Jalapeño peppers are my guilty pleasure. I love the spicy and crunchy bite and how versatile they are for cooking different dishes. I actually grow them in my herb garden.

You might be wondering where the name “jalapeño” comes from. Well, Xalapa is the birth city of the jalapeño chiles. The name “jalapeño” was given after the city of Xalapa (or Jalapa), which is the capital of the state of Veracruz, located near the Gulf of Mexico.

Jalapeños are also known as “chiles cuaresmeños” and are handpicked while green and sometimes are allowed to ripen and transform into a bright red color. The flavor of green jalapeños could go from mild to hot and when ripe they are surprisingly sweet, yet on the spicier side. In Mexico, jalapeño juice is often used as a remedy for seasonal allergies and other cardiovascular problems.

Jalapeños are a great treat when grilling and pair nicely with bacon and cheese. Jalapeño poppers traditionally are fried but I invite you to try grilling them with this recipe and serve to your family and friends as an appetizer. But make sure you have enough of these poppers, as I’m sure everyone will love them.

Let’s grill!

Grilled Jalapeño Poppers

Ingredients:

  • 10 fresh jalapeño peppers (choose the bigger ones)
  • 10 fresh sweet mini peppers (for those that prefer non-spicy foods)
  • 1 cup of finely shredded Monterrey Jack and mild Cheddar cheeses
  • 1 cup of finely shredded smoked aged Cheddar cheese
  • 10 bacon strips (preferably thick center cut and honey smoked)
  • 20 wooden toothpicks

Preparation:
You will need a vegetable grilling tray, this will help you manage the peppers better and grill them evenly. I also recommend using a grill that has a warming rack and temperature gauge to manage the heat and avoid overcooking the poppers. Turn on your grill and let it reach 200°F. You will be cooking the poppers on the lowest heat possible.

Take your jalapeños, cut a small portion on the side, then slice the edge and remove the vein and the seeds. Just be careful, as the inside of the pepper, known as the white meat is what makes it spicy. If you touch the vein directly you can get a burning sensation. If that happens wash your hands immediately and soak your fingers in milk or plain yogurt. Make sure to remove as much as possible of the white meat so that the level of spice is pleasant to the palate. When done, stuff the jalapeños with finely shredded Monterrey Jack and mild Cheddar cheeses. Place the peppers in a tray and pre-cook your bacon strips using a microwave oven. Each microwave is different, I precook the bacon strips using a bacon rack and giving 30 seconds per strip. This is my secret to ensure that bacon is crispy: the trick is not to overcook the bacon on the microwave and let it crisp on the grill. By pre-cooking the bacon you also will be cooking with less fat, preventing flames from developing while grilling. Take your pre-cooked bacon and wrap each pepper with a bacon strip, secure using a wooden toothpick (presoak the toothpicks in water to avoid burning on the grill).

For those guests or family members not into spicy foods a good alternative to jalapeños is to use mini sweet peppers stuffed with smoked cheddar. Follow the same instructions: cut a side of the sweet pepper, remove the seeds, and stuff with the shredded cheese. I suggest smoked cheddar, as it marries well with the sweetness of the mini pepper—nothing better than salty and sweet.

Place your jalapeño poppers and the sweet mini peppers on the grilling tray and cook till bacon is crispy and cheeses are melted. To keep the peppers warm, move them to the warming rack and serve in batches for your guests.

Adriana Martin is a Grilling is Happiness sponsored writer.