Pronounced “suh rah noh”, Serrano Pepper these workhorse chiles are a member of the species Capsicum annuum. Most of us are more familiar with this slender jalapeno looking chile in its fresh from where it is easily found in many local supermarkets. Native to the Mexican states of Hidalgo and Puebla, this chile is named as after this area’s mountainous region. Serrano pepper translates to “from the mountains”.
The Serrano, when growing, is green and then ripens to deep scarlet red in color, but they can also occasionally mature to orange, yellow or brown in color. When green, the Serrano pepper is sometimes referred to as Chile Verde. The Serrano pepper chile is tubular in shape tapers to a point, and measures approximately 1-1/2” to 2” long and ½” wide.
When left on the vine to fully ripen, the serranos are harvested and then smoked dry. Dried red Serrano is also known as “Balin, chico, topics, and largo” and, in this country, they may also be referred to as dried Serrano peppers or Smoked Serranos. You’ll find some who refer to the dried Serrano as “chile seco”, but that really translates to the ubiquitous term “smoked chiles”.
The Serrano pepper is considered a medium heat chile and comes in at 8,000-18,000 SHU. The flavor profile of the savory Serrano is a crisp, smoky, fruity flavor with citrus undertones and a heat that lingers.
Wildly popular in Mexican cuisine, the Serrano pepper is similar looking to the popular Guajillo Chile, and it’s closely related cousin the Puya Chile. As hardcore chile heads, we love to use this as a great substation chile. While the cayenne chile is used in numerous cuisines, it’s really just for the clean heat that it provides as it has virtually no real flavor so we’ll use the smoky Serrano instead. We’ll also use them in place of Guajillo Chiles when we’re in search of a bit more heat, and because these are smoked chiles they give a nice unexpected flavor when used in place of chipotles.
We use Smoked Serrano Chiles in spicy authentic Mexican sauces and we’ll use them in chili, marinades, and salsas as well. They work exceptionally well when paired with mango or pineapple for a perfectly balanced spicy and sweet salsa.
The Serrano Chile, with subtle heat, is great when used in your favorite Chile, soup, sauces, rice dishes or salsa. Add to a chicken or fish marinade for a complex flavor with a punch of heat.
Dried, the flavors undergo a radical transformation: they smell of brown sugar, molasses, tomatoes, and smoke. Lightly toasted, they begin to smell like concentrated barbeques sauce. One of the most widely used chiles in Mexican cuisine the serrano chile pepper is probably the one dried pepper you must have in order to keep a proper international pantry.
To get the most intense flavor from our Serrano Chiles, we like to roast them in a dry skillet or in the oven.
How to Roast & Freeze Serrano Peppers
- Preheat the oven to “broil.”
- Wash the peppers under cool running water and dry them off with paper towels.
- Slice the stems off the peppers and cut them in half length-wise.
- Scrape out the seeds with the knife and discard them.
- Set the peppers onto a broiling pan or baking sheet with the skin facing up in a single layer.
- Slide the pan into the oven and allow them to cook for 10 minutes.
- Remove the peppers from the oven. Use tongs to pick them up and drop them into a small paper bag or plastic container with a lid. Seal up the bag or container to trap the heat inside.
- Leave the peppers in the bag or container for 15 to 20 minutes.
- Take the peppers out and peel away the skins and discard them. They will still be hot from the oven so use caution. It may be helpful to lay them out on a plate and allow them to cool enough to touch first.
- Arrange the peeled roasted peppers onto a wax paper lined cookie sheet in a single layer.
- Set the cookie sheet into the freezer and leave it there for 30 minutes to an hour.
- Remove the cookie sheet from the freezer and place the peppers into a freezer bag.
- Place the bag in the freezer marked with the date. Use a permanent marker to write on the plastic.
Homemade Green Enchilada Sauce with Roasted Tomatillos
This green enchilada sauce recipe is an alternative to the more traditional red enchilada sauce.
- 1 pound tomatillos
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 jalapeno peppers
- 2 poblano peppers
- 2 serrano peppers
- 2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- ½ tablespoon cumin
- 1 tablespoon spicy chili powder
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups chicken broth
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Peel and rinse the tomatillos. Chop them in half and set them skin sides up onto a lightly oiled baking sheet.
- Slice all of the peppers in half lengthwise and set them on the baking sheet. You might need more than one sheet. Also, remove the innards of the poblano before placing them.
- Add garlic to the baking sheet and broil not too close to the heat source for 20-30 minutes, or until the pepper skins are nice and charred. Remove from heat and let cool.
- Peel the skins from the peppers, if desired, and add to a food processor with tomatillos. Squeeze the garlic from their skins and into the food processor they go.
- Add cilantro, cumin, chili powder and salt and pepper.
- A process to combine.
- Add chicken broth and process until smooth.