Fresno Chilis Will Change Your Life

(including recipes for a killer hot sauce, a mini tutorial on delicious pan sauces, pickled chilis, and more…)

Fresno Chili and jar
Fresno chilis and hot sauce

Fresno chilis, which look like a red Jalapeño, have become my favorite chili by far. Milder than a Jalapeño, they still have a nice bite along with a slight, lovely sweetness that makes them more versatile than a Jalapeño or Serrano. Because they can be enjoyed even by people who ‘don’t like spicy’, Fresnos are often called a ‘gateway chili’, as you can see in this excellent history of the Fresno:

Fresno Chilis

I stumbled onto Fresnos a couple of years ago because a favorite chef of mine, Nancy Silverton, throws them in just about everything. I made a marvelous chicken recipe of hers, that uses pickled Fresnos, and loved them so much I started throwing them in and on everything: the pickled Fresnos are terrific on pizzas and in sandwiches, I love raw slices in salads, and a gentle sauté of a sliced or diced Fresno transforms most any main dish or side vegetable. They are also wonderful in my baked omelette.

When I started making my own hot sauce (ridiculously easy, as you will see in the recipe below) I really fell in love. This hot sauce is The. Best.

Fresnos are perfect for pan sauces (see recipe below) as well as in an upcoming recipe that will also change your life, Breakfast Fried Rice. 

If there’s a problem with Fresnos, it’s that unlike the Jalapeño or Serrano, they’re not always available year round. Subsequently, when I see them, I buy out the store, make a few jars of hot sauce, pickle some more, then freeze the remainder. 

So look for the Fresno! Buy a bunch and try these recipes… and be on the lookout for Breakfast Fried Rice!

Click here for the recipes:

Your New Favorite Hot Sauce

Hot sauce ingredients
ingredients for hot sauce


Approximately 1 lb. Fresno Chilis, tops removed (just fill your blender to the top)

1 cup distilled white vinegar

1 T Salt


– Fill a blender to the top with the Fresno Chilis.

– Add a cup of distilled white vinegar and the salt

– Blend on high for a minimum of two minutes. You want it pureed really, really well. Some foam will develop, no big deal.

– Pour the contents of the blender into a sauce pan and bring to a slight boil. Turn the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring, until it reduces by about 1/3, stirring occasionally. Taste as you go, you might want more salt. (Some people add 1 T sugar to the blender. I don’t.)

– Pour into mason jars. You can certainly go the preserving route, canning the sauce so it can go in the cupboard (I do this at Christmas) but I usually stick the jars in the fridge as they last a long while. Or, well, they could last a while but we go through this stuff fast. You can put it on almost anything. (Eggs of course are my favorite.)

NOTE: this makes a very thick sauce. If you like a slightly thinner, more liquid hot sauce, add another cup of vinegar.

NOTE: Mix even portions of this (1:1 ratio) with my Homemade Creme Fraiche’ for a creamier, less spicy version that is also amazing. I put this on everything as well, and it’s great simply for a dip with chips.


Pan sauces are wonderful and easy. Cook your protein, remove it from the pan and use what’s left in the pan to quickly create a wonderful sauce to spoon over your meal. Make this recipe exactly, then use it as a guideline for a variety of other flavors, i.e. red wine instead of white, vegetable or beef broth (or mushroom broth!) instead of chicken, any herbs, peppers and spices… whatever you love or have on hand.

Pork Belly
sliced pork belly with Fresno chili pan sauce

You can create this pan sauce with just about any protein you cook in a pan… steak, pork chops, pork belly, fish… anything. Damn, is it good.


– 4 T butter

– 1 shallot, sliced thinly (white or brown onion will suffice if need be)

– 1 Fresno chili, halved vertically, then sliced into half rings

– 3 cloves garlic, sliced thin

– 1/4 cup (or a few glugs) of dry vermouth or white wine

– 2 cups broth

– salt and pepper

– fresh thyme


 – Prepare your protein as you like.

(For me, with, say, a New York strip, pork chops on the bone, or pork belly, this means getting a cast iron skillet incredibly hot, then searing both sides of the protein in olive oil. If I’m doing a strip, I cook it almost all the way through… remember! Meats continue cooking when you remove them from the heat, so always undercook!… with pork chops or pork belly, I like to have them finish cooking later in the sauce. So just get a good sear on each side, then set them aside, still underdone… they will finish later in the sauce. Fish tends to cook very quickly. Sear each side, remove, then also let it finish, briefly, in the sauce.)

– Once your protein is seared and off to the side, turn the heat down to low and add a couple of pads of butter. Add your shallot and Fresno chili and sauté, scraping up brown bits from the bottom. 

– When the shallot and Fresno chili are soft, add the garlic and sauté only a minute more so it doesn’t brown.

– Add the vermouth or white wine and turn up the heat to medium high, stirring well. Let the alcohol mostly cook off, which takes a few minutes.

– Add the chicken broth, a few shakes of salt and pepper, and the thyme. (I just throw in about 5-10 sprigs of thyme. The small leaves will fall off on their own and you can extract the stems when you serve.) After it all cooks down/reduces a bit, add your pork chops or pork belly back into the pan and let them finish cooking in the sauce. I like the seared side of the protein to be above the liquid so it retains that great sear.

– When the protein is to your liking, remove it to the side and add 2 more pads of butter. Whisk in the butter, which will thicken the sauce and make it that much more wonderful. 

– Taste and season as you like. You can use rosemary instead of thyme… any herb or seasoning, really. 

– Serve your protein over the “Best Mashed Cauliflower Ever” and top with the sauce, making sure everyone gets some of the Fresno chili slices. (I serve pork chops whole. With a New York strip or pork belly, I like to slice the protein.)

Pork Belly wide


These will keep several months. They are wonderful, sliced, on most anything! Pizzas, roasted meats and fish, thrown in side dishes, on sandwiches… anything!


– 1 quart champagne or white vinegar

– 2 tablespoon good quality honey

– 2 teaspoons black peppercorns

– 1 teaspoon juniper berries (optional)

– 1 teaspoon cloves

– 4 bay leaves

– Approx 1 lb  Fresnos, stems remain on


– Combine everything but the chilis, and 2 cups of water, in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium low and let simmer 10/15 minutes to infuse the pickling liquid with the seasonings.

– Increase heat to high, add the Fresnos and return to a boil. Reduce to medium-low and simmer peppers 5-6 minutes until they are slightly softened but do not lose their shape or get mushy.

– Turn off the heat and let it all cool to room temperature. Put the peppers and the spices in a jar/jars, then fill with the liquid. Let them sit a day or two in the fridge before using. These will last months.

16 thoughts on “Fresno Chilis Will Change Your Life

  1. This post is a “keeper” if ever there was. We know from Fresno chili’s, and have enjoyed them raw and sliced, but your accompanying recipes and uses for Fresno’s are taking our love for these chili’s to the next level. Thanks so much for your work on this post.

  2. I grow thousands of plants with these chili’s every year. The best!! Use them for crushed red pepper, absolutely incredible!

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