Serrano Pepper Nutrition Facts and Health Benefits

Serrano pepper, annotated
Verywell / Alexandra Shytsman  

If you've ever been burned by the heat of serrano peppers, you might be wondering if they're hazardous for your health. In fact, the opposite is true. It is the intense spice of these peppers—which comes from capsaicin and dihydrocapsaicin—that actually provides some of their health benefits.

Although everyone's taste preferences are different, serrano peppers can be a nutrient-packed way to bring both heat and flavor to your favorite dishes.

Serrano Pepper Nutrition Facts

One cup of raw, chopped serrano pepper (105g) provides 33.6 calories, 1.8g of protein, 7g of carbohydrates, and 0.5g of fat. One cup of serrano pepper is a good source of vitamin C, potassium, copper, and manganese. The following nutrition information is provided by the USDA.

  • Calories: 33.6
  • Fat: 0.5g
  • Sodium: 10.5mg
  • Carbohydrates: 7g
  • Fiber: 3.9g
  • Sugars: 4g
  • Protein: 1.8g
  • Vitamin C: 47.1mg
  • Potassium: 350mg
  • Copper: 0.1mg
  • Manganese: 0.2mg

Carbs 

Serrano peppers have 7 grams of carbohydrate per cup. These carbs are almost evenly split between fiber (3.88 grams) and naturally occurring sugars (4.02 grams). Keep in mind that most recipes only call for one or two peppers in the entire dish, so you are not likely to consume a full cup. 

Fats 

Serrano peppers have just half a gram of fat per cup. A majority of this fat is in the form of polyunsaturated fat.

Protein 

One cup of serrano peppers provides 1.8 grams of protein. Serrano peppers are not a significant source of protein since you'd likely only eat a teaspoon of pepper or so at a time.

Vitamins and Minerals 

Serrano peppers contain vitamin C and potassium and also supply copper and manganese. Add these peppers to your diet and you also consume some calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, selenium, folate, vitamin A, vitamin K, vitamin E, and choline. Again, because the amount of serrano pepper that you would typically eat in a meal (or even a day) is relatively small, they are not a large source of any nutrient.

Calories

A cup of raw, chopped serrano pepper provides 33.6 calories. Like most fruits and vegetables, serrano peppers are low in calories (and are typically consumed in small amounts, so they don't add many calories to your daily intake).

Summary

Serrano pepper is a spicy pepper used in a variety of different cuisines. Because it's used in small quantities, it doesn't provide a significant amount of nutrients. But it does contain a variety of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, potassium, copper, and manganese, and is low in calories and fat.

Health Benefits

Many hot peppers offer potent health benefits and serrano peppers are no exception. They are worth including in cooking if you enjoy their flavorful heat.

Relieves Aches and Pains

Capsaicin from hot peppers, like serrano peppers, is used in topical creams to soothe pain and provide relief from deep tissue inflammation. Conditions like arthritis, tendinitis, and muscular strain from exercise or injury may benefit from the application of a capsaicin cream.

Capsaicin may help when used in other forms as well. For example, a 2021 study found that using an oral capsaicin rinse is effective for reducing pain in those with burning mouth syndrome. People with neuropathic pain may find relief with a capsaicin patch.

May Prevent Some Types of Cancer

Research on capsaicin and cancer is mixed, but several studies suggest capsaicin helps protect against the development of breast, pancreatic, bone, and colon cancer. Capsaicin appears to slow the growth of cancer cells by halting the cell cycle.

Supports Cardiovascular Health

A review of studies published between 1981 and 2016 found that in many, capsaicin helped reduce bad cholesterol levels while increasing good cholesterol. It's thought to work, in part, by reducing cholesterol absorption in the intestine and increasing cholesterol excretion.

The potassium and vitamin C in serrano peppers also provide well-established cardiovascular benefits by reducing blood pressure and reducing disease risk.

Assists With Blood Sugar Regulation

Capsaicin supplements have been shown to reduce high blood sugar levels and lower the overproduction of insulin in women with gestational diabetes while also improving glucose tolerance in men. Additionally, capsaicin is detectable in the blood after only 10 minutes, suggesting a fast-acting response.

Allergies

Spice allergies are rare, impacting around 0.1% of the population. The American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology (AAAAI) explains that there are two basic reactions to spice: non-allergic and allergic.

Non-allergic reactions include developing a skin rash, itchiness in the mouth, and coughing if you inhale the spice. Conversely, an allergic reaction might include hives, itchy or teary eyes, vomiting, swelling, and—in severe cases—anaphylaxis.

If you suspect that you may have an allergy to spices, see an allergist for a full evaluation.

Adverse Effects

If you suffer from heartburn or irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), hot peppers can be a gastric irritant. If you notice discomfort with serrano peppers, you may be able to tolerate more mild peppers better. A dietitian or gastroenterologist can help address your individual concerns.

Measuring a Pepper's Heat

The Scoville scale measures the heat of chili peppers and other foods based on their level of capsaicin—the active component that makes them so hot. Serrano peppers usually fall in the middle of this spectrum:

  • 0 to 100: Bell pepper
  • 100 to 1,000: Banana pepper
  • 1,000 to 10,000: Jalapeño pepper
  • 20,000 to 30,000: Serrano pepper
  • 10,000 to 100,000: Cayenne pepper
  • 100,000 to 350,000: Habanero pepper

Varieties

Serrano peppers come in a variety of colors depending on maturity. While green and red may be the most common, you can also find mature serrano peppers that are brown, orange, or yellow. Speak to your grocer or a farmer at your local farmer's market to learn more about the serrano peppers available to you.

When It's Best

You can generally find fresh serrano peppers in the grocery store year-round. You may also find them at your local farmer's market in the late summer. To choose the best fresh peppers, look for smooth, firm skin that's free of blemishes.

In addition to being available in their fresh, natural state, serrano peppers can also be found dried, canned, or pickled. This enables you to enjoy their spicy flavor anytime you want without worrying about using them before they spoil.

Storage and Food Safety

Store serrano peppers in the refrigerator for up to 3 weeks wrapped in paper towels or in a paper or plastic bag. You can also store peppers in the freezer after chopping them. If you prefer to blanch them before freezing, cut into half-inch strips and boil for 2 minutes (boil pepper halves for 3 minutes).

After blanching, place the peppers in an ice bath or run cold water over them until they are cool. Lastly, drain and bag, leaving a half-inch headspace, then freeze.

How to Prepare

Rinse fresh peppers under running water just before you're ready to use them. If you prefer to reduce the pepper's fiery flavor somewhat, remove the membrane near the stem and the seeds. You can cook with every part of serrano peppers (except the stem).

Avoid getting the oils on your skin by handling the peppers with rubber gloves. Wash your hands well and avoid touching your face until all of the pepper oil has been removed. You may also want to wear goggles to avoid eye irritation.

In most recipes calling for jalapeños, you can substitute serrano peppers for an extra-spicy kick.

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16 Sources
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