…in jalapeño! The other night, hubby requested double-decker tacos, and to go along with them, I decided to make some homemade Jalapeño Poppers as an appetizer.
Traditionally, Jalapeño Poppers are jalapeños that have been ribbed and de-seeded, filled with cheese(s) and/or meats, then battered or breaded and fried. This homemade version is lighter in calories and lower in carbs and fat than most traditional poppers because it is
- baked, not fried;
- skips the batter; and
- is made with reduced-fat cheese.
If you’re wanting a crispy coating, you can coat and “oven-fry” the poppers as described for vegetables as I describe in my homemade “Shake ‘n’ Bake” recipe:
Or, alternatively, you can use the egg coating as I describe for chili rellenos — just adjust the number of eggs based on the quantity of jalapeños and the size baking dish you have:
Another twist that folks sometimes enjoy is to take 1/2 or 1/3 slice of turkey or pork bacon (vegetarians, use a vegetarian bacon), wrap it ’round each popper, and secure with a toothpick before baking.
I bet you didn’t know that jalapeños are actually a fruit, did you? (Isn’t Wikipedia handy? 😉 )
Jalapeños are a pod type of Capsicum. The growing period is 70–80 days. When mature, the plant stands two and a half to three feet tall. Typically a plant produces twenty-five to thirty-five pods. During a growing period, a plant will be picked multiple times. As the growing season ends, jalapeños start to turn red. Jalapeños thrive in a number of soil types, and temperatures if they are provided with adequate water. Once picked, individual peppers ripen to red of their own accord. The peppers can be eaten green or red.
Jalapeños have 2,500 – 8,000 Scoville heat units. Compared to other chilis, the jalapeño has a heat level that varies from mild to hot depending on cultivation and preparation. The heat, caused by capsaicin and related compounds, is concentrated in the membrane (placenta) surrounding the seeds, which are called picante.
And in case you’re unfamiliar with the Scoville scale:
The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates chemoreceptornerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes.
IMPORTANT SAFETY NOTICE: Whenever you’re working with hot peppers, such as jalapeños (or even a milder pepper, such as a poblano), it is VERY IMPORTANT that you wear gloves while handling the peppers, as the capsaicin oils in the peppers could irritate your skin to the point of blistering it. I always wear disposable gloves so I can just toss them out when done. It is also VERY IMPORTANT not to touch your face, most especially your eyes, while handling peppers. Once you’re done handling the peppers, carefully remove the gloves (I always peel them off so that they’re coming off “inside out” to help avoid the risk of accidentally coming into contact with those concentrated pepper oils) and discard them, and then carefully disinfect the area where you were working with the peppers.
The “heat” in a jalapeño is mostly in the seeds and ribs of the pepper. By removing the seeds and ribs, you remove the lion’s share of the capsaicin, making the peppers safe to handle with bare hands once they’ve been filled, although you should, of course, still keep your hands away from your face, most especially your eyes, after coming in to contact with any kind of pepper.
A Note About the Cheese: I filled most of my peppers with a mixture of reduced-fat cream cheese (my favorite Greek yogurt cream cheese made by Green Mountain Farms) and shredded reduced-fat cheddar cheese, and I also filled just a few with plain cream cheese. You can use just plain cream cheese or any combo of cream cheese and other shredded cheese(s) that you like. The amount of cheese you’ll need will depend upon the number and size of jalapeños you have, as well as how much you want to fill the peppers, but generally speaking, you’ll probably want around 1/3 to 1/2 ounce of cheese per pepper half.
These smell and taste so yummy, you may just find yourself singing “Come On, Get Happy” while you de-seed and de-rib those peppers! 🙂
Jalapeño Poppers (Quantity depends upon number of peppers used)
- Desired number of fresh jalapeños
- Cream cheese (suggest reduced fat), softened
- Shredded cheese(s) to taste (optional)
- Wearing gloves, remove stems from jalapeños, then slice in half to remove seeds and ribs. Place on baking sheet that has been lightly sprayed or oiled with cooking spray or oil.
- Peppers may be stuffed with cream cheese alone or with cream cheese mixed with grated cheese(s). Stuff each pepper with desired amount of cheese.
- Clean surrounding surface to make sure all traces of jalapeño oils and juices are removed.
- Bake in oven at 350F – 375F (no need to preheat unless you want to) until cheeses are bubbly and beginning to brown and peppers are slightly softened, anywhere from 25 to 40 minutes. (NOTE: If you decide to coat and “oven fry” the peppers, bake as directed for vegetables in that recipe.)
- Allow to cool for 5 minutes before serving.
- Refrigerate leftovers. Leftovers can be reheated in microwave or in toaster oven.
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