The Safe and Simple Way To Chop Jalapenos

For many home chefs, jalapenos and other hot peppers may seem intimidating. 

Before culinary school, I was in the same boat. Once I learned the classical technique for how to cut jalapenos safely and the reasons behind these measures, it really eliminated the intimidation factor for me. I finally felt free to spice up my dishes whenever! 

In this article, I’ll discuss step-by-step how to cut jalapenos, handle hot peppers with care, and the best practices to prevent burning your eyes and skin. 

Let’s get chopping!

Where Does the Spice Come From?

the spiciness

I’ve found that the best way to eliminate nerves around an intimidating new food or technique is to demystify it. So where exactly does the spice in a jalapeno come from, and subsequently, how can you avoid its wrath? 

Jalapenos and other peppers classified as “hot” contain a compound called capsaicin. This hot and spicy natural chemical is concentrated in the pepper’s ribs and around the seeds. 

If you’re looking for spicier food, then you’ll probably want to incorporate the capsaicin-coated seeds into your recipe; if your tastes are on the milder side, then simply omit the seeds.

Capsaicin can be transferred from peppers to your skin via the oil around the pepper’s ribs or through its fumes via your eyes, nose, and throat.

Now that we know what creates the burning heat in jalapenos and where that spice concentrates, we can better avoid (or use) those bits to our benefit.

Before You Get Chopping, Let’s Talk Safety

Gloves

chef wearing gloves while chopping pepper

The most effective measure against capsaicin is to wear kitchen gloves. 

Thin latex gloves are not enough, especially if you prepare more than a few hot peppers. The capsaicin can burn right through thin latex. Instead, opt for a thicker food-safe glove to ensure you are protecting your skin from the burning oils inside the jalapeno.

Do not touch your skin, eyes, or any other part of your body with these gloves on, or you risk transferring the capsaicin. Remember to remove and dispose of the pepper-covered gloves when finished handling the jalapenos. 

Pro Tip: If capsaicin comes into contact with your skin, you can use alcohol, vinegar, or vegetable oil to break down the fiery compounds and dull the burning sensation. Flush with water if it comes into contact with your eyes or throat. 

Open a Window Or Consider Cooking Outside

Grilling asparagus and Jalapenos

Suppose you’re preparing a bowl full of jalapenos for a SuperBowl Jalapeno Popper appetizer or any other instance where you will be prepping hot peppers in quantity. In that case, you will want to air out the space.

Open the windows in your kitchen to create airflow so the fumes from the capsaicin don’t stay stagnant in your space, or crank up your range hood to get air moving.

 Similarly, consider cooking those peppers outside on a grill, or outdoor kitchen, to keep your area safe and clear of pepper-laced fumes. 

The Most Common Cuts for Jalapenos

What You’ll Need:

  • Clean jalapenos, of course!
  • Thick, food-safe gloves
  • A sharp chef knife
  • Cutting Board
  • Optional: Spoon for deseeding

Rounds

cutting jalapenos into round

Round cut jalapenos keep their seeds intact and therefore are spicer and used to garnish dishes or in recipes that will dilute the spice. 

For example, you can use round slices of jalapenos to top nachos or fish tacos. For recipes that would weaken the heat, rounds are preferred, like in pickled jalapenos and similar methods for preserving the peppers. 

  1. With your gloved hands, place the cleaned jalapeno on your cutting board.
  2. Use the jalapeno stem as your non-dominant-hand-hold to keep your fingers safe.
  3. Begin at the tip of the jalapeno and slice into the pepper using a rocking motion with your knife. 
  4. Continue this rocking motion until you reach about ½ in away from the stem, and discard this piece. It will be chock-full of seeds and unsavory tough plant matter. 
jalapeno on cutting board
holding peppr and chopping
cheff beggiing to chop pepper
chef wearing gloves while chopping pepper

Slice thickness will vary depending on the use, from ⅛ in thick to ½ in thick. 

Generally, I follow these guidelines: ⅛ in for garnish (like atop fish tacos)

¼ in for incorporation where you want to taste the pepper flavor, and not just the heat 

½ in for pickling and preserving

Pro-Tip: My favorite use for jalapeno rounds is in a popular preserving recipe called Cowboy Candy. If you aren’t a fan of super spicy foods, give this recipe a try. The sugar cuts the heat, so you can enjoy the spice without being drowned in it. 

Half-Moons

half moons jalapnenos

The half-moon cut is similar to the round cut of jalapenos and is used in similar applications. 

However, with this cut, you have the opportunity to remove the seeds and thus can more accurately control the heat level of your dish. 

  1. With your gloved hands, place the cleaned jalapeno on your cutting board.
  2. Begin by cutting the jalapeno in half length-wise, through the stem, to the tip of the pepper.
  3. If you would like to omit the seeds in your dish, you can use your fingers or a spoon to scrape out and dispose of the seeds and lighter-colored ribs from the pepper. Remember, capsaicin coats the ribs and seeds, which means spice! 
  4. Flip the jalapeno halves onto the cutting board so that they are flat and concave side down, and line them up next to each other.
  5. With your two jalapeno halves lined up, you can rock your knife through both halves simultaneously, starting at the tips and moving toward the stems, creating half-moon slices. 
  6. Continue this slicing motion until you have about ½ in of pepper left attached to the stem, and discard these bits. 
jalapeno on cutting board
cutting jalapenos in half
cleaning seed from jalapenos
starting to cut jalapenos
starting to cut jalapenos
jalapenos cut into halfmoons

Julienne

jalapenos cut into julienne

The primary use for julienned jalapenos will be sushi, spring rolls, or other dishes where all other veggies are thin and match-like strips. 

  1. With your gloved hands, place the cleaned jalapeno on your cutting board.
  2. Begin by cutting off the stem of the jalapeno
  3. Then, slice the pepper in half length-wise
  4. If you would like to omit the seeds in your dish, you can use your fingers or a spoon to scrape out and dispose of the seeds and lighter-colored ribs from the pepper.
  5. Now, slice each half of the pepper across the length into ⅛ in wide matchstick strips.
jalapeno on cutting board
cutting stem of a pepper
cutting pepper in half
cleaning seed from jalapenos
person cutting pepper into julienne

Dice

jalapenos diced on a knife

Diced jalapeno is best for salsas, guacamole, or any other dish where you want the pepper to be part of the whole instead of a feature or garnish.

Dicing a jalapeno is to go one step further than a julienne cut. 

  1. Follow steps 1-5 to julienne your jalapeno.
  2. Then, create a bunch of those julienned strips in your non-dominate hand, curling your fingers under your knuckles as a guide for the knife (the strips can be on top of each other, I take about 1 jalapeno’s worth of slices at a time)
  3. Now, slice through all of the strips about ⅛ in each stroke to create a square dice of the peppers.
jalapenos cut into julienne
dicing julienne stripes

How to Choose the Best Jalapenos

jalapenos on  a wooden surface

Have you ever wondered what those white lines on some jalapenos mean and if they have any bearing on the quality of pepper. 

Those white lines appear on fruit when the plant has been under stress during the growing period. This stress is usually when a plant has been starved of water and then soaked with it. 

When the plant is thirsty, its fruit (the peppers) will shrivel, and its flavor and capsaicin levels will become more concentrated. Then when the plant receives water, the fruit expands, and those white stretch marks appear. 

When choosing a jalapeno in the grocery store, know that the peppers with the white markings are older and spicer than their younger, milder, and blemish-free counterparts. Both are perfectly safe to consume, but choose the pepper based on the spice level of your dish and tolerance! 

How to Store Jalapenos

To store whole jalapenos, place them in a paper bag in your refrigerator crisper drawer.

To store cut jalapenos, place them in your refrigerator in an airtight container with a dry paper towel to absorb any excess moisture. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need to wear gloves when cutting jalapenos?

Yes, you should always wear gloves when cutting any hot peppers since the capsaicin in these peppers can burn your skin and eyes.

Do you remove seeds from jalapeno peppers?

Removing the seeds from a jalapeno is up to you and is dependent on the spice level you are trying to achieve in your dish. Jalapeno seeds are coated with spicy capsaicin, so the more you include in your meal, the spicer it will be. 

What will neutralize jalapeno burn on my skin? 

Alcohol, vinegar, and vegetable oils all break down the capsaicin compounds, which is what causes the burning sensation. Rubbing alcohol, vodka, and even degreasing dish soap are effective ways to break down the capsaicin compound and find relief.

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jalapenos on a wooden surface

How To Chop Jalapenos


  • Author: Jasmine Mattey
  • Total Time: 5 minutes
  • Yield: 1 generous tablespoon per medium jalapeno 1x

Description

Learn how to prepare jalapenos in the safest and simplest way possible and spice up your next meal! This step-by-step guide will help you conquer intimidating hot peppers once and for all.


Ingredients

Scale
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper

Instructions

For Rounds

  1. With gloved hands, using the stem as a hand-hold, begin at the tip of the jalapeno and slice into the pepper using a rocking motion with your knife.
    cutting stem of a pepper
  2. Continue this rocking motion until you reach about ½ in away from the stem, and discard this piece. It will be chock-full of seeds and unsavory tough plant matter.
    cutting jalapenos into round

 

 

For Half-Moons

  1. With gloved hands, cut the jalapeno in half length-wise
    cutting jalapenos in half
  2. If preferred, scrape out and dispose of the seeds and lighter-colored ribs from the pepper.
    cleaning seed from jalapenos
  3. Flip the jalapeno halves onto the cutting board so that they are flat and concave side down, and line them up next to each other.
    starting to cut jalapenos
  4. Then, rock your knife through both halves simultaneously, starting at the tips and moving toward the stems, creating half-moon slices.
    starting to cut jalapenos
  5. Continue this slicing motion until you have about ½ in of pepper left attached to the stem, and discard these bits.
    jalapenos cut into halfmoons

 

For Julienned

  1. With gloved hands, cut off the stem of the jalapeno
    cutting stem of a pepper
  2. Then, slice the pepper in half length-wise
    cutting pepper in half
  3. To omit the seeds in your dish, scrape out and dispose of the seeds and lighter-colored ribs from the pepper.
    cleaning seed from jalapenos
  4. Finally, slice each half of the pepper across the length into ⅛ in wide matchstick strips.
    person cutting pepper into julienne

 

 

For Diced

  1. Follow steps 1-5 to julienne your jalapeno.
    jalapenos cut into julienne
  2. Then, create a bunch of those julienned strips in your non-dominate hand, curling your fingers under your knuckles as a guide for the knife.
    dicing julienne stripes
  3. Finally, slice through all of the strips about ⅛ in each stroke to create a square dice of the peppers.
    jalapenos diced on a knife

 

  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Category: Knife Skills
  • Cuisine: Any, mainly Mexican and other South American cuisines

Keywords: how to cut jalapenos, how to chop jalapenos, how to cut hot peppers

Photo of author

Jasmine Mattey

About the author

Jasmine graduated top of her class from culinary school and has continued cooking and baking ever since. Alongside her passion for food, she is a total bookworm, writer, and editor. You can find her bookish ramblings on her website and bookstagram @voraciousbibliophage(.com).