Knife Skills – Dicing Jalapeños


The first time you make a recipe with jalapeños, there’s something that the recipe probably won’t say: don’t use the ones in a jar that you find on a shelf next to the pickles. Those are great on nachos, but you don’t want to cook with them. Which means you’ll need to know how to cut fresh jalapeños. So here it is.

Cut the stem off and split the pepper lengthwise.

If you want flavor, but not so much heat, remove the pulp and seeds. That’s where most of the heat is. Using a paring knife, cut the ribs loose from the inside of the pepper and pull the pulp out.

Make sure you scrape out any white pulp, and all the seeds.

Slice the pepper very thin, about as thick as matchsticks.

Bunch all the slices together.

Hold the slices with your fingertips tucked back, and use your knuckles to guide the knife. You don’t want your fingertips under the edge.

Use the knife to transfer the diced pepper into the bowl you’re mixing your other ingredients in.

If you do want the heat, you can save the steps where you remove the pulp and seeds. It starts the same; cut the stem off.

Okay, cut the stems off.

Cut the thin strips and stack them up, just like in the seedless version. Tuck your fingertips in and …

Hey, wait a second. Where are those fingertips?

Yeah, I was lazy. Everybody does it sometimes. Not everybody does it on the internet. So do it like in the first shot, not like the second one, and you’ll be fine.

By the way, if your nose starts running or your eyes water, like when you’re cutting onions … it’s okay to use your sleeve. Do not touch your face until after you’ve washed your hands. And … this is delicate … if you’re, umm, done with the Diet Coke you drank before you started, and it’s time to, umm, recycle it … wash your hands before and after.

I’m just sayin’.

I know I said yesterday that the diced tomato recipe was coming up. But I realized I had a couple more of these technique things to post first. So one more tomorrow, then two recipes using them Thursday and Friday. Check back, it’ll be worth it.


  1. Yeah, my knife skills when chopping jalapenos are not that delicate, because I have to wear latex gloves. Unless I WANT my fingertips to be numb for a couple of hours, and generally, I don’t.

    I just canned a pint of jalapenos from the garden. Am I allowed to use those?

  2. I ate a handful of chopped jalapenos on a dare this past weekend.

    I’d advise against it.

  3. Sweet Bird says:

    I’m like Kristin, I must wear gloves. The few times I’ve tried to chop peppers without them…well, it causes lots of pain. Especially that one time I touched my eye.


  4. Oh my, Drew! Wear gloves! Always tell people to wear gloves… some are more susceptible than others to the excruciating pain caused by hot peppers. I’m mildly reactive, my sister was not so lucky. The emergency room could do nothing for her…

  5. Are my local jalapeños exceptionally mild? Because I didn’t feel anything at all in my hands. The tears were no worse than cutting onions.

    Yes, Kristin, you can use the ones you grew. As though you really need permission.

    Jon … girly man! Ahem. Sorry, my inner 14-year-old came out to point and laugh.

    Sweet bird, fortunately I’m slightly obsessive about washing my hands. Comes from working in a restaurant. I probably wash five or six times while making a typical dinner., can your sister eat them? Did she end in the ER just from handling them? Holy cow, that’s a bad reaction.

  6. My sister grew the jalapenos in her garden and wanted to freeze them so she cut and seeded them (probably about a peck’s worth). As she was working on them, under cold running water, she said her hands were starting to feel funny… so she stopped (I think about half way thru the peck) and her hands began to burn like she’d put them flat on a hot iron skillet. We tried all the “home remedies” but nothing worked. She finally called her doctor who sent her to the ER… where she got the prescription for pain killer which in the end made her sick! Poor girl, spent the night holding a frozen 2-liter bottle of water and leaning over a bucket!

    And, yes, she can eat them. She likes them for just a touch of “what was that” in a dish.

  7. Altissima says:

    Yes! You must wear gloves, even if the skin on your hands is not susceptible to chilli burns. You are much less likely to rub your eyes, pick your nose or visit the bathroom with the gloves still on.

  8. I always have to wear gloves when doing peppers. I have this habit of touching my face or rubbing my eyes.Not pleasant…not pleasant at all.Great tutorial tho. Reminds me of my basics culinary class.Had to go over everything. It was quite boring, but it’s good to have the basics down.

  9. I’ve tried cooking with gloves on. Can’t stand it. I don’t know how doctors get used to it.

  10. Sweet Bird says:

    I totally get the obsessive hand washing, I was a server for way too many years. My hands were friggin’ chapped back then from handwashing. My problem is that my skin is way too freakin’ porous or something. I can wash my hands with industrial cleaner (tried it) and still have a burning sensation in my finger tips – or wherever else I touch.

    I envy people with thick skin.

  11. Sweet Bird says:

    So, I decided to make your nacho cheese sauce tonight for some tasty nachos. I figured Husband would appreciate some sliced jalapenos. I didn’t wear gloves because I’m a dummy, and from just picking them up off the cutting board and putting them in a dish I now have my hand resting in a bowl of ice water to ease the burn.

    Damn you and your thick skin!

  12. Aren’t you the one who just said, “I can wash my hands with industrial cleaner (tried it) and still have a burning sensation in my finger tips”? I hope hubby appreciates it.

  13. Hey Drew, I recently discovered your site and am loving it! Thanks so much. I am lucky to have teflon hands, like you.

    One thought: when I want to remove seeds/membrane from these little babies, I just take the halved peppers and scoop it all out with the tip of a teaspoon.

    Course, then it wouldn’t be “knife” skills so much.

    Keep up the great work!

  14. Tim, thanks for the kind words. I’ve heard from a couple of people who use a teaspoon for this. I have this unhealthy obsession with cutting down the number of things I have to wash when I’m done.

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