Food & Drink

What Are Anaheim Peppers and How Do You Use Them?

Last Updated on February 26, 2024 | 0 Comments
Green Anaheim peppers shown in a basket.

Whether it's a cold, windy day in December or a sizzling hot Sunday in June, there’s never a bad time to spice up a dish with savory Anaheim peppers. Ideal for flavoring all sorts of Mexican and Southwestern dishes, the Anaheim pepper is like the poblano pepper’s cooler, younger Californian cousin.

If you’ve never heard of them before, you might be wondering what to do with Anaheim peppers. Firstly, what are Anaheim peppers? What do they taste like? And how hot are Anaheim peppers? For answers to these questions and more, check out our guide to this unique and mellow member of the nightshade family. 


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What Is an Anaheim Pepper?

The Anaheim pepper is a type of chile pepper that was popularized in Anaheim, California, although it actually originated in New Mexico. As the story goes, a farmer brought the seeds to California from New Mexico in the late 19th century. When he planted the seeds in Anaheim, the peppers quickly caught on and the name stuck. However, Anaheim peppers are also sometimes called “New Mexico chiles.” 

Anaheim peppers look very similar to hatch chilies and poblano peppers but with a slightly different heat level to both. This mild chile pepper grows to be about six to 10 inches long, with a color that changes from bright, intense green to rich, dark green or even red, depending on the strain. Like chile peppers, red Anaheim peppers are sometimes dried and strung together to make decorative ristras. Because of their mild, refreshing flavor and slight smokiness, Anaheim peppers are wonderfully versatile to use in soups, stews, queso, enchiladas and more. 

Red Anaheim peppers shown being dried in a bunch
via Canva

Are Anaheim Peppers the Same as Poblano Peppers?

Anaheim peppers are not the same thing as poblano peppers. They can be tricky to tell apart at first, but poblano peppers are wider and rounder with darker green skin. Poblano peppers, named after the region where they grow in Puebla, Mexico, are usually a bit spicier than Anaheim peppers. With that being said, their spiciness can vary, and Anaheim peppers and poblano peppers can often be substituted for one another. 

What Do Anaheim Peppers Taste Like?

Anaheim peppers have a soft, smoky and tangy flavor with just a little bit of kick. Overall, the flavor is mild and marries well with other ingredients. Unlike some other peppers, you may not be able to immediately detect the presence of Anaheim peppers in a dish, but they do offer a mellow and flavorful touch. 

A bunch of green Anaheim peppers
via Canva

Are Anaheim Peppers Hot?

These peppers may have a lovely fresh and savory flavor, but how hot are Anaheim peppers? Anaheim peppers usually fall around 500 to 1,500 SHU on the Scoville scale, rarely reaching higher than 2,000, depending on the strain. Still, even the hottest Anaheim peppers sit just below a poblano on the scale, making them mild and palatable for most people. 

For reference, sweet bell peppers are at a 0 on the scale. Poblanos are slightly hotter than Anaheim peppers at about 1,000 to 2,000 SHU. Meanwhile, jalapeños are around 3,500 to 8,000 SHU and habaneros can reach 350,000 SHU — so there’s no need to fear the burn when it comes to Anaheim peppers!

Anaheim peppers and other ingredients next to a bowl of salsa
via Canva

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Anaheim Pepper Recipes

Now that you know what they taste like, you may still be wondering what to do with Anaheim peppers. While most recipes will incorporate Anaheims into a hot dish, they can also add a unique flavor to salsa verde, pico de gallo, chimichurri or marinades. Anaheim peppers can even be eaten raw, but they are best enjoyed when cooked into savory, hot dishes.

For example, you can slice Anaheim peppers and simmer them into a hearty instant pot white chicken chili or chicken tortilla soup. Caldo de queso con papas is another popular soup containing Anaheim peppers.

Traditional chile relleno is made with a fried poblano pepper stuffed with cheese, but Anaheim peppers can be used as a delicious and slightly milder substitute. Anaheims are also great for making roasted stuffed peppers with fillings like seasoned ground beef, chicken, black beans or Spanish rice. For a simple and crowd-pleasing finger food, you can stuff halved Anaheim peppers with cream cheese, wrap them in bacon and pop them in the oven. 

There are so many wonderful ways to incorporate Anaheim peppers into your favorite recipes. One of the best ways to learn about and practice cooking with Anaheim peppers is to sign up for cooking classes near you or join online cooking classes. In cooking classes, you’ll gain the experience and knowledge you need to intuitively pair Anaheim peppers with other complementary ingredients and whip up mouthwatering recipes of your own. 

Anaheim peppers being friend in a pan with garlic
via Canva

How To Roast Anaheim Peppers

Whether you’re mixing them into a recipe or enjoying them on their own, roasting Anaheim peppers will bring out even more of their smoky flavor. To roast Anaheim peppers in the oven, line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, then lay down each pepper in a row. Broil the peppers for about 10 to 15 minutes, flipping them over halfway through. Continue roasting until they develop a crispy black char on the outside. You can also roast Anaheim peppers by placing them directly on a grill or non-stick griddle.

When the peppers are charred on all sides, remove them from the oven and toss them into a resealable plastic bag for about 20 minutes. The steam trapped inside the bag will loosen the charred peels so they’re easy to remove. Carefully peel the peppers and discard the crispy, charred skin, keeping the soft, roasted insides to enjoy. When you’re ready to use a pepper, slice it open lengthwise and use a spoon to scoop out the seeds. 

Anaheim peppers on a grill with tomatoes
via Canva

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Can You Freeze Anaheim Peppers?

Yes, you can freeze Anaheim peppers. In fact, you can even freeze them after roasting them. Freezing roasted Anaheim peppers is a great way to keep them on hand for recipes or ensure that your peppers don’t spoil before you can eat them. 

To freeze Anaheim peppers, slice, dice or cut them however you prefer, then lay the pieces out on a baking sheet. Pop the baking sheet into the freezer and when each piece is frozen solid, add them into a resealable freezer storage bag or container. Press out as much extra air as possible to avoid freezer burn. Tray freezing the peppers first will keep them from sticking together in the bag and make them easier to pour out later. 

When freezing pre-roasted Anaheim peppers, you can freeze the whole pepper after peeling. However, you may find it easier to scoop out the seeds first, then slice the peppers and freeze them for later use. 

A pile of green Anaheim peppers
via Canva

Where To Buy Anaheim Peppers

While they’re not super well-known, Anaheim peppers are pretty easy to find at your local grocery stores, including Whole Foods, Walmart, H-E-B or Target. Look in the produce aisle, near the other chiles and spicy peppers. If your local grocery store doesn’t carry Anaheim peppers, you may need to visit a specialty Mexican grocery store, look at a farmers market or order your peppers online. 

If you’d prefer to keep a constant fresh supply, Anaheim peppers are also very easy to grow in a backyard garden. These pepper plants prefer loamy, well-draining soil and full sun. Plus, there’s no need to stress about deer or droughts taking your crops; most deer won’t touch Anaheim peppers, and the peppers actually thrive in temperatures above 80 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Anaheim peppers and other produce on sale at a market
via Canva

Mild Anaheim peppers are sure to excite the taste buds of nearly anyone who tries them. With their widespread availability and versatile recipe options, there’s no excuse not to try Anaheim peppers in your favorite home-cooked meals. Whether you enjoy them raw or roasted, in hearty chile relleno or refreshing salsa verde, we hope you’ll give Anaheim peppers a chance to shine in your kitchen. 

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