Moderately Hot Chili Peppers & Suitable Substitutions

Some people find moderately hot chili and dishes that feature the spiciness of moderate chili unbearably spicy. For other people, moderately hot spiciness is just perfect.

The level of spiciness that is experienced is substantially a function of how long you have been eating spicy food and how hot the chili in your food normally is.

Thais, who eat spicy food from quite a young age, will find dishes using these chilis to be in a very acceptable range, maybe even a bit mild! But if you have not eaten much chili then be warned that you may well find dishes made with the chilies below much out of your comfort zone.

Check out our other chili guides for:
Thai Chilies & Their Substitutes
Mild Chilies & Their Substitutes
Hot Chilies & Their Substitutes
Cooking With Chili Tips & Info

Mirasol / Guajillo Chile Pepper

photo of a mirasol chili pepper
A Mirasol Chili – the Guajillo is the dried version

Moving up the scale of spiciness from our mild chilies, we have the Mirasol chili and its dried version the Guajillo chili pepper.

This is another chili of Mexican origin and commonly used in its dried version (guajillo) almost as much as dried poblano peppers or ancho.

It is a moderately mild pepper, hotter than the ones above on average and bordering on moderate heat. 

Often used in marinades, salsas, pastes, and rubs to apply on meat to be cooked.

What is the Best Substitute for Mirasol / Guajillo Chili Peppers?: Hungarian Wax Pepper, Jalapeno Pepper, Chipotle and Anaheim for a milder heat.

SHU: 3,500
Spice Level: Moderate

Hungarian Wax Pepper

photo of a dried Hungarian Wax pepper
A dried Hungarian Wax Pepper – Quite Moderate Heat Usually!

The Hungarian Wax pepper looks like a Banana pepper but is a different cultivar which is significantly spicier.

These peppers are usually harvested when yellow although if left to mature they will eventually turn red.

It is quite easy to mix up the Hungarian Wax and Banana peppers when shopping and if you do then a big spicy surprise will await you.

The Hungarian Wax peppers have a wide range of heat which can make it difficult to make dishes that are consistent in spiciness without some effort in tasting as you go.

Easy to grow and so popular to be pickled.

What is the Best Substitute for Hungarian Wax Pepper?: Guajillo, Hungarian Wax, Jalapeno, Fresno Chilies.

SHU: Ranged around 8,000 +/- 7,000
Spice Level:  Mild, Moderate or Hot depending

Jalapeno / Chipotle Pepper

Photo of a Jalapeno Chili pepper
The Infamous Jalapeno – Used to be Considered Hot but it’s Really Not

The famous Jalapeno used to be regarded as a hot chili pepper (to Westerners) before regional dishes became mainstream across the Western world.

In fact. the Jalapeno is only moderately hot. When dried and smoked it becomes known as a chipotle pepper and retains most of its heat level.

This pepper is usually harvested while green although yellow, orange and red colors develop as the pepper ripens.

One interesting fact about Jalapenos is that you can get an idea of heat level by looking at the number of brown scars that are formed in the skin. These scars are caused by the growing conditions, the same conditions that increase the spiciness of the pepper. So fewer scars equal milder and more scars equal spicier.

This pepper contains more than usual capsaicin in its seeds and the membrane that holds the seeds and so the heat level of the pepper can be reduced by removing the seeds and membrane to a greater degree than with most other varieties.

What is the Best Substitute for Jalapeno / Chipotle?: Serrano, Poblano, Fresno (often red but green are about), Hungarian Wax & Thai Luang (both generally yellow) 

SHU: Around 5,000
Spice Level: – Moderate to Medium

Fresno Pepper

photo of a Fresno Chili pepper
The Fresno Chili – Quite a good all-round substitute with care

The Fresno is a widely available chili pepper that is common in the USA and grown widely across California.

Although sometimes confused with the Jalapeno pepper, they are a different type, growing point up rather than point down as the Jalapeno does.

The Fresno and Jalapeno share a similar heat level. Fresno peppers are generally cultivated to be slightly milder than Jalapenos but the hotter ones are a tad hotter than the Jalapeno.

The Fresno can be harvested when green or left to ripen and go red as is the case with many varieties. But the green Fresnos are much milder than the red ones which help gauge the heat of the one you pick.

Shaped like an ice-cream cone, they are usually moderately small and look somewhat like the Thai Luang peppers which come up significantly spicier and are generally yellow.

This chili is a good all-round substitute if you vary the heat level by either including or removing the seeds and white seed-bearing tissue

What is the Best Substitute for Fresno Pepper?: Red Jalapeno (milder), Serrano (hotter & smaller), Thai Luang (hotter)SHU: Around 5,000
Spice Level: Average or Moderate – Red hotter, Green milder

Whatever you are cooking, always consider the spiciness of the chili you are using and start by adding less and tasting to get comfortable with how hot you want your food.

You will soon build up experience and instinctively know how many of each chili pepper to include in a recipe to get the level you like the best. It is all a subjective preference.

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