Best wood for smoking hot pepper jalapenos | Get a kick out of your smoker

by Joost Nusselder | Last Updated:  January 9, 2022

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If you want to preserve hot peppers like jalapeño, you can smoke them.

Not only does this process give them an amazing flavor you can serve alongside meaty dishes, but they can also tenderize meat or season other foods.

Best wood for smoking hot pepper jalapenos | Get a kick out of your smoker

The traditional wood for smoking peppers is pecan because it adds a slightly nutty smoky flavor that blends well with the taste of spicy pepper. Pecan is mild enough not to overpower vegetables but it still creates a sweet, earthy, and nutty aroma to complement jalapeño peppers.

With hickory, peppers will have a simple yet fresh and bacony flavor.

A fruitwood, like apple, adds sweetness to the peppers, giving it a more complex flavor. Mesquite wood imparts a strong, smokey flavor for a classic BBQ flavor.

Are jalapeno and other hot peppers good for smoking?

You can smoke almost all the peppers you wish.

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If you like this vegetable, you’ll be glad to know smoked peppers like chili peppers, jalapeno peppers, chipotle peppers, and bell peppers taste amazing once they are infused with smoke flavor.

Smoking peppers also allows you to do better things with them such as to make them into ground pepper or spice.

For people who grow their own hot peppers, smoking them seems like a convenient solution. It means you’ll end up with more peppers than you can use at once.

Why not preserve some for later use?

Peppers are so amazing for brightening almost anything on the table.

I like to smoke a few in my electric smoker, but you can use charcoal, pellet, or a propane smoker because they turn out just as flavorful.

If you use a smoking technique to preserve Jalapeno peppers they will last for the whole year so you can serve them with all of your favorite foods anytime you cook on the BBQ grill.

Also check out my other amazing recipes for smoking vegetables (+ how to smoke veggies)

The best wood for smoking jalapeno peppers

The traditional hot pepper smoking wood in Mexico is pecan. This is probably the best and tastiest smoke wood for any type of hot pepper.

But, if you like Texas-style BBQ, strong mesquite wood is a great choice too. In case you like sweeter smoke flavor, the usual apple and cherry fruitwood is best.

I’m sharing the best woods to use and depending on the hot peppers recipe of your choice, you can choose the flavors that work best.

Best overall wood for smoking hot peppers: Pecan wood

Pecan is a relative of the famous hickory tree which is used for smoking when you want real bacony, earthy Southern BBQ.

The pecan tree gives a nutty and smoky flavor that is great for meat and vegetables alike.

When smoking chipotle pepper in Mexico, pecan wood is their most popular choice but it’s also the best option for jalapeno, habanero, and poblano peppers too!

The pecan is milder, with a tasty nutty flavor, some mild earthiness, and a hint of sweet flavor. This flavor combination makes pecan the perfect wood to smoke all kinds of peppers.

It’s amazing for hot peppers like jalapenos too because spicy pairs well with sweet and nutty aromas.

You can get pecan wood chunks or wood chips on Amazon for an affordable price.

If you would like to create a deeper flavor profile, try blending different smoking woods

Hickory wood

There are people who swear by hickory for all smoked foods and if you like that strong bacony and earthy smoke flavor, hickory is a great choice for smoked hot pepper.

The spiciness of the peppers pairs nicely with that strong Texas-style BBQ flavor. Hickory has a mild nuttiness to it with a bit of earthiness.

It also has that classic “bacon” taste that makes the pepper taste a bit meaty.

It’s a great smoke wood for people who don’t like sweet smoke like that of fruitwoods.

You can use hickory if you’re smoking the pepper for spices like chili powder.

If you want the hot peppers for a spicy side dish, you can use this strong wood and combine jalapeños with poblano pepper. It will overpower a bit of the peppery heat.

If you use a strong wood to smoke hot peppers for drying, the spice rubs and fine powder will contain some of the hickory aromas. Hickory is a great choice for smoked paprika too.

Hickory wood chips are readily available on Amazon.

Oak

Did you know that much of the smoked paprika is smoked using oak wood chips?

Oak is a great wood for smoking all kinds of peppers but it has a strong smoky flavor. It’s earthy and milder than mesquite and hickory but still much heavier than apple and cherry or other fruitwood varieties.

When you smoke peppers oak is going to impart a delicate smokiness and it’s very well-balanced. Red oak is also great for cold-smoking peppers because it burns moderately.

Kiln-dried oak wood chips are available on Amazon.

Applewood

Apple is a pretty mild wood for smoking with a pleasantly sweet and fruity smoke flavor profile. It’s the best smoke wood for those who want sweeter smoke rather than a strong earthy taste.

Because apple wood smoke takes longer to penetrate food than medium or strong woods, the smoky flavors will be mellow and mild, so the peppers won’t be overwhelmingly flavorful.

Traditionalists don’t like to use apple for smoking Jalapeno and chipotle peppers but if you don’t want a heavy BBQ aroma, mild woods are ideal.

Apple brings out the rich flavor of the hot pepper.

Cherry wood

If you like sweet smoke flavors but want something a bit stronger than apple, cherry is the best. It’s fruity but slightly less sweet than apple and smokier.

Cherry imparts a delicate, mellow smoke but it also darkens the exterior of the peppers. When it burns, cherry creates a blacker smoke which is ideal for poultry, but it’s fine for vegetables too.

If you want to blend smoking woods, cherry and hickory is a great combination. The hickory has a rich meaty flavor while the cherry adds more sweetness and fruitiness. You can also combine cherry with oak.

Oklahoma Joe’s cherry wood chips are some of the best value smoker chips.

Pear wood

Pearwood is a great wood for smoking thick-skinned peppers like jalapeno as well as thin-skinned habanero or serrano. It burns a mellow smoke that doesn’t overpower the natural pepper flavors at all.

The smoke flavor is predominantly sweet and fruity but not overly sweet like peach for example.

When the pearwood chips burn, they create a pleasant fragrant smoke with no black soot at all.

Since this is a subtle smoke wood, it complements the spicy pepper taste but sweetens it and gives a bit of acidic fruitiness.

Compared to apple and cherry, pear is somewhere in the middle.

Maple wood

Maple is commonly used for smoking vegetables, so it’s also a good option for smoked peppers.

The maple wood chunks or wood chips impart the hot peppers with a mild smokiness and a subtle sweet flavor.

Maple is only somewhat sweet so it’s not quite like a fruitwood. But this wood burns a less dense smoke than the heavier woods. Therefore, it’s great for peppers because it won’t overwhelm them with overpowering smoke.

While the smoke is slightly earthy, the sweetness creates a tasty balanced smoke.

The Western Premium Maple wood chips are some of the best on the market.

Mesquite

For those who want the ultimate BBQ favor (think Texas-style), there’s nothing better than an intense smoke wood like mesquite.

Mesquite is not the first choice when it comes to smoking bell peppers and hot peppers but in this case, it can impart tons of earthy smokiness which pairs well with the spiciness.

You can even mix mesquite with a light fruity wood like apple to tone down the bold flavor.

If you’re going to dry the peppers to make spices, the mesquite smoke will infuse the peppers with a unique and nuanced aroma.

This wood burns pretty slowly so you only need a small number of chips in the smoker box for a short smoking session. You don’t want to use too many mesquite wood chips or else it can overpower the pepper.

The Cameron’s Products wood chips are chopped into fine pieces, perfect for electric smokers too.

How long do you smoke jalapenos?

Every time I smoke a brisket, I pick up some hot peppers and throw them into the smoker. I personally love to combine smoked Jalapeno pepper and sliced brisket.

I never failed to impress my guests with the blend of sweet and tasty meat with the taste of fresh pepper and other vegetables in it.

We all know that all vegetables are very fragile and every time you try grilling or smoking them, you have to be careful not to damage them.

To smoke jalapeno peppers, arrange the jalapenos on your smoker’s grate. You can also use a smoking basket for this.

Start with a cold smoker and gradually raise the temperature to between 200°F and 225°F for 1 to 3 hours, depending on how smokey you like them.

I smoke for approximately two hours, the final of which is around 200°F.

Make sure to check the temperature frequently with a wireless meat thermometer.

Peppers are delicate vegetables and need to be smoked on a gentle heat to retain their moisture and flavor.

If your peppers have a green color or are large it can take a few minutes to attain a desired soft texture.

In addition to moisture, the size of the peppers is important to note. This will impact the duration of the pepper and the amount of moisture in them.

Remember the more smoke you use, the stronger the smoky flavor will be. Use wood chips sparingly and pay attention to the types of wood you use.

Soaked wood chips are best because they burn slower and don’t create such heavy smoke – this is ideal for smoking fresh peppers.

There is so much to smoke! Check this list of the 7 Best BBQ Smoker recipe cookbooks from beginner to advanced

What woods to avoid when smoking hot pepper

When making smoked peppers, you can actually use a wide variety of woods.

But, peppers are not like dark game meat or large beef ribs and briskets. When you smoke peppers, you risk overpowering their natural taste if your smoking wood is too heavy.

Coniferous wood, such as pine, redwood, fir, spruce, cypress, or cedar, should be avoided.

These trees have a lot of sap and terpenes in them, which gives them a nasty flavor and can make people sick.

Walnut wood, even if mixed with fruit woods can make the peppers taste bitter, so I avoid using this wood for smoking any type of light meat or vegetable.

Finally, you shouldn’t really use alder because it makes peppers taste odd.

Sure, it’s great for smoking fish but for jalapeno, poblano, and dried chipotles, it just doesn’t add a tasty flavor. It’s almost nonexistent and the smoke is too neutral.

Takeaway

When it comes to smoking peppers, you should use wood chips or wood chunks that best match your flavor preferences.

For strong smoky aromas use mesquite or hickory, for a mild and sweet smoke, use fruitwoods. But if you choose the traditional smoking process, nothing beats the nutty and earthy flavor of pecan wood.

Use the smoked peppers to make spice rubs or preserve them for later use.

You can also use smoked peppers to make appetizers (recipe here).

Cream cheese-filled hot peppers or a blend of smoked chipotle and jalapeno with cream cheese are two popular and delicious foods to serve at your BBQ.

For another spicy dish, try my signature smoked chili recipe [with secret ingredient!]

Joost Nusselder, the founder of Lakeside Smokers is a content marketer, dad and loves trying out new food with BBQ Smoking (& Japanese food!) at the heart of his passion, and together with his team he's been creating in-depth blog articles since 2016 to help loyal readers with recipes and cooking tips.