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What is a Poblano Pepper?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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A poblano pepper is a chili pepper cultivar native to the Mexican state of Puebla. This pepper is a common feature in Mexican and Southwestern cuisine. Many grocery stores carry poblanos if they feature several varieties of pepper, and they can also be special ordered in dried form from companies which specialize in traditional Mexican foods. There are a number of ways in which the poblano pepper can be used in cooking, and use of this pepper is not restricted to Mexican foods.

These peppers are mild in flavor, and are typically used when they are dark green. As they ripen further, they will turn red, eventually developing a red so dark that it almost appears black. The skin of the poblano pepper is also unusually thick, with many cooks peeling it before using the peppers in recipes. One classic use of the poblano pepper is in stuffed pepper dishes, as it is large enough to work well as a stuffed pepper and durable enough to hold up through stuffing and cooking.

When poblano peppers are dried, they are known as ancho chilies. Ancho chilies are dark black, heavily wrinkled, and heart-shaped. They have a more intense flavor, and are sometimes specifically called for in various Mexican dishes. Dried poblano peppers are available in many Mexican grocery stores, and larger supermarkets with a selection of common Mexican ingredients often carry the dried chilies as well.

In addition to being available fresh and dried, poblano peppers can also be purchased canned. Canned poblano peppers are usually peeled, so they are ready to use, and they may be canned whole or in pieces, so it's important to check the label on the can if whole peppers are needed. As long as the can is sealed, the peppers will keep for an extended period of time at room temperature. After the can is opened, the peppers will need to be refrigerated and used quickly.

It is possible to grow poblano pepper plants at home. They can be grown outdoors in USDA zones 10-12, or indoors in a greenhouse or warm spot in the house. Poblano peppers like lots of light, and they do not appreciate being overwatered. Good practice is to water the peppers in the morning if they look dry, taking care to avoid splashing the leaves, flowers, or fruits. As the peppers ripen, they can be harvested and used; seeds can be saved to grow more peppers in the following year.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments

By bfree — On Aug 31, 2011

@babylove - I've had that happen to me before too with an unbearably hot dish that my family wouldn't eat. We like some spicy foods but we weren't expecting it from a stuffed poblano.

I made it again later on only the next time I completely removed all the pepper seeds and membranes from the inside of the pepper. I think that must be where the heat comes from because it was much better and very mild than that first batch was.

By ddljohn — On Aug 30, 2011

@babylove-- I had the same thing happen to me! Did you use the green kind the first time and the dark red kind the second time?

I also thought that both green and red poblano peppers have the same spice level. But apparently, if the poblanos are picked off the plant right away when they are green, they are much milder. If they stay on the plant, they turn a dark red and become much more spicy!

Now I make sure to get green poblanos if I want them mild and red if I want spicier. Oh, if you want your food to be less spicy, you should also remove the flesh and seeds inside the pepper. It's milder when it's cooked without them.

By fify — On Aug 29, 2011

@turquoise-- You should also try vegetarian stuffed poblanos. You can also make them with broken wheat or quinoa. It's even healthier that way and it's also a safe option if you have guests over who might be vegetarian. Plus, they taste really good.

Aside from stuffing them, I also include poblanos in vegetable soups or grill them and make a salad with them. Grilling is great because it cooks the peppers without making them going too soft and the skin separates while it's on the grill. Peeling the skin is so easy that way. I usually slice them after peeling and add some minced garlic and olive oil and serve with fresh bread. It's an amazing appetizer. I only use red poblanos if I'm planning on grilling.

By turquoise — On Aug 28, 2011

I've been trying to add new vegetables into my diet and I picked up some poblano peppers at the store. There were actually eight different kinds of peppers available and I decided on poblano peppers simply because I had never tasted them before and it was noted as non-spicy. Spicy peppers and I don't get along.

I found a stuffed poblano pepper recipe and made it right away. I am so impressed! It really was very delicious, filling and healthy. The stuffing was made of rice and minced meat, so I really felt like it was a complete meal. I'm glad that I found something new that I can eat more often. Plus, they say that pepper are full of vitamin C and great for health.

Can you recommend any other good recipes with poblano pepper?

By babylove — On Aug 28, 2011

Are poblano peppers spicy when you bake them in the oven? I've had them in salsa and skillet dishes before, that were very mild, but when I stuffed them and baked them they were the hottest pepper I'd ever tasted. The only pepper I added to the filling was a little cracked black pepper.

Mary McMahon

Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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