Jalapeño poppers are a ubiquitous menu offering at a wide range of eateries, from low-key bar and grills to high-end restaurants. In fact, it would be no exaggeration to say that jalapeño poppers have become one of the most popular snacks in America. We would like to take a closer look at just what makes a jalapeño popper a jalapeño popper, as well as delve into the interesting history of this popular snack.
Before delving into the full history of jalapeño poppers, it may be helpful to define just what a jalapeño popper is. At its simplest, a jalapeño popper is a type of stuffed pepper. The pepper in question, naturally is a jalapeño, which has been cored and hollowed out. The interior of the pepper is then filled with a stuffing. In many cases, the filling consists simply of cream cheese.
Alternately, the popper may contain a mixture of cheeses and spices. In some cases, the stuffing may even contain ground meat. The jalapeño is then breaded and deep fried to a rich golden brown color. Jalapeño poppers are often served with a dipping sauce, which may vary from region to region. Ranch, blue cheese, sour cream, and hot sauce are all popular choices.
The popularity of jalapeño poppers stems in large part from their brilliant combination of ingredients. While jalapeño can naturally be quite spicy, the cheesy filling helps to cut down on this heat, making the popper more palatable. The fried exterior gives the popper a nice crunch, while the inside has a deliciously creamy consistency.
Jalapeño poppers have a history slightly more mysterious and complicated than you might assume. The core ingredient — the jalapeño pepper — originated in what is now Central America and Mexico. The name jalapeño was given to the pepper by the Spanish. Jalapeño literally "from Xalapa," which is the capital of Veracruz.
Anybody who is fond of Mexican cuisine may be familiar with a dish known as chiles rellenos, which many people see as the original inspiration for jalapeño poppers. Chiles rellenos are also a type of stuffed pepper, usually made with poblano peppers filled with a mixture of cheeses and then fried. Many food historians surmise that what we call jalapeño poppers were also a simply an alternate variation of chiles rellenos.
Nobody is quite sure when or where the first modern jalapeño poppers were served, although popular opinion seems to agree that the dish originated in Texas sometime around 1972. Of course, they weren't called jalapeño poppers back then. Furthermore, those proto-jalapeño poppers were usually wrapped in bacon or sausage, and went by the name of "armadillo eggs."
Jalapeño poppers as you know them now probably originated sometime in the 1980s. What is certain is that, on April 30, 1992, the phrase "jalapeño popper" was trademarked by Anchor Food Products. Heinz later acquired the name, and began to distribute pre-made jalapeño poppers in a frozen form. All consumers had to do was deep fry the peppers until cooked.
Of course, by now the name "jalapeño popper" has entered common parlance, and restaurants can serve the dish without fear of incurring lawsuits. Jalapeño poppers have also continued to evolve in new and exciting ways, departing from the more simplistic recipe used in earlier days.
Chefs now experiment by stuffing their poppers with an array of non-traditional fillings, from mac and cheese, to buffalo chicken, to fancier cheeses like gorgonzola and smoked cheddar. Regardless of their particular form, jalapeño poppers remain one of the most famous — and delicious — of all fried, spicy foods.