We eat a lot of chili peppers in our house. A lot. It’s not often that I run to the grocery store and leave without a couple extra, just in case we’re running low at home. At the farmers market, I fawn over the many varieties available and often leave with my bag full of a rainbow of peppers.
Like most ingrained habits, I blame my mother.
My mamma ate fire
My mom grew up in the White Mountains of Arizona, close to the border of New Mexico. As such, she grew up eating and making some of the best southwestern food on earth. Even after moving to the Pacific Northwest, my mom would have a few cases of hatch chilies shipped in each year from New Mexico that she would roast and preserve to be used in enchiladas, Navajo tacos, chilis, tacos, and salsas throughout the year.
Mom didn’t stop at the mild hatch. She was an equal opportunity chili opportunist and liked to take it up a notch or 7 when she cooked. It was well known that her breakfast hash would melt your face off. I regularly looked across the table at dinners to see sweat literally rolling down my brother’s face while eating her red enchiladas, and I could regularly find her standing in front of the fridge eating hot marinated peppers right out of the jar like they were pickles. I’ve never been able to match her tolerance for heat, but I have inherited her love of chili peppers and the flavors they can bring to a dish – just on a much less mouth-burny level.
I especially love the classic jalapeno and the magic they create with these Jalapeno Poppers with Sausage and Cream Cheese.
Did you know that chili peppers aren’t all spicy? Technically sweet peppers like the bell pepper, banana peppers, and pimento are all types of chili peppers. Their capsaicin (the naturally occurring compound that is responsible for a pepper’s heat) levels are just much lower; or in the case of the bell, non-existent.
You may have also heard that a pepper’s capsaicin is found in the seeds. This is only sort of true. The capsaicin is actually found in the highest concentrations in the pith and ribs of the pepper (the white part that is often removed in partial or full). The seeds are surrounded by the pith and ribs and, therefore, are often spicy due to close contact. So, if you want to lessen the heat of a pepper a bit, scrape as much of the white pith and ribs out as you can.
Plan on wearing gloves or popping your hand into a sandwich bag to clean out the seeds, pith, and ribs when you make these Jalapeno Poppers with Sausage and Cream Cheese. If you like to live dangerously and go hand commando, just remember that the capsaicin will linger on your skin for a long time.
A note for special diets
These Jalapeno Poppers with Sausage and Cream Cheese are grain-free, gluten-free, Keto. I opt to use cheddar cheese in this dish, which naturally contains only trace amounts of lactose (0.5 grams or less) as well as a lactose-free cream cheese, making this dish low-lactose and friendly for both SIBO and low-FODMAP diets.
- 1 lb jalapenos (about 20)
- 1 lb Italian sausage, ground (If you are SIBO or low-FODMAP make sure you choose one free of garlic and onion or sub for traditional ground sausage)
- 8 oz cream cheese, softened (I prefer this lactose-free one)
- 1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded (1/2 cup reserved)
- 1 cup green onions, chopped
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 C). Line a large baking tray with parchment paper or a silicone baking sheet.
- On a cutting board, slice the top of each jalapeno just under the stem, then slice them in half length-wise. Scoop out all of the seeds, taking as much of the white pith and ribs as you prefer. I always like to give my peppers an extra rinse afterward, to make sure all the seeds have come out.
- Pop the seeded jalapeno halves onto the baking tray, lining them up with their empty bellies exposed. Set to the side.
- In a large skillet or saute pan, brown the sausage, breaking it up with your spatula as you go.
- Add the green onions, softened cream cheese, and 1 cup of the cheddar cheese to the pan, reserving the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar for later.
- Once the filling has been adequately combined, remove from heat.
- Spoon the filling into each jalapeno half.
- Sprinkle the remaining 1/2 cup cheddar cheese across the tops of each popper.
- Pop that beautiful tray in the oven for 25-30 minutes. I usually pull them out when the edges of the pepper start to look slightly darker and the cheese is melted, but not so late that the pepper is supremely squishy – I like to keep a bit of crunch!
If you’re not a fan of pork, these are also great with ground beef or ground turkey and some Italian herbs; basil, oregano, thyme, cilantro, and rosemary are all nice choices. If you are opting for a meat-free version, these are wonderful just simply stuffed with a mixture of cream cheese, cheddar cheese, herbs, and green onion.
- Serving Size: 2 halves
- Calories: 153
- Sugar: 1 g
- Sodium: 266 mg
- Fat: 13 g
- Saturated Fat: 6 g
- Carbohydrates: 3 g
- Protein: 6 g
- Cholesterol: 41 mg