Poblano peppers are heart-shaped peppers originating in Mexico. Mildly spicy with a slight kick, these peppers are usually eaten while they are still green and at their hottest.
As they ripen, poblano peppers turn red or dark brown and the flavor diminishes.
Many other peppers make good substitutes for poblano peppers. Although these peppers have a unique flavor, other peppers have similar flavor notes and also add the same spicy taste to many dishes.
Best Poblano Pepper Substitute: Jalapeño Peppers
The best poblano pepper substitute is the jalapeño pepper because these peppers are also spicy. Both peppers originate in Mexico, and are popular for the hot, spicy flavor they add to foods.
Although jalapeño peppers are a different shape from poblano peppers, both have a similar texture.
These peppers are sweeter and have a more earthy flavor than poblano peppers, but the two types have a similar taste, making jalapeños a good substitute.
When making stuffed peppers, use jalapeño peppers as a replacement for poblano peppers. Removing the pith from the inside of the peppers reduces the heat slightly.
Whether using them in cooked foods like salsas or rice dishes, or raw in salads, use jalapeño peppers as a 1:1 substitute for poblano peppers.
Other Poblano Pepper Substitutes, Alternatives, and Replacements
There are also other foods that make good substitutes for poblano peppers. Here’s a list of foods that you can use as replacements.
Pepper Substitutes for Poblano Pepper
Bell peppers can be used as a substitute for poblano peppers because these peppers look similar and have a similar flavor, but bell peppers are more mild and less earthy.
While both red and green bell peppers make good substitutes for poblano peppers, green peppers are closer in heat and flavor because red peppers are sweeter and less spicy.
If bell peppers aren’t hot enough for your recipe, add some chili flakes to spice up the dish.
Bell peppers work well as poblano pepper substitutes in stuffed pepper recipes because bell peppers are big, with a large cavity, making them perfect for stuffing. When replacing these peppers, use one bell pepper in place of one poblano pepper.
Anaheim peppers have a similar appearance and flavor to poblano peppers, so Anaheims work well as a replacement.
These peppers are hotter and spicier than poblanos, and Anaheim peppers become even spicier when cooked, so when substituting, fewer peppers are needed.
Chop or slice Anaheim peppers in the same way as you would poblanos when making salsas and other spicy dishes. These peppers are also great for stuffing.
Cayenne peppers make good substitutes for poblano peppers because the flavor of these two is very similar.
Cayenne peppers are usually dried, or sometimes crushed and used in powder form, but when used in cooked foods these peppers add a delicious kick.
Use cayenne peppers as a 1:1 replacement for poblano peppers for a similar flavor in cooked foods.
These peppers aren’t suitable as a replacement for poblano peppers in stuffed pepper recipes because cayenne have a long, thin shape and are difficult to fill.
Cubanelle peppers are less spicy, but work as a replacement for poblano peppers if you add extra spice or chili powder for heat.
Cubanelle peppers are great for stuffing with meat, cheese, or rice, though these peppers are thinner than poblano peppers, so cubanelles hold less stuffing.
Adapt recipe quantities accordingly in recipes for stuffed peppers. Either use more peppers or make less stuffing. In other recipes, use 1 cubanelle pepper in place of 1 poblano pepper.
Guajillo peppers are hotter and spicier than poblano peppers, so use these peppers in moderation when replacing poblanos.
Guajillo peppers are often used in dried or powder form, but can also be used fresh.
Because of their intense heat, guajillo peppers are popular in Mexican dishes like salsa and work well as a poblano pepper substitute in most Mexican foods.
Use 1 guajillo pepper in place of 2 poblanos to avoid an overpowering spicy flavor.
New Mexico Chilies
Although not scientifically classified as a pepper, New Mexico chilies are commonly called peppers and are popular in Mexican cuisine.
New Mexico chilies are a great substitute for poblano peppers because of the chilies’ heat, taste, and earthy flavor.
Because New Mexico chilies are a lot smaller than poblano peppers, use 2 chilies in place of 1 pepper in sauces, stir-fries, and salsa.
Because of their thin, elongated shape, these chilies aren’t good in stuffed pepper recipes.
Ancho Chili Peppers
Ancho chili peppers are dried poblano peppers, so although ancho’s chili are difficult to find, they make a good substitute.
Because ancho chili peppers are dried, they aren’t as spicy as poblano peppers and have a smokier taste. Use 2 ancho’s as a substitute for 1 poblano in salsas, sauces, and baked dishes.
Dried peppers aren’t suitable for stuffing, so avoid using ancho chili peppers as a poblano pepper substitute in stuffed pepper recipes.
Banana peppers are mild, sweet peppers with a subtle hint of spice and work as a substitute for poblano peppers if extremely hot, spicy foods aren’t preferred.
For extra heat use 2 banana peppers in place of 1 poblano pepper in Mexican dishes like salsas and sauces, or add some extra spice or chili powder to the dish.
Sliced or chopped banana peppers are an excellent replacement in salads with less heat. Because of their long, thin shape, banana peppers aren’t a suitable replacement in stuffed pepper recipes.
Banana peppers are often pickled in brine, so avoid using pickled banana peppers as a replacement in Mexican dishes as the pickled flavor of these peppers doesn’t go with Mexican foods.
Serrano peppers are small peppers originating in Mexico and are popular in Mexican cuisine. These peppers may be small, but they are hot and spicy, adding a strong kick to foods.
Use these peppers sparingly as a substitute in salsas, sauces, and stews, because serrano peppers are much hotter than poblano peppers.
Because of their small size, serrano peppers can’t replace poblano peppers in stuffed pepper recipes, but serranos are delicious as a replacement in salads.
The habanero pepper is a small, extra-hot pepper with a powerful punch. These peppers are usually eaten while they are still green because, as the peppers ripen, the color changes to red, orange, or yellow, and the heat fades slightly.
Use habaneros as a 1:2 replacement for poblano peppers in most Mexican dishes, to keep the same balance of heat.
Habanero peppers have a tinge of sweetness that counteracts the hot flavor, making them a great substitute when eaten raw in salads, but these peppers aren’t good for stuffing because of their small size.
Thai Chili Peppers
Thai chili peppers come in numerous varieties and are among the hottest small peppers.
Use these peppers sparingly as a substitute for poblano peppers in salsas, stews, and sauces, because Thai chilis are much hotter than poblanos.
Use 1 Thai chili pepper in place of 2 poblano peppers.
Slice these peppers and add them to salads, but don’t try to stuff Thai chili peppers because they are too small.
Fresno peppers work as a poblano pepper substitute because these peppers have a similar spicy flavor and heat level. However, Fresno’s are sweeter and smokier.
Use Fresno peppers as a 1:1 substitute in salsas, sauces, and rice dishes. The smoky flavor of Fresnos won’t adversely affect the overall taste of the dish.
In stuffed pepper recipes Fresno’s can be used as a substitute, but these peppers hold less stuffing because they are smaller than poblanos.
Spice Substitutes for Poblano Pepper
Poblano peppers add spice and heat to a dish, so similar flavors can be achieved by using certain spices, although the texture of the dish will be smoother when omitting the peppers.
Hot Paprika & Sweet Paprika Blend
Paprika is a spice made from different varieties of red pepper and is available as either hot paprika or sweet paprika, depending on the type of pepper used.
Adding paprika to a dish in place of poblano peppers works in salsas, sauces, stews, and rice dishes because this spice provides heat with a sweet, earthy, and smoky flavor.
Use a mixture of sweet and hot paprika to achieve a balance, according to personal taste preferences.
Chili powder is made by grinding dried chilies into a fine powder that gives food a spicy, hot flavor.
Use chili powder sparingly as a substitute for poblano peppers, because the powder’s heat is more intense.
Add ¼ teaspoon chili powder to sauces, salsas, and stews in place of 1 poblano pepper.
Ground Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne pepper spice is made from dried, ground cayenne peppers and has a similar spicy, smoky flavor to poblano peppers.
Add half a teaspoon of this spice to dishes like salsas, sauces, and stews as a replacement for 1 poblano pepper. For more or less heat, adjust the quantity of spice according to taste.
Black peppercorns add a peppery flavor to foods and can be used as a substitute for poblano peppers, although the dish will lack an earthy flavor.
Add 4–6 black peppercorns in place of 1 poblano pepper.
Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Freshly ground black pepper has exactly the same flavor as black peppercorns and can be used as a replacement for poblano peppers in most Mexican recipes.
Use ¼ of a teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper in place of 1 poblano pepper to add a spicy, peppery flavor.