Both jalapenos and cherry peppers bring some heat and spice to dishes, but which variety packs more punch? There are a few factors that determine spiciness, so let’s take a closer look at how these two popular peppers compare.
Scoville Heat Units
The most common way to measure a chili pepper’s spiciness is by Scoville heat units (SHU). This scale was created in 1912 by Wilbur Scoville to measure the pungency of different peppers. A pepper’s Scoville rating indicates the amount of capsaicin it contains, which gives chili peppers their characteristic heat.
On the Scoville scale, the ratings for jalapenos and cherry peppers are:
|Pepper Variety||Scoville Heat Units|
|Cherry Pepper||100-500 SHU|
As you can see, jalapenos rate much higher on the Scoville scale than cherry peppers. The jalapeno’s rating can range anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, while the cherry pepper tops out around 500 SHU.
What Does This Mean?
These Scoville ratings give us a general indication that jalapenos are much spicier and hotter than cherry peppers. However, keep in mind that Scoville ratings are averages, and heat levels can vary depending on specific growing conditions and cultivation.
Factors Affecting Heat Level
There are a few key factors that affect the spiciness of a chili pepper, beyond just its variety:
The climate, soil, amount of sunlight and water all impact the spiciness of a pepper. For example, hot and dry conditions often produce spicier peppers.
Younger peppers tend to be milder, while mature ones pack more heat.
Where on the Plant
Pods from the top of a plant tend to be milder, while those growing lower down are spicier.
Where the pepper is grown makes a difference too, for example jalapenos grown in California & Texas are generally hotter than those from New Mexico.
For jalapenos, red ones are often hotter than green.
Removing seeds and membranes reduces heat, while including them increases it. Cooking, roasting or drying peppers also intensifies their spiciness.
Comparing Average Heat Levels
Taking all of these factors into account, on average:
- Jalapenos range from mild to very hot on the heat scale.
- Cherry peppers are generally mild to moderately spicy.
So while it’s possible to get a very mild jalapeno or an exceptionally hot cherry pepper, in most cases jalapenos pack significantly more heat and have greater potential for extreme spiciness.
The chemical compound responsible for spiciness is capsaicin. The more capsaicin a pepper contains, the hotter it is.
Here’s how jalapenos and cherry peppers compare in their capsaicin content percentages:
|Pepper Variety||Capsaicin Content|
Again, this shows that jalapenos contain significantly more capsaicin than cherry peppers. This explains why they register so much higher on the Scoville scale.
Another way to compare the heat levels of these peppers is to look at how they are commonly used in cooking:
- Hot sauces
- Spicy Mexican and Tex-Mex dishes
- Hot chili oil
Jalapenos are a very popular pepper used to add heat and a pungent spiciness to many dishes.
Cherry peppers are more commonly used for their sweet, fruity taste in cooked dishes and fresh preparations. Their mild spiciness adds a little kick, without being too hot for most palates.
Heat Scale Comparison
Using a heat scale of 1-10, with 1 being the mildest and 10 being the spiciest, jalapenos and cherry peppers compare as:
|Pepper Variety||Heat Scale|
Again, this gives a side-by-side look showing that jalapenos are significantly hotter on the heat scale, while cherry peppers are on the milder end.
The heat from chili peppers is often described as an intense “burning” sensation. Let’s compare how jalapenos and cherry peppers affect you physically:
- Cause an immediate burning feeling in the mouth
- Tingling, heated sensation spreads across tongue and lips
- Can cause profuse sweating and flushing of the face
- Intense gastrointestinal discomfort in some cases
When eating jalapenos raw or cooked, you immediately feel the intensity of their heat. Reactions intensify when you expose the seeds and membranes.
- Cause very mild to moderate mouth warming
- Tingling that dissipates quickly
- Very minimal facial flushing
- Rarely cause gastrointestinal issues
With cherry peppers, you’ll notice a slight burn but their heat tends to go away relatively quickly. They rarely cause extreme reactions.
Heat Over Time
Another way to compare the intensity of jalapenos vs. cherry peppers is to see how their heat builds and lingers over time:
- Jalapenos – Heat intensifies rapidly and can last for up to 20-30 minutes.
- Cherry Peppers – Heat is immediate but dissipates within 1-2 minutes.
Jalapenos tend to have a longer-lasting, intensifying burn, while cherry peppers deliver a short spike of heat that quickly fades.
Beyond just heat level, jalapenos and cherry peppers also have distinctly different flavor profiles:
Jalapeno Flavor Notes:
- Bright, green vegetable flavor
- Herbaceous, vegetal aroma
- Pungent, sharp heat
- Slight fruitiness underlying the heat
Cherry Pepper Flavor Notes:
- Sweet and tangy
- Fruity, cherry-like flavor
- Fresh bell pepper aroma
- Mild spicy warmth
As you can see, beyond heat level there are big differences in the tastes and aromas of these two types of pepper.
Appearance and Size
There are also some clear visual differences between jalapenos and cherry peppers:
|Jalapeno||Smooth, shiny exterior. Color ranges from green to red.||2-3 inches long|
|Cherry Pepper||Wrinkled, semi-dried looking exterior. Color ranges from red to yellow.||1-2 inches long|
So jalapenos are larger, smoother and can be either green or red. Cherry peppers are smaller, wrinkled, and are bright red or yellow in color.
Chili peppers like jalapenos and cherry peppers provide some great nutritional benefits. Here’s a nutrition comparison:
Jalapeno Nutrition Facts
- Vitamin C – 107% DV
- Vitamin A – 7% DV
- Vitamin B6 – 4% DV
- Vitamin K – 5% DV
- Manganese – 7% DV
- Potassium – 4% DV
- Copper – 9% DV
- Fiber – 3 grams
Cherry Pepper Nutrition Facts
- Vitamin C – 140% DV
- Vitamin A – 50% DV
- Vitamin K – 5% DV
- Potassium – 5% DV
- Copper – 6% DV
- Fiber – 2 grams
As you can see, both provide excellent vitamin C. Cherry peppers have more vitamin A, while jalapenos contain more vitamin B6 and manganese.
When purchased fresh, jalapenos and cherry peppers have the following average costs:
|Pepper Variety||Average Cost|
|Jalapeno||$1 per pound|
|Cherry Pepper||$3 per pound|
So jalapenos tend to be more affordable than cherry peppers. However, prices can vary depending on your region and time of year.
Growing Your Own
If you want to experience the full range of flavors and spice from these peppers, growing your own is ideal. Here are some tips:
- Easy to grow in gardens and containers
- Thrives in hot climates with full sun
- Ready to harvest in about 2 months
- Leaves pepper plant intact for continual harvest
Growing Cherry Peppers
- Grow well in containers
- Require full sun
- Take about 3 months to mature
- Pick peppers continually to encourage new fruit
With the right conditions, both are relatively easy peppers for home gardeners to grow.
Drying and Storing
You can enjoy both types of peppers year-round by utilizing these preservation methods:
- Fresh – Store in humid drawer of fridge for up to one week.
- Frozen – Either slice or freeze whole for up to 3 months.
- Pickled – Will last 1-2 months refrigerated.
- Dried – Dries well either air-dried, dehydrated or oven-dried.
- Fresh – Will keep 2-3 weeks refrigerated.
- Pickled – Last for 1-2 months stored in brine.
- Roasted – Can be roasted then frozen for 3-4 months.
- Dried – Air-dry or use a dehydrator and store in an airtight container.
Both jalapenos and cherry peppers can be enjoyed long after peak season by utilizing various preservation techniques.
If you need to sub one of these peppers for the other in a recipe, keep this in mind:
- Jalapenos can replace cherry peppers for more heat.
- Cherry peppers can stand in for jalapenos to make a dish milder.
- For best results, adjust other spices and heat elements in the recipe to compensate.
- You may need to increase or decrease the amount used when substituting.
Substituting jalapenos and cherry peppers for one another will significantly change the heat level of a dish.
When comparing jalapenos vs. cherry peppers, jalapenos unambiguously win in terms of heat and spiciness. On average, they rate 500 to 8,000 times hotter on the Scoville scale! Jalapenos also tend to have more lasting, intense heat.
However, cherry peppers hold their own with a bright, fruity flavor. Their mild spice adds a little kick without overpowering dishes. While less hot, cherry peppers do contain excellent vitamins and antioxidants.
So in the battle of jalapenos vs. cherry peppers, jalapenos take the crown for heat but cherry peppers shine in their versatility and flavor. With their varying degrees of spiciness and flavors, both peppers can make great additions to your recipes!