Whether you're in the mood for salsa, chili, or another dish where you want incredible flavor with or without heat, you cannot go wrong with using one of the peppers listed above.
Peppers can enhance any meal with their rich and varied flavor profile in their vibrant shades and heat scales.
From the mild sweetness of bell peppers to the fiery heat of habaneros, the world of peppers offers an array of flavors, heat levels, and culinary uses. A staple in many cuisines worldwide, peppers can transform any dish with just a hint or an explosion of their unique flavors. So, are you ready for this flavourful journey? It promises to be a tasty ride!
Scientific name: Capsicum annum L.
Vernacular name: Prik
Thriving in diverse tropical regions, Chillies, with their plethora of varieties, offer variations in shape, zest, size, and color. Although the larger, fleshy types tend to be milder, they provide rich doses of Vitamin C, promote efficient digestion of starchy foods, and instigate a robust tonic. Numerous curry preparations incorporate dried chilies as a chief spice ingredient.
A Word of Caution
Use the recommended amount in your recipe when cooking with the hotter pepper versions. If you're creating your recipe, add just a little pepper and allow it to blend with the food before adding more. Trust me; a little can go a long way!
Mild & Medium Heat Peppers
Characterized by a smoky-sweet profile, chipotle chilies are essentially ripe, red jalapenos dried and smoked. They are impeccable when adding a touch of warmth and depth of flavor to soups, stews, and marinades.
Pasilla or 'little raisin' peppers' bring a mild heat level with their unique fruity, berry-like taste with hints of herbs. They are a perfect ingredient for enhancing the flavors of Mexican mole sauces, soups, and casseroles.
Guajillo chilies are famous for their tangy-sweet flavor with notes of cranberry and tomato. They are versatile in the culinary world, enhancing dishes like salsas, stews, and marinades with their medium-heat charm.
Morita chilies offer a moderate heat level with a rich, smoky flavor. They are excellent for barbeque sauces, rubs, and other smoked dishes.
Well-known for their fiery, intense heat, cayenne peppers are typically dried and ground into a powdered spice. Valued in numerous cuisines across the globe, they add a powerful kick to spicy dishes and hot sauces and can even boost a simple cup of hot chocolate.
Sweet Red Peppers
Sweet red peppers are bell peppers at their ripest, boasting a sweet, almost fruity flavor. Their vibrant color and crunchy texture make them a perfect addition to salads, stir-fries, and pizza toppings.
Sweet Green Peppers
The unripe version of bell peppers, sweet green peppers, carry a mildly bitter yet sweet flavor profile. They shine in various dishes like stuffed peppers, kabobs, and fajitas.
Sweet Yellow Peppers
Bright, colorful, and deliciously sweet yellow peppers imbue a more vibrant and mellow sweet flavor than their red and green counterparts. They work excellently in pasta, omelets, and grilled dishes.
Habaneros are smaller peppers, but keep their size from fooling you. They measure between 100,000 and 360,000 Scoville units, which are very hot. The habanero has a distinct citrus-like flavor with intense heat and is excellent in salsa, hot sauce, and foods where you want a hot and spicy flavor.
Famed for their intense heat, habaneros provide a fruity, citrus-like flavor, with their fiery punch usually setting in after a few seconds. Use them sparingly in hot sauces, salsas, and any dish needing a bold, spicy kick.
Carrying a similar heat level to the habanero, Scotch Bonnets also provide a slightly sweet, fruity flavor. They are a quintessential ingredient in many Caribbean dishes, especially jerk chicken.
Delivering a sharper heat than a jalapeno, Serrano peppers are small cousins of the jalapeno. Serranos are a popular choice for salsas, relishes, and soups, infusing them with a crisp, fresh flavor.
They measure 10,000 to 25,000 Scoville units and are hotter than jalapenos. Serrano peppers are typically used in pico de gallo or pickled in vinegar, but many enjoy eating them raw.
Known best for the famous hot sauce of the same name, Tabasco peppers offer a slow-building heat with a fruity undertone. They star in hot sauces, soups, and stews.
Piri Piri peppers, with their fiery heat and tangy, citrusy flavor, remain a staple in many African and Portuguese cuisines - the signature piri piri chicken being the prime example.
Bird's Eye Pepper
Bird's Eye peppers, also known as Thai chilies, are incredibly spicy for their tiny size. Offering an intense heat and slightly fruity flavor, they are integral to many Asian dishes, particularly Thai and Vietnamese cuisines.
Chili peppers are a popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine. There are over 150 varieties of peppers, each with a unique flavor. If you use peppers when making Mexican dishes, use the specific pepper recommended in the recipe.
Ancho chilies are the dried version of a Poblano pepper. It must be rehydrated for several hours before adding them to recipes. Once they are rehydrated, they are often ground up before being added. If you've ever had Mole sauce, you have eaten Ancho chilies.
Chipotle, a smoke-dried jalapeno pepper, can be used in many dishes. They can be found canned, dried, or whole. The smoky flavor is prized when added to black bean sauce. Chipotle is also a component of Huevos Rancheros and is an excellent accompaniment to tacos, burritos, and other dishes.
Bell peppers are common in most of the United States. They come in several colors, including green, yellow, orange, and red. Bell peppers are considered a "sweet pepper" as they don't produce capsaicin - the chemical that gives peppers their heat. Bell peppers are often used when making fajitas but are excellent stuffed or raw in salads.
Poblano peppers are mild in flavor and very versatile. They measure 1,000-2,500 Scoville units, with red being the hottest. Poblanos can be breaded, fried, roasted, stuffed, or used in mole sauces. Chile Rellenos is one of the more widely known dishes where Poblano peppers are used.
The Jalapeno pepper is one of the best-known of all chilies. It measures 3,500-8,000 Scoville units, so while not the hottest pepper, it still has some heat. As a result, there are endless uses for the jalapeno pepper. We often see them on top of nachos or diced in cheese dip, but they're also great to make jelly with.
Cayenne peppers are not native to Mexico but are often used in dishes where you want to add extra heat. They measure 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units and can pack a punch. Dried cayenne flakes, also called red pepper, have many uses and can often be found on the tables of pizza parlors.
Cooking and Pairing Ideas with Peppers
Peppers can illuminate various dishes, from salads and soups to main dishes and hot sauces.
Their versatility lets them find a home in salads, which benefit from the sweet bell peppers' crunch and color. Salsas and sandwiches can gain depth and heat from chili peppers.
Moving towards mains, peppers in soups bring forth a touch of warmth and homeliness while spicing meats and vegetables for noteworthy flavors.
Not forgetting dips, the spice of chili peppers can craft unforgettable party dishes. Last, the food world would be complete with fermented hot sauces, which owe a world of flavor and heat to peppers such as habaneros, cayennes, and tabascos.