If you’re not a fan of heat and you prefer milder, sweeter peppers, you’re probably a fan of cubanelle peppers. While they can sometimes surprise you with a hint of hotness, this is a very rare occasion. Nevertheless, the lack of hotness doesn’t make them dull.
These greenish, banana-shaped peppers have so many uses in cooking it would be hard to name them all. You can cook them, roast them, blend them into a delicious sauce or dip, or simply add them to any salad or dish you have in mind.
But what could be a good cubanelle pepper substitute in case you don’t have any? Keep on reading to find out.
The best substitutes for cubanelle peppers
Cubanelle peppers belong to the category of predominantly sweet pepper, although they can sometimes be mildly hot. Besides the most common kind which is the green cubanelle pepper, you may also come across yellow or even orange-red varieties.
Since cubanelle peppers are mostly picked before they’re fully ripe, it is most common for them to be green. When they reach the ripe state, they will be this vibrant orange-red color. The stage in-between these two ripening points would be yellow.
The higher the ripening point – the sweeter the pepper will be. However, many people appreciate the subtle sweetness with a hint of tartness that the green cubanelle pepper offers. That’s why they’re so popular – especially in Italian cuisine.
Cubanelle peppers are so popular in Italian cuisine that they’re also known as Italian frying peppers. The way Italians prepare them is by pan-frying them and then sprinkling some salt and olive oil on top.
As we’ve mentioned, cubanelle peppers are banana-shaped, elongated, up to 6 inches long, and about 2 inches wide. When shopping for these peppers, make sure they are firm, without any soft spots, and the skin is clear and glossy.
When it comes to the Scoville Heat Scale, cubanelle peppers rarely exceed 1,000 units, which is considered pretty mild. Even the hottest variety of cubanelle peppers will still be 5 times milder than the average jalapeno, which is usually at 5,000 units.
What would be the best substitute for cubanelle pepper? Let’s see the best choices if you’re looking for something new, or you’re simply unable to find a good batch.
1. Bell Peppers
When it comes to a mild, sweet cubanelle peppers substitute, you just can’t go wrong with bell peppers. They’re probably the most versatile peppers, with countless uses in cooking, and you can pair them with pretty much all flavors and textures.
As opposed to cubanelle peppers, bell peppers are shorter and wider. It makes them even more suitable for stuffing, and that’s probably one of the most popular methods of preparing these peppers.
Bell peppers come in a variety of colors, including yellow, green, red, and orange. It makes them a great way to add some color to your plate or make a dull meal more appealing. Also, they have a fairly neutral flavor profile that you can easily adjust.
2. Anaheim Peppers
Looking at Anaheim peppers, some may even confuse it for cubanelle pepper. It is green, elongated, and thin just like cubanelle, although usually a bit longer. Another similarity is that it is mainly used before being fully ripe, but you can also find it ripe and red.
Anaheim peppers are also fairly mild, so you’ll rarely come across a hotter variety. However, hotter varieties of cubanelle peppers will rarely be above 1,000 SHU. The hottest Anaheim pepper, on the other hand, can come up to 2,500 units.
Nevertheless, 2,500 units are still not considered too hot, considering the fact that jalapeno can go up to 8,000 units. However, you should keep in mind that sometimes Anaheim peppers can have more of a kick when compared to cubanelle.
3. Poblano Peppers
Poblano peppers belong to the category of chile peppers, but they’re still on the mild side. They can get pretty large, but when it comes to shape, they’re quite similar to cubanelle peppers, as they’re pointy and long, but they’re wider.
This substitute for cubanelle peppers is very popular in Mexican cuisine, both raw in salads, and cooked in different kinds of chiles. However, poblano peppers release all their flavors and aromas when roasted, which is the best way of preparing them.
Since they’re not as thin, they’re also suitable for stuffing, similarly to bell peppers. They’re mild, semi-sweet, and won’t go past 2,000 SHU. This means, no unpleasant surprises if you can’t handle the heat.
4. Shishito Peppers
These small, green, twisty peppers originally come from Japan, and they’re quite popular in their cuisine. While we’re used to small peppers being extremely hot, this isn’t the case with shishito peppers which are quite mild and sweet.
An important difference between cubanelle peppers and shishito peppers, besides the size and shape, is in the complexity of the flavors. While cubanelle are predominantly sweet, shishito also offers a hit of smokiness and a hit of tartness.
Therefore, if you’re looking for a deeper flavor, and you want to stick with mild peppers, shishito could be the answer. On the Scoville scale, shishito rarely goes above 200 units, which makes them suitable for everyone’s palate.
5. Banana Peppers
Shaped almost identically, banana peppers and cubanelle peppers can be easily confused if it weren’t for the difference in colors. Banana peppers, on one hand, are lighter, yellow-greenish, while cubanelle mostly has a deeper green color.
When it comes to flavor, we could say that the difference is quite subtle. Cubanelle peppers are a bit more sweet and complex, while banana peppers are some of the most neutral-flavored pepper varieties you will find.
It is precisely this neutrality of flavor that enables you to experiment with banana peppers. You can use them in pretty much any dish and salad, as they will absorb all the other flavors and aromas.
6. Sweet Chili Peppers
Sweet chili pepper is usually red but shaped similarly to cubanelle peppers. When it comes to flavors, sweet chili pepper is also on the mild side. However, the sweetness is more dominant than with cubanelle peppers, which is their main difference.
Since it is wide and long enough to be stuffed with various fillings, this is one of the main cooking methods when preparing sweet chili peppers. Due to their sweetness, they’re ideal for sauces, dips, as well as salads.
Another great way to prepare these peppers is by roasting them, peeling their skins, and then adding them to your favorite dips and dishes. Roasting tends to emphasize all the flavors and increase the sweet flavor even more.
7. Pimento Peppers
Pimento peppers, also known as pimientos, are small, round peppers that come in a variety of colors, ranging from vibrant red to light yellow. While they’re quite small, pimento peppers are packed with flavors: mostly sweet, with a subtle kick of heat.
Pimentos, besides being used raw and cooked, are often dried and ground into a popular spice known as paprika mix, most commonly used in Mexican cuisine. Even though it can be a bit spicy, the dominant flavor is sweet.
This cubanelle peppers alternative is a great choice for those of you who don’t mind a little bit of heat. Jalapenos are certainly on the hot side, ranging from 2,500 to 8,000 units on the Scoville scale.
In the majority of cases, red jalapenos will be hotter than green ones as they’re riper. Therefore, if you’re looking for a milder variety, stick to the green ones, which are also the best choice for salsas and salads.
If you can handle the heat, there are numerous recipes you can try including jalapeno peppers. They’re delicious grilled, roasted, fried, and stuffed – especially if you decide to make a popular Mexican snack, jalapeno poppers.
These yellow-greenish peppers, also known as Tuscan peppers, or Golden Green peppers, are mild, sweet, usually yellow peppers that originate from Italy and Greece. As far as flavors are concerned, pepperoncini are slightly sweeter, but still a good replacement for cubanelle.
While they’re usually pickled, pepperoncini are suitable for all kinds of cooking methods, including roasting, frying, stuffing, and pan-frying, but they can also be used raw in salads and on top of pizza.
Pepperoncini have wrinkled skin and a yellow-green color that turns to red once they’ve matured. They can be a bit hot in some batches, but that is usually not the case.
10. Cherry Peppers
Just like the name itself implies, cherry peppers are small, round, red peppers, resembling pimiento peppers. Just like pepperoncini, they’re usually pickled, but you can also use them in cooking, as well as salads.
While they’re usually mild, cherry peppers can sometimes be moderately hot, which is something you should keep in mind if you do not do well with heat. They’re a great choice for plate garnish, but you can also roast, stuff, or make them into poppers.
As for the level of hotness, they range between 2,500 and 5,000 units, which means that they definitely provide a little bit of a kick.
11. Hungarian Wax Peppers
Hungarian wax peppers, very similar to banana peppers in appearance, originate from Hungary and can be rather tricky when it comes to determining their hotness. Since they range between 1,000 and 15,000 SHU, you could easily come across a very hot pepper.
Therefore, if you’re not used to hot peppers and you don’t tolerate heat, it is best you stick to other alternatives we’ve mentioned. It is safe to say that a little bit of a hot Hungarian wax pepper goes a long way.
12. Rocotillo Peppers
Rocotillo peppers represent yet another option on the mild side, usually ranging between 1,500 and 2,500 SHU. As you can already tell by these numbers, Rocotillo peppers cannot be considered entirely mild, but rather moderately hot.
These mildly hot, predominantly sweet peppers originate from Peru, and they have a characteristic squished shape. They’re quite small (about 1 inch long), and many people tend to confuse them with Habanero peppers.
How to choose a cubanelle pepper substitute
Besides salads (both fresh and fried), cubanelle peppers have many uses, so it’s important to choose the right substitute for each case. Due to their shape and size, they’re suitable for stuffing with any kind of filling, whether it be minced meat, stir-fried veggies, or ricotta cheese.
You can also use cubanelle peppers in casserole dishes, yellow mole sauce, on top of pizza, or in sandwiches. They can be grilled, baked, fried, deep-fried, or simply eaten fresh as a healthy, vitamin-packed snack.
If you do not tolerate heat at all and you would like to stick to predominantly mild and sweet peppers, your best choices would be bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, shishito peppers, banana peppers, sweet chili peppers, and pepperoncini.
Remember that there can always be exceptions – even with mild peppers. As for the moderately hot category, there are poblano peppers, pimento peppers, cherry peppers, and Rocotillo peppers that are generally mild but can often have a slight kick of hotness.
Finally, for those of you who appreciate a hot pepper, go with either jalapenos or Hungarian wax peppers, that still have a dose of sweetness you’d expect from a cubanelle pepper substitute.