They’re actually part of the capsicum annuum species which is also home to the aforementioned bell pepper, as well as the jalapeno.
Sometimes people confuse them with the cherry pepper, which looks very similar but actually comes from a different family and is usually a bit spicier.
However, with having such a specific set of qualities, sometimes you might not always have them ready and available for your recipe. So today we’ve prepared a list of 11 fantastic substitutes you can use if you suddenly find yourself out of pimento.
The best substitutes for pimento
Pimento can actually come in a couple of different varieties, the most common is the heart-shaped one which looks similar to the cherry pepper. But there is also the longer ‘lipstick’ variety named as such because of its long shape and rounded end.
They generally have a rich flavor and aren’t very spicy, in fact in cooking they are more commonly used to add sweetness to a dish as their Scoville heat unit can range from 0-500 SHU which is extremely low.
This flavor and heat level makes them great for things like pickling and stuffing with cheese, but they are also commonly used to stuff olives which was a practice that became popular in France back in the 1700s as the pimento helped to tone down some of the olive’s bitterness.
With those core qualities of the pimento in mind, let’s take a look at some substitutes you can use in your cooking if you find yourself without any to hand.
1. Peppadew Peppers
These contain that wonderful thick and juicy skin which makes them ideal replacements in many scenarios. They also contain a lot of that signature sweetness that makes Pimentos so delicious.
However, they also carry with them a little bit of spice, sitting around 1000-1200 on the Scoville heat unit scale.
This does make them more than double the rating of pimentos. But it’s also worth noting that in the grand scheme of things, this is still considered extremely mild and certainly isn’t going to overpower your dish.
While not a good substitute in all use cases, pimento is very commonly ground up to make what’s called ‘All Spice’ which is extremely similar to Paprika.
If ground pimiento is called for in your recipe consider replacing it with cinnamon. It has a wonderful and quite intense flavor and is equally as aromatic as pimento.
A good trick is to cut the cinnamon powder with some nutmeg which can help to tone down some of that intensity. This makes it a very convenient substitute as both cinnamon and nutmeg are common enough to where you might have some on your spice rack already.
3. Canned pimento
This might seem like the most obvious choice, but there are a few things to keep in mind with canned pimentos in order to make them appropriate for all use cases.
One of the big benefits of canned Pimentos is that they are nice and easy to source, you should be able to pick up a jar or two of them at your local supermarket without issue.
However, they are usually pre-marinated in a quite salty solution which makes them higher in sodium than fresh ones. Be sure to drain and pat them dry with a kitchen towel before cooking with them.
4. Red Bell Pepper
These are arguably more popular and commonly used in day-to-day cooking than pimentos which makes them super accessible, you’ll definitely be able to find these in any grocery store.
They also make one of the best substitutes around because they share so many similar qualities with the pimento. They have that quite thick and meaty skin, also rate very low on the Scoville heat unit scale, and can impart a delicious sweetness on whatever you add them to.
A good rule of thumb when substituting with red pepper is to use 3 tablespoons of bell pepper for every 2 tablespoons of pimento the recipe calls for.
5. Cherry Peppers
These little things look so similar to pimentos that they are oftentimes mistaken for each other. The easy way to tell them apart is that pimentos have more of a heart shape, whereas these look like little round comedic bombs.
They contain that similar thick texture and skin, but they do differ a bit when it comes to heat. Ranging anywhere from 2500 to 5000 on the SHU scale.
So if you use this as a 1:1 substitute it’s going to overpower your dish with heat! Consider splitting it a little with some more mild red bell pepper, or simply using less to even things out a bit.
6. Holland Sweet Peppers
Also known as ‘Dutch Chillies’, these can come in a wide range of colors and look remarkably close to that of bell peppers.
Fortunately, they have a delicious innate sweetness to them which makes them a very good replacement for pimento and you can use them in a simple 1:1 ratio.
They’re pretty large though, which can make them excellent for things like stuffing with cheese and roasting.
7. Ground cloves
Sure, maybe you wouldn’t think about ground cloves as a substitute for pimento peppers, but you would be surprised by how well this works as a substitute for pimento.
If you’re just looking to add a little bit of sharpness to your dish, ground cloves are the ideal replacement. They are also very versatile, you can use them in casseroles, stews, curries, and even beverages!
8. Piquillo Pepper
What makes Piquillo peppers so great at being a pimento substitute is the fact they have no perceptible heat and offer a nice (albeit complex) sweet flavor.
They’re also pretty large while being very accessible and easy to grow!
Of course, they have quite a different shape and thinner walls which makes them less ideal for stuffing. But in many contexts, this doesn’t matter and they should work great!
9. Corno Di Toro Pepper
The name of this pepper literally translates as ‘the horn of the bull’ thanks to its long, horn-like shape.
Much like the other suggestions on this list they are very mild flavored with almost no perceptible heat. They also offer a delicious sweet flavor making them ideal alternatives to pimento.
One thing to note is they’re usually pretty huge, so in any meal where you have to chop them up it’s not a problem, but if you plan on stuffing these you may want to consider chopping them in half first and using 1 pepper as 2 servings.
10. Banana Peppers
Banana peppers are named as such as they are pretty long and yellow, much like a banana.
They are a little sweet, but perhaps not as sweet as some of the other suggestions on this list, but they also don’t have any perceptible heat which can make them ideal when used as a raw ingredient.
11. Italian Sweet Peppers
As the name might suggest, these have a wonderfully sweet taste and very little heat which makes them very good pimento substitutes.
They also have quite a meaty quality to them which is ideal for baking, stuffing, and roasting.
How to choose the best Pimento Substitute
While there are many substitutes listed here that can really work well regardless of the cooking scenario.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the absolute best ones based on a range of criteria so you can be sure you’re getting the best type of substitute for the dish you want.
If matching the flavor is important for the dish you are making then we highly recommend the good old bell pepper, they have a very mild amount of heat level and a similar, sweet flavor to them which can make them fantastic replacements in almost any cooking scenario.
If your intended dish involves baking, roasting, or grilling stuffed peppers it’s very important that the pepper isn’t too thin. They need to be a little more robust and meaty to withstand the cooking process.
In this scenario, we recommend the cherry pepper, although they are a little hotter than pimientos by the time they are stuffed and cooked it’s far less noticeable.
The pepper with the most bang for your buck is the Corno di toro pepper. This is because they are so large, meaning you can get away with buying very few of them for making a large meal.
While they are less ideal for stuffing due to their size, for anything like salads or frying you’ll be left with a ton of ingredients from just a single pepper.
Once again the Bell Pepper is going to be your most accessible pepper here. This is because of their sheer popularity, they are heavily mass-produced and available at all good grocery stores and supermarkets.
You should have no trouble sourcing some of these guys no matter where you live.
Our top pick
As you might have guessed at this point, the best overall pimento pepper substitute is the traditional bell pepper. This is because of its mild and sweet flavor, low amount of heat, and the fact they are so common and accessible.
That, combined with the fact you can just use them in a 1:1 ratio so you don’t need to do any math when cooking with them makes them basically perfect substitutes.
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