Whether you enjoy spicy or mild flavors, there is a chile pepper for you. The spiciness of peppers is rated using the Scoville Scale. This scale measures the amount of capsaicin in the pepper. Along with packing heat and spice, capsaicin has antioxidants that can help a variety of health concerns.
Here's a guide to the most common peppers found in Mexican cooking:
Sweet Bell Pepper: This is a very mild, sweet pepper available in a variety of colors - red, orange, yellow and purple. Green bell peppers are an immature variety and are bitter compared to the other colors. Bell peppers are great for kabobs, stir-fries, salads and stuffed with rice and vegetables. Scoville Rating = 0.
Anaheim Chile Pepper: Commonly referred to as a "Green Chile" or "Chile Verde." Approximately 5 inches long and ripen from greenish-yellow, to orange-yellow to red. Anaheim peppers are popular in salsas and are available canned in the Mexican food section at the market. Scoville Rating - 500 - 1,000.
Poblano Chile Pepper: The poblano is about 4 inches long and dark green. They are the perfect size and heat to use in Chile Rellenos, a popular Mexican stuffed pepper dish. Poblanos are very good roasted and added to stews and casseroles. Red and dried Poblano peppers are called Ancho peppers. Scoville rating -1,000 - 2,000
Hatch Chile Pepper: A native to the USA, Hatch chile peppers are grown and harvested in the Hatch Valley, New Mexico. Hatch chiles are a main staple in the southwest. Roast Hatch peppers and add to stews, main dishes, or stuff them with rice and cheese. Scoville Rating 1,000 - 2,500.
Jalapeño Chile Pepper: Almost everyone knows this spicy, little pepper! They are usually harvested when they are green and are about 4-6 inches long. Use jalapeño peppers in small quantities to add zip to any dish. Jalapeño peppers are also available in jars and cans in the Mexican section of food markets. Scoville Rating 2,500 - 8,000.
Chipotle Chile Pepper: This is not a unique pepper variety, but it is a roasted jalapeño pepper. Chipotle offers a delicious spice and smokiness to Mexican dishes. They are available canned (commonly packed in Adobo Sauce). Scoville Rating 2,500 - 8,000.