapenos usually have a distinct peppery flavor and their heat level is pretty similar to that of the anaheim pepper. This makes them a good choice if you want to maintain the spice level that the anaheim pepper would have given to your recipe.

5. Fresno Peppers

If you like jalapenos but want an upgraded version of them, look no further than the Fresno pepper. This medium-sized red pepper was first produced in California around 70 years ago. Since then, they have become popular due to their reputation as a jalapeno but better. Just like the jalapeno, they also make a great anaheim chili substitute.

This pepper overall has a similar flavor to that of the jalapeno so if you’re a jalapeno lover, you know what to expect. However, they are smokier and fruitier than the jalapeno allowing you to have a more complex flavor experience. This also makes them great as it makes them more similar to the anaheim pepper flavorwise.

The exact flavor of the Fresno pepper depends on how mature of a pepper you purchase. Green Fresno peppers will have a more grassy, bright flavor like that of the jalapeno. Mature peppers will have the fruity and smokey flavor that these peppers are most well-known for. 

As for the spice level, you can expect these peppers to be quite a bit spicier than the anaheim pepper. They usually rest around 2,500 to 10,000 units on the Scoville scale. Keep in mind that this is a big range and the exact spice level will vary depending on the farm that it came from. Some produce peppers that are so spicy you’ll think it’s a serrano pepper.

6. Shishito Peppers

If you want a mild pepper, but don’t want to go with the more typical bell pepper, the shishito pepper is the way to go. As the name suggests, this pepper originated in Japan and is extremely popular in the food there. Traditionally, the whole pepper is grilled and then eaten with some type of sauce. It is mild enough that the seeds can be eaten without any issues.

These peppers are small green peppers that kind of look like mini banana peppers. They have a flavor that is sweet and smokey, making them a great pepper to throw on the grill. You can eat them raw, but cooking these peppers helps to release more of their prized flavor.

You may or may not be able to find these Japanese peppers in your local grocery store. Some will carry them whereas others will not. Regardless, you should always be able to find these peppers in your local Asian market. During the summer months, you may also be able to find them at a local farmer’s market. Farmer’s market peppers will have a much better flavor.

7. Serrano Peppers

If spicy peppers are your thing and you’re looking for a substitute that will take the spice to the next level, Serrano peppers may be your best option. These peppers originated from Mexico and are most popular in the states of Puebla and Hidalgo which are located in central Mexico. A lot of the food from that region, like the barbacoa of Hidalgo, features the flavor of this pepper.

These are green peppers that look very similar to jalapenos to the untrained eye. The main difference is that they are usually a slightly lighter green color. They are usually anywhere from one to four inches long making them around the same size as the jalapeno as well. If you’re looking for a stuffing pepper this isn’t it, but it’ll give your dish lots of good flavors.

They rest at around 10,000 to 23,000 units on the Scoville heat scale. This means they are many times spicier than anaheim peppers so be careful if you’re using them as an anaheim pepper substitute. You may need to reduce some of the other spices in your dish to account for the high spice level of the serrano peppers.

They usually have a fresh, grassy flavor like the Jalapeno. This means that they won’t have the same sweetness and smokiness that people love with the anaheim pepper. However, they’ll provide a lot of good spice that the anaheim pepper can’t.

8. Chilaca Peppers

Another good option that you can use as an anaheim chiles substitute is the chilaca pepper. Like a lot of the peppers on this list, the chilaca pepper is originally from Mexico. However, unlike the other peppers, in traditional Mexican cuisine, the chilaca pepper is almost never used fresh.

Traditionally, this pepper would be dried and then its husk and seeds would be used to flavor different foods. Chilaca peppers are a common ingredient in both mole and enchilada sauces as it provides a lot of spicy and smokey flavors. 

These peppers are such a dark green that they appear almost black. They are usually around the same level of spiciness as anaheim peppers. However, they have thin skins so they can’t be used for stuffing as anaheim peppers frequently are. 

You can usually find these peppers in any Hispanic store or at your local grocery store in the Hispanic section. However, it may be difficult to find the fresh peppers. If you can only find dried peppers, make sure to rehydrate them in warm water before you use them. This will make sure that the flavors come out of the peppers and infuse into the dish.

If you need fresh peppers for your recipe, you’re best off looking for them at a farmer’s market. They will usually have these peppers during the spring and summer months which is the pepper’s primary growing season. 

Final Thoughts

The next time you want to make some delicious stuffed peppers, don’t limit yourself to anaheim peppers. There are lots of other peppers that have a similar smokey and fruity flavor that come in varying spice levels. This makes them a great option if you’re looking to further customize your dish and don’t want to stick to the same old peppers every single time.

The best mild substitute for anaheim peppers are poblano peppers. These peppers are great for stuffing as well due to their large size. The best spicy substitute for these peppers is the Fresno pepper. This pepper is a whole lot hotter, but has the same fruity and smokey flavor, especially if you stick to the ripe peppers.