Not exactly a banana pepper, not entirely a hot pepper either, the pepperoncini is in a league all its own. It possesses the sweetness of a mild pepper while giving us that added touch of heat. Falling somewhere in between the two flavors, pepperoncinis are sought after in many dishes. Learn all about these peppers before you use them during dinner (or munch on them raw).

What Are Pepperoncinis?

pickled pepperoncini peppers in a jar

Pepperoncinis are small red peppers that closely resemble the banana pepper. They're similar in shape and even heat, but the pepperoncini has several qualities to make it stand out.

Their Origin Story

Originally, the pepperoncini made its debut in Europe in the 16th century. For years, rumors have flown that Christopher Columbus was actually responsible for bringing them to the New World. Nothing has been confirmed, though.

They were specifically found and used in Italy and Greece, where they're still used to this day. Depending on where pepperoncinis are grown, they may differ slightly in size. Greek pepperoncinis are a bit smaller and sweeter whereas the ones in Italy tend to grow longer.

You can still find pepperoncinis outside these countries, though. Specialty stores and markets usually have them in stock. You may run across them in your everyday grocery store, but your odds are higher if you head to an Italian grocer or specialty store.

Stores in the United States may refer to friggitello peppers are pepperoncini peppers, but they're not the same. Friggitello peppers (also known as Golden Greek peppers) are sweet Italian peppers. Pepperoncinis are on the spicier side.

Taste And Appearance

pepperoncinis in a glass

As we said, the pepperoncini is quite similar to the banana pepper. In fact, some have a tough time ascertaining the difference between the two. Characteristics that give pepperoncinis away are:

  • Medium size body with light green skin
  • They begin green, but their skin turns red once they ripen
  • Pepperoncini points are rounder than banana peppers

If you've never had these peppers before, you're not in for a large shock. Just like the banana pepper, they're pretty low on the Scoville scale (100-500 SCU). Pepperoncinis are a great blend of sweet and heat. If you're particularly vulnerable against spice, chances are you'll feel a burning on the tongue, but it's nothing you won't be able to handle.

How They Stand Out From The Rest

It can be tricky to pick a pepperoncini from a banana pepper. Frankly, one of the best ways to tell these two apart is to pay close attention to their skin. Banana peppers are aptly named for their smooth skin whereas the pepperoncini doesn't have that luxury. More often than not, a pepperoncini will have noticeably wrinkled skin, especially when compared against the banana pepper.

close up of pickled and slices pepperoncinis

They share similar tastes as well, but the pepperoncini is a tad hotter than the banana pepper. Not by much, but if you're not a fan of spicy food then you'll probably notice a difference.

Ways To Use Pepperoncinis

You now know what they are and where they came from. All that's left to learn is how best to use them in the kitchen.

Pickled Pepperoncinis

These peppers are often pickled and many people prefer them this way. An easy way to do this is to place them in a jar with a bit of garlic, salt, and olive oil. Leave them in a dark place for three weeks and you've got yourself a jar full of flavor.

Pasta With Pepperoncini Sauce

Pasta dishes are fun, easy, and versatile. When you want your ordinary noodles to give off some heat, prepare a pepperoncini sauce to go with it. You'll need a few other ingredients like canned tomatoes, olives, bacon, and basil. Once you have everything, toss it all together and you've got yourself an amazing sauce.

Stuffed Pepperoncinis

stuffed pepperoncinis in a dish

Chances are we've tried stuffed bell peppers before. Well, there's no reason not to stuff a pepperoncini instead! With a few shallots and cream cheese, you can give guests a spicy kick while maintaining a milder filling. You can tweak the spices and vegetables you add to the filling as well to really live life to your tastes.

Slow Cooker Pepperoncini Roast

Everyone loves the convenience of a crock pot. Stick a roast in there for a few hours, come back, and boom! Dinner is all ready to go. But if you're looking for a way to spice up just any old roast, you can toss some pepperoncinis in there for more kick.

Pickled Pepperoncini Deviled Eggs

Okay, so not everyone likes stuffed peppers. One dish most people do love, however, is the deviled egg. With just eight ingredients and 30 minutes time, you'll have yourself super yummy eggs you can bring to a potluck or serve at your own gathering. This is also a double-whammy recipe because you can use your pickled pepperoncinis to make it.

Pepperoncini Substitutes

banana peppers on a cutting board

There's a reason these guys are always confused with banana peppers. Though the pepperoncini will be a tad hotter, they can easily be swapped with banana peppers in recipes. They can also be substituted with:

  • Cherry peppers
  • Anaheim chili peppers
  • Trinidad perfume chili peppers

Pepperoncini Nutrition

According to the USDA, the numbers on a 100 gram serving of pepperoncinis is:

  • 0 grams of protein
  • 10-15 calories
  • 3.5 grams carbohydrates
  • 0 grams of fat

The only thing you really need to watch out for is the sodium content. The numbers will vary based on the size and amount you consume, but sodium can range from 100 milligrams to about 600 milligrams per serving.

Pepperoncinis also don't have any vital nutrients or vitamins. When combined with the higher sodium content, these peppers aren't exactly a great choice if you have dietary restrictions.

Final Notes

a bunch of pepperoncini peppers

The pepperoncini is a delightful little pepper that made its debut long ago in Italy and Greece. They're used in a bunch of different recipes you and I know and love: sandwiches, pizza, or pickled. To the untrained eye, a pepperoncini and banana pepper are one in the same; while they can be used to substitute one another, they differ in quite a few ways. It doesn't matter which one you choose as they're both fantastic and will give your meals more oomph.

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