Pepperoncini peppers are featured in a large variety of recipes, but especially in sauces, sandwiches and soups. These mild and flavorful peppers can give the right kick to your dish, but what to do when you’re out of pepperoncini just when you need them?
When looking for a pepperoncini peppers substitute, take into consideration the spiciness. Pepperoncini are very low on the Scoville scale, so you can go for something with the same spiciness like banana or cherry peppers, or you can try something spicier.
The best substitutes for pepperoncini
Pepperoncini are medium-sized peppers that resemble bell peppers in shape and spiciness because even though they score higher SHU, they’re often not perceived as spicy peppers.
Pepperoncini originates in Greek and Italy, although they’re only common in the Campania region of Italy and not really as popular or used in the rest of the country. They’re also known as ‘friggitelli’ because the term pepperoncini can be applied to all spicy peppers.
They’re usually sold pickled and have different varieties that go from green to red in color. They’re usually picked when green and they turn red when they’re fully ripe, but you will most often find yellow and green pepperoncini in stores.
Pepperoncini peppers are also easy to grow at home if you’re so inclined. However, if you can’t find them in stores and you can’t grow your own pepperoncini, try one of the following pepperoncini alternatives.
1. Banana pepper
Fresh banana peppers are often considered the best pepperoncini substitute because they are very similar in terms of flavor and they also look alike, in fact, are often confused if seen side by side. If you swapped them in a recipe no one would notice the difference.
Banana peppers are named after their banana-shaped and bright yellow color. Like pepperoncini, they turn red when they’re fully ripe, but they also become sweeter the more they mature.
They have a mild taste and are even less spicy than pepperoncini, so they fit in salads and sandwiches pretty well. They’re usually sold in jars, so jarred banana peppers are perfect substitutes for jarred pepperoncini.
2. Poblano pepper
Poblanos are about four times spicier than pepperoncini, however, they’re still considered a medium-spicy pepper, so if you’re looking to give a new kick to your dish they’re the right peperoncino substitute for you.
These peppers have an earthy flavor and thick walls, while pepperoncini have a rather sweet flavor and thin-walls, so poblanos are probably not the first choice if you’re looking to replace pepperoncini with something as close as possible to them.
Nonetheless, poblanos are quite versatile and most of all, they’re easy to find in stores because they’re available everywhere. They’re especially good for Mexican dishes.
3. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper is one of the most popular peppers and is usually found in dry form or ground powder form. It is mainly used as a hot spice to enhance sauces but fits a large variety of recipes from savory to meat dishes.
It’s closely related to bell peppers and jalapenos, and it has many health benefits, in fact, it was used as a medical remedy to treat circulatory issues.
While being a good pepperoncini replacement, these peppers have an intense flavor and are hotter than pepperoncini, especially the red variety, so you should remember to regulate the number of cayenne peppers in your recipe accordingly to your taste.
4. Anaheim pepper
Anaheim peppers are similar to jalapenos, in fact, they’re often used as a jalapeno substitute. However, they have a sweeter taste than jalapenos, which brings them closer to pepperoncini.
These peppers have thick walls, unlike pepperoncini, and have large cavities that work well with stuffing recipes. Their main advantage as a pepperoncini substitute is that they’re very easy to find in any store.
The least spicy anaheim pepper is usually as spicy as the spiciest pepperoncini pepper, so proceed with caution when adding this substitute to your recipe, although they remain quite mild peppers on the scale and definitely milder than jalapenos.
They’re a popular ingredient for salsas and can be used in place of bell peppers in any recipe. They’re versatile but particularly good in sauces, hamburgers, and omelets.
5. Cherry pepper
Cherry peppers are commonly found pickled and they make a great alternative to pickled pepperoncini, bring the same flavor and qualities to the dish.
They’re called cherry peppers because of their round shape and bright red color with a green stalk that resembles a cherry. They’re also known as pimiento peppers, “pimiento” simply being the Spanish word for “pepper”.
Their spiciness measures more or less the same as pepperoncini on the Scoville scale, although they’re sometimes perceived as spicier. They have a mild and sweet flavor like pepperoncini and are extremely popular for their appetizing appearance.
6. Jalapeno pepper
Jalapeno peppers are among the most popular peppers and you can easily find them in stores under different varieties: fresh, pickled, and dried among others.
Considered by many to be very spicy peppers, jalapenos are in fact only a mild-to-moderate pepper and they’re even milder than cayenne pepper. However, since it’s hard for truly spicy pepper to reach grocery store shelves, jalapenos are usually the hottest fresh peppers you can find in stores.
You can substitute pepperoncini with jalapenos in pretty much every recipe, as they’re very versatile, but since they’re much hotter than pepperoncini, remember to regulate the amount used, otherwise you risk overpowering your dish.
7. Hungarian wax pepper
Hungarian wax peppers look almost exactly like pepperoncini, so maybe it’s lucky that they’re not as easily found in stores because they’re much spicier, and confusing them could make a very unpleasant surprise.
However, they can actually make a good substitute for pepperoncini, if you regulate the amount used in your recipe based on their spiciness. The average Hungarian wax pepper is in fact as spicy as the spicier jalapeno, but it also has a strong sweet taste that closely resembles pepperoncini.
If you’re looking for a pepperoncini alternative because you wish to keep a similar overall taste, but you’re up for a new kick to an old recipe, the Hungarian wax pepper is the substitute for you.
8. Trinidad perfume chili pepper
The Trinidad Perfume chili pepper could be described as very strange-shaped and small bell pepper, and indeed its spiciness hits the lowest end of the Scoville scale like bell peppers.
It’s called ‘perfume chili pepper’ because when it’s cooked, it gives off an appetizing perfume-like scent. They’re not exactly a sweet pepper, in fact, its flavor is more citrus-like and kind of smoky.
Their flavor is delicious and very much popular, in fact, many people choose to grow their own Trinidad perfume chili peppers at home. Their growth can be a little slow, but definitely worth it.
Because of its fruity flavor and aroma, the Trinidad is a good substitute for pepperoncini in mild dishes.
9. New Mexico pepper
The New Mexico pepper is another great Mexican pepper that resembles Anaheim peppers and jalapenos. This pepper covers a wide portion of the Scoville scale, in fact, it can be as mild as 500 SHU or as spicy as 10,000 SHU.
They can be green or red, have a very interesting and rich flavor, which is why they’re sometimes referred to as Anaheim peppers. They’re great for stuffed recipes and can be a good alternative to pepperoncini if you’re looking to spice up your dish.
Remember to check their spiciness level and regulate the amount in the recipe accordingly.
10. Cubanelle chili pepper
Cubanelle peppers place themselves on the lowest end of the Scoville scale, in fact, the spiciest Cubanelle barely reaches 1,000 SHU and it’s hardly even considered a hot pepper.
They’re sweet peppers, much like bell peppers, and they’re usually picked when they’re yellow-green, but when fully ripe they turn bright red.
Cubanelle peppers are used in a large variety of recipes, but they’re especially good for stuffing, casseroles, salads, sauces, or as topping for pizza.
They’re also known as Italian frying peppers because you can get great results by frying them in a pan with a little olive oil.
Use cubanelle in all the recipes you would use pepperoncini, since they both have thin walls they require a similar cooking time.
11. Cascabel pepper
Cascabel pepper is another Mexican pepper that has much to offer. It’s more often found dried than fresh and sometimes it’s grounded into chili flakes.
Their name means “little bell” because they make a rattling sound when shaken, due to the seeds contained inside. They’re moderately spicy, and if you wish to make your dish or sauce spicier, you can open them and use the seeds and skin separately.
Their flavor can be described as nutty and smoky. This pepper is mainly used for its heat qualities in stews, soups, sauces, and salsas.
They’re not the closest substitute for pepperoncini, but they’re a flavorful alternative that is easy to use.
12. Rocotillo pepper
The rocotillo pepper resembles the Trinidad pepper in shape, but this pepper originally from Peru is usually a bright and shiny red, even though it can also be orange or brown.
There is some confusion about the rocotillo pepper because the name rocotillo can be applied to different peppers in different places around the world.
The most common variety of rocotillo grows in Cuba and Puerto Rico and is also popular in its dry form.
They’re moderately spicy (1500-2500 SHU) and have a fruity flavor which is much appreciated in salsas, sauces, soups, and stews as an alternative to pepperoncini, though they can be a great addition to vegetable side dishes as well.
13. Red pepper flakes
Red pepper flakes are everywhere and can be used nearly in every recipe. They are used to enhance the flavor and spiciness of sauces, side dishes, and even pasta.
They’re made from a mix of peppers from the capsicum annum family, which is the family of peppers such as Anaheim, jalapenos, and bell peppers. The most used pepper to make pepper flakes is usually the cayenne pepper.
You can use any type of red pepper flakes as a substitute for pepperoncini flakes. They can be used interchangeably in recipes, however depending on the peppers the flakes are made of, they might be spicier, so check the ingredients beforehand.
How to choose a pepperoncini substitute.
It is estimated that there are around 50,000 varieties of peppers, which is a number too great for our mind to comprehend, but it gives us an idea of how easy it is to substitute a pepper in our recipes.
Whether you’re simply out of pepperoncini or you wish to experiment with new flavors because you’re tired of the same old recipe, you can imagine the pepper family as a big buffet waiting for you.
With such a generous choice of peppers, how do you choose a pepperoncini substitute? If you want to make an informed choice, consider the following characteristics:
– Flavor: maybe you just need a substitute for pepperoncini that will make your recipe look and taste the same as if you were using the original. In this case, you should go for mild and sweet peppers such as Banana, Cherry, and Anaheim peppers. If you want to experiment with new flavors instead, choose alternatives like the Trinidad perfume chili pepper, New Mexico pepper, or Rocotillo pepper.
– Spiciness: the truth is, most substitutes for pepperoncini will be spicier than the original. That’s because pepperoncini are pretty low on the Scoville scale, but this can also become an advantage because you can try out new flavors that might enhance your recipe in ways you can’t imagine. If you’re looking for some spice, go for jalapenos, cayenne pepper, or the Hungarian wax pepper.
– Recipe: although many peppers are interchangeable in a recipe, some better fit certain recipes rather than others. For example, for stuffing recipes, you will need a pepper with large cavities and moderately thick walls like Anaheim or Cubanelle peppers. For salsas, go for Cascabel or Rocotillo pepper instead.
– Availability: your choice of peppers might be limited to what’s available in stores near you. Banana, jalapenos, poblanos, cayenne, and anaheim peppers are usually ever-present in most places. Other peppers like the Hungarian wax or the Trinidad may not be as easy to find.
– One-for-all: when you need to spice up things in the kitchen and enhance the flavor of your recipe and you’re not sure which pepper to use, go for red pepper flakes. They can be used in nearly every recipe and they require little effort for a good outcome.
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