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Mexican foodie 101: serrano chiles

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Known for its crisp flavor and firm fleshy texture, the serrano chile is a definite workhorse when it comes to Mexican cuisine. At 10,000 to 25,000 Scoville units, it is hotter than its distant cousin, the jalapeño, which weighs in at a range of 2,500 to 5,000.

Championed for its clean tasting heat, the serrano is most often served fresh in dishes such as salsa, guacamole, pico de gallo, and pickled salads and relishes that accompany roasted meats and tacos. Versatile and abundant, serranos can also be used roasted, boiled, or grilled and often times become a handy replacement for jalapeños in a pinch.

Shorter in length than some other Mexican chiles, the serrano averages 1-2 inches long and about ½ inch wide. It is named for its place of origin, the Sierra, or mountainous region of the central state of Puebla. Available in stores at different stages of maturation, the serrano chile ripens from green to red, and can be purchased based on individual preference.

Serrano Chiles in Chicago:

Here in Chicago, serrano chiles can be found in a variety of forms. Fresh chiles are available for purchase in local Hispanic markets such as Supermercado Tampico, Fiesta Market, El Güero Supermarket, and Supermercado Gonzalez which are spread throughout the Chicagoland area. In addition, canned serrano chiles are also sold pickled with onions and carrots by the La Morena brand.

Lastly, for the do-it-yourselfer, serrano starter plants can often be purchased for planting in home gardens during the late Spring from many lawn and garden stores such as Home Depot, Lowe’s and Walmart.

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