The Fresno pepper is a variety originally from—you guessed it—California. Since its discovery, this succulent pepper has gained popularity in the western United States. Some say once you taste this pepper, your life is changed forever.
This fan-favorite pepper is often mistaken for a jalapeno, and it’s easy to see why with its similar features and taste when raw. Read on to learn about how this pepper is different and all about how to grow and use it.
Are you looking to buy Fresno pepper seeds? Check availability.
Characteristics of the Fresno Pepper
The Fresno pepper has glossy, waxy skin and starts green, then gradually changes from orange to red as it matures. Green peppers are around 2,500 Scoville Heat Units (SHU), and red peppers can reach up to 10,000 SHU.
Its shape is cone-shaped, similar to a jalapeno, though its shoulders are broader than the jalapeno. It also tastes like a jalapeno when raw but has a smoky flavor when cooked.
It’s worth noting that the Fresno is thinner-walled than a jalapeno, which makes it perfect for salsa or cooking in your favorite dishes. Some say it has a meaty aroma, like pepperoni when cooked in sauces.
Using the Fresno Pepper
The Fresno pepper was named after the county of Fresno, not the city.
The pepper was discovered in the 1950s by a grower and seed merchant named Clarence “Brownie” Hamlin, who lived in Clovis, California, which is not far from the City of Fresno, and part of Fresno County.
Today, it is a popular pepper grown throughout California and used in southwest cuisine. They’re found fresh in supermarkets, especially throughout the west coast. You can even buy fresh Fresno peppers on Amazon!
How to use the Fresno Pepper
Fresno peppers can substitute for jalapeno, chipotle, cayenne, and serrano peppers. Try Fresno peppers in these pepper recipes:
- Succulent Cherry Barbecue Sauce
- Jammy Pepper Pasta Salad
- Grilled Ribs with Homemade Sriracha BBQ Sauce
- Asian Style Spiralized Sweet Potato Noodle Stir Fry
You can buy dried Fresno pepper flakes to add to your dishes, or drying them yourself is easy if you have an electric food dehydrator.
Thoroughly rinse your peppers, remove the stems and cores, cut into ⅜-inch sections, and place them in the dehydrator tray. Peppers normally take about eight to twelve hours to dry in a dehydrator.
You can still dry your peppers if you don’t have an electric dehydrator. If it’s 90 degrees or hotter, you can even dry them outside if the humidity is below 60 percent.
To sun dry your peppers, rinse and remove dirt, lay them on stainless steel, plastic, or Teflon-coated fiberglass drying screen trays, and place them on blocks to increase airflow. Do not use metal, copper, or aluminum trays.
Once the peppers are dry, pasteurize them to kill any insect eggs that may have infiltrated them. Pasteurize them by sealing them in a freezer bag and placing them in the freezer for 48 hours, or you can place them in the oven at 160 degrees Fahrenheit for 30 minutes.
If the weather isn’t appropriate for sun drying, you can dry them in the oven at 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Any temperature higher will cook, not dehydrate your peppers. It will take around 16 to 24 hours in the oven.
Be sure to let your peppers cool completely before storing them. Dried peppers can be stored in a cool, dark place for several months. Store them in moisture-free packaging such as a glass jar or freezer container.
Canned peppers are delicious and a great way to keep your peppers for a long time after the harvest season has passed. Use them on sandwiches, burritos, pizzas, flatbreads, and more!
Check out these pickled Fresno pepper recipes:
Health Benefits of the Fresno Pepper
Red peppers are high in vitamins A and B, which are believed to help maintain blood sugar levels after eating.
Orange peppers are high in vitamin C and beta-carotene. Beta-carotene also gives the fruit its orange coloring. It’s an antioxidant that protects the body from free radicals, often from pollution, radiation, or medication.
The pepper also contains capsaicin, which studies have found increases and lowers your metabolism.
These peppers also contain iron, thiamin, and magnesium. These peppers have also been shown to help reduce cholesterol levels.
Learn to Grow Fresno Peppers
Fresno peppers thrive best in USDA zones 8 through 10, with California’s zone 9 being the sweet spot. If you live outside these zones, you can try to replicate it by growing your peppers indoors.
These peppers do not survive below 40 degrees Fahrenheit but do best in temperatures above 50 degrees.
You should always start your pepper plants seeds indoors six to ten weeks before your last spring frost if you plan to transfer them outside. They grow best in full sun and should be 12-24 inches in rows or blocks each way.
Learn how to care for pepper seedlings and how to plant peppers.
Depending on your preference, these peppers can be harvested as soon as they turn green, but you can wait until they turn orange or red. It takes about 75 to 90 days to reach maturity, so peak harvest time is from late summer through fall.
Where to Buy the Fresno Pepper
Park Seed sells Fresno pepper seeds. You will most commonly find their seedlings in California.
Look for fresh Fresno peppers at local farmers’ markets and grocery stores if you’re in the southwest. If you’re not a Southwest native or can’t wait to find them, you can buy them on Amazon.
The Perfect California Pepper
Now you know all about the Fresno pepper! Next time you’re in and around California, don’t forget to watch for it.
Researching the best pepper plants to add to your garden? Check out our pepper plant page to learn about more varieties.