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Are jalapeños getting less spicy? Texas A&M researchers weigh in and explain

A viral online trend is blaming Aggie researchers for taking the spice out of jalapenos, and it’s partly true.
Posted at 7:06 PM, May 21, 2024

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (KRHD) — A viral online trend is blaming Texas A&M University researchers for taking the spice out of jalapenos, and it’s partly true.

  • In the 1980’s, Pace Picante Sauce approached Texas A&M researchers to develop a mild jalapeno pepper, TAM I. This way, they could adjust the spice levels more easily during sauce production.
  • The TAM I jalapeno never hit grocery store shelves, so all jalapenos in stores now are hybrids between jalapenos and bell peppers.
  • Researchers at Texas A&M are now working to develop jalapenos of different spice levels, as consumers are showing more preference for spicier foods.

Broadcast Script:

“I thought it was a sweet pepper and I popped it all in my mouth because it was small and I was dying — I was like — couldn’t breathe and my ears were buzzing.”

Many of us have our own horror stories about eating some spicy pepper — like 25 News Executive Producer, Art, is about to experience.

Recently, the heat was taken online when people started saying jalapenos are the mildest they’ve ever been.

It all started with this article from D Magazine, blaming Aggie researchers in the 1980's for taking the spice out of life, so I spoke with them.

“The TAM I mild jalapeno one was developed by Dr. Ben Villalone, who was my predecessor and was a plant breeder and virologist, at the request of PACE Picante Sauce company, because they didn't want to use bell peppers in their mild sauce, which is their most popular sauce," said Texas A&M Professor, Kevin Crosby/

Crosby says the TAM I mild jalapenos were the first jalapenos altered to be less spicy, so manufacturers could more easily adjust the spice levels during production.

But those peppers never made it to store shelves, and have now been discontinued.

“All jalapenos now in the grocery store are hybrids — they have nothing to do with Texas A&M," Crosby said.

"The reason they are sometimes milder, and not all of them but some of them, is because they were crossed with bell peppers to increase the size.”

Now, researchers are still playing around with jalapeno spice levels to adjust them to consumer needs, which actually show a preference for more spice.

“People have developed more, I guess, interest or liking for spicier foods, so that they would be more accepting of hotter jalapenos hotter peppers in general than they were 10 or 20 years ago,” Dr. Crosby said.

While initially, the goal was to make jalapenos less spicy, researchers now focus on a variety of spice levels.