Since they belong to chili peppers, many people believe shishito to be quite hot, like the rest of the pepper kinds in this category. Quite the contrary, shishito is a mild, rather sweet pepper, and it is usually not hot – but one in a 10 will be.
Shishito has a unique color, flavor, and shape, so you may think that it is irreplaceable in your recipes. While we certainly agree that it is quite unique, there are some pretty good shishito replacements we’ve decided to discuss in this article.
Looking for a shishito pepper substitute? You’ve come to the right place.
The best substitutes for shishito peppers
Shishito peppers come from Japan, and they’re usually small, green, with a twisty shape and wrinkly texture. As we’ve already mentioned, some people may mistake them for hot chili peppers, when they’re in fact very mild and sweet.
When it comes to their flavor, besides the sweetness there is also something that could be described as slightly smokey. However, keep in mind that once in a while you may come across some rather hot shishito peppers, which is possible with all kinds of peppers.
Shishito peppers are also known as lion head peppers in Japan since the name itself comes from the Japanese word shishi meaning lion. In Korea, on the other hand, shishito is known as kkwari-gochu, which means groundcherry pepper, due to its wrinkly appearance.
When it comes to the Scoville Scale of hotness, shishito ranks quite low, at about 50-200 Scoville Heat Units. However, as we’ve mentioned, one out of 10 shishito peppers may surprise you with its hotness, but this isn’t that common.
Even if you do come across a hotter variant of shishito peppers, it will still not be nearly as spicy as the hot chili peppers such as jalapeno peppers, for example.
In most cases, shishito peppers are served as delicious appetizers or side dishes, either grilled or seared in oil. However, they offer many more possibilities, including frying, stuffing them with cheese, but also processing them into a delicious sauce or a dip.
Perhaps the most famous shishito recipe is blistered shishito peppers sprinkled with salt, as a delicious, crunchy appetizer. Add some olive oil, vinegar of choice, and a pinch of garlic salt and you’ve got yourself a gorgeous salad (don’t beat it till you’ve tried it)!
In case you can’t find shishito peppers at the moment, or you simply need an alternative, here’s a list of adequate replacement options!
1. Padron peppers
Padron peppers, originally known as Pimiento de Padron, are our number one pick when it comes to a shishito peppers substitute. In fact, Padron peppers are so similar to shishito peppers that many people even confuse the two kinds.
They’re small, vibrant green peppers originating from Padrón, Spain. Just like shishito peppers, they’re predominantly sweet, mild, and rarely ever hot – but once in a while, you may get a hot one in the pack.
When it comes to their mildness, they could even be compared to bell peppers (zero heat on the Scoville Scale). However, the hot variants may be surprisingly hot – yet still not hot enough to be compared to hot peppers such as jalapenos.
2. Bell peppers
Bell peppers are quite possibly the most commonly used variant of peppers, as they’re extremely versatile and suitable for pretty much any dish you can think of. While stuffed peppers may be the most famous dish, there are countless other options.
Bell peppers are delicious when grilled, braised, baked, cut up in an omelet, or even served fresh in a salad. They pair well with all kinds of meat, potatoes, fish, seafood, as well as creamy cheese such as ricotta.
When it comes to their flavor profile, red and yellow bell peppers are usually mild and sweet, while the green ones may be a somewhat tangier variant. Other than that, they’re hardly ever hot, and as we’ve stated previously, their hotness scale is zero.
3. Banana peppers
Banana peppers are yellow, medium-sized, and they also belong to the mild-flavored group of peppers. You’ll mostly come across bright yellow banana peppers (hence the name), but they can also be green, red, or orange when matured.
Banana pepper makes for a great shishito pepper substitute since it is mild and versatile. However, when it comes to sweetness, you’ll notice that banana pepper is a bit less sweet, and a bit tangier than shishito.
This pepper also belongs to the chili category, and it is commonly referred to as the yellow wax pepper or banana chili. It can be stuffed, fried, added to a salad, or on top of a veggie pizza.
4. Fresno peppers
Now, if you’re looking for a hot substitute for shishito peppers, Fresno peppers deserve all your attention. Many people view them as a “copy” of jalapeno peppers, but they certainly deserve much more credit than that.
Since we’ve introduced them as a hot option, you’re probably wondering just how hot they can be. When it comes to Scoville heat units, the scale shows 2,500-10,000 SHU – which can be quite hot, depending on the variant.
Besides being hot, Fresno peppers are also smokey, fruity, and subtly sweet. They resemble jalapenos not only in hotness but in shape and size, as well. Fresno peppers are also more suitable for drying than jalapeno peppers.
5. Jalapeno peppers
While on the topic of hot peppers, we simply can’t forget about the famous jalapenos. They’re usually green, mid-sized chili peppers, and they belong to the green chili category of peppers.
Jalapenos originate from Mexico, where they’re an absolute staple in many dishes and even beverages such as spicy margaritas. Even though they’re certainly not mild and way hotter than shishito, they still belong to the mild-hot subcategory, at an average of 5,000 SHU.
While they’re mostly green, you can also find the matured, red variant, which is also milder. Jalapenos are delicious crunchy snacks, great additions to soups, sauces, pizza, stuffing, and any dish that requires some brightness and a touch of hotness.
6. Serrano peppers
Here we have yet another popular Mexican chili pepper, often confused with jalapenos due to their green color, shape, and size. However, serrano peppers can be up to 10 times hotter than jalapenos, and they’re usually smaller.
Depending on maturity, serrano peppers vary in color, from vibrant green to orange, yellow, red, and even brown. Since they can get pretty hot, a little bit goes a long way and you should definitely add a little bit at a time – especially if you’re not used to hot peppers.
Serrano peppers are extremely versatile, as you can cook them, pickle them, eat them raw in a salad, or use them to make a hot chile oil.
7. Anaheim peppers
Also known as California or New Mexico chili, Anaheim pepper is a green, mildly hot pepper. Just like many other variants we’ve mentioned, Anaheim peppers can also be found ripe, when they turn deep red and their flavor becomes much milder.
It is very common in Mexican cuisine, especially in dishes such as Chiles Rellenos, all kinds of stews, and soups. However, these peppers are traditionally dried and hung onto a string known as ristras in Mexico, not only for food but for ornamental purposes, as well.
When it comes to the hotness scale, Anaheim peppers rank somewhere between 500 and 2,500 SHU, which means that they can be compared to a mildly hot jalapeno.
8. Cubanelle peppers
If you’re looking strictly for sweet peppers, cubanelle peppers may be the solution for your recipe. These peppers can sometimes be mildly hot, but they’re predominantly sweet, which makes them a pretty good replacement for shishito peppers.
Just like the majority of pepper varieties we’ve mentioned, cubanelle peppers are picked before they ripen, so they remain green. If you go for more mature peppers, you will find them in different colors, from yellow and orange-red to bright red.
The most commonly known recipe including cubanelle peppers is fried cubanelle peppers since they’re an ideal choice for this kind of cooking. You can stuff them with your favorite cheese, coat them in batter and fry them in a little bit of olive oil.
9. Friggitello peppers
Friggitello peppers also come from Italy, and just like cubanelle peppers, they also belong to the sweet chili pepper flavor category. You may have heard of them under other names, including Golden Greek pepper, Tuscan pepper, or Sweet Italian pepper.
These peppers are mostly sweet, but they can sometimes have a touch of heat to them, with a distinctive, subtle bitterness. Friggitello peppers are just as versatile as any other pepper we’ve mentioned, but they’re deliciously pickled.
The complexity of their flavor can mostly be experienced when eaten raw, but you can also sauteé them, fry them, or use them in compotes.
How to choose a shishito pepper substitute
When it comes to choosing the best shishito pepper substitute, as it often happens it all comes down to your personal preferences, as well as the recipe you have in mind. However, a key factor when choosing a pepper is the level of heat you can handle.
If you’d prefer to stick to peppers similar to shishito, which are mostly sweet, mild, and hardly ever surprise with a hint of heat, you should go with Padron peppers, bell peppers, banana peppers, or Friggitello peppers.
For our medium-hot category, we have Anaheim peppers and cubanelle peppers, which are still on the mild side but are definitely hotter than shishito peppers.
Finally, if you’re looking for a hot alternative and you don’t steer away from hot peppers, you should try Fresno peppers, jalapenos, or Serrano peppers. While these options are far from the hottest peppers you can find, they’re still hot enough to spice up any dish!