It’s not just you: jalapeño peppers are less spicy and less predictable than ever before. As heat-seekers chase ever-fiercer varieties of pepper—Carolina reapers, scorpions, ghosts—the classic jalapeño is going in the opposite direction. And the long-term “de-spicification” of the jalapeño is a deliberate choice, not the product of a bad season of weather.
This investigation began in my own kitchen. After months of buying heat-free jalapeños, I started texting chefs around Dallas to see if they were having the same experience. Many agreed. One prominent chef favors serranos instead. Regino Rojas of Revolver Taco Lounge suggested jalapeños are now “more veggie-like than chile.” Luis Olvera, owner of Trompo, said that jalapeños now have so much less heat that “I tell my staff, ‘I think my hands are just too damn sweet,’ because I can’t make salsa spicy enough anymore.”
To be fair, not everyone agreed with these views. One restaurateur wondered if jalapeños seem less hot because diners have become infatuated with habaneros and serranos. Wayne White, general manager at Hutchins BBQ, offered a middle ground. “I noticed during covid, the quality got really bad, but now to me they’re beautiful,” he said. “We did have a season during covid, you could tell they were pulling them too soon, they weren’t that ripe. But I ate a whole jalapeño the other day, just to eat one, and it lit me up.”