No matter if they’re spicy, sweet, earthy, or smokey, peppers make quite the impression. Part of the capsicum family, these bell-shaped nightshade fruits come from perennial flowering plants. The chile pepper has definitely been around the block, dating back to 3500 BCE in South America. Christopher Columbus is credited with bringing them back to Europe, where they quickly became a hit. Although peppers come in all shapes, flavors, and sizes, one attribute is steadfast—they’re all incredibly nutritious. It’s difficult to choose a favorite type of pepper, so we’ll dish about a few of our top picks.
As mentioned above, the chile pepper was a crown jewel of the New World. These petite, often red and green gems pack a punch and have a wide range of flavors. The infamous ghost pepper tops the scales when it comes to spiciness, while banana peppers boast a tangy-sweet taste. A chile’s unique zing isn’t its only selling point. It’s packed with vitamins C, B6, A, and K1. Dice chiles for chicken chile relleno, or savor the guajillo and ancho chile sauce in our Chile Rojo Pork.
These fiery peppers are the perfect add-in to tacos, spicy margaritas, and specialty hot sauces. The small, dark green peppers originate from South America and span from mild to mouthwateringly hot. They contain vitamin C and B6, and are filled with fiber. They also contain capsaicin, which is known for its anticancer properties. This pepper will kick your tastebuds’ butt, but it might also be good for your gut. Capsaicin has also been shown to regulate metabolism by increasing the number of certain gut bacteria. If you need us, we’ll be baking jalapeño cornbread!
When you think of peppers, bell is probably the beauty that comes to mind. You’ve definitely seen the red, yellow, green, and orange pepper mounds when moseying through the supermarket. Bell peppers are superb in garden salads, Asian stir frys, creamy soups, and even stuffed with chicken and cheese. They’re fiber-filled, high in vitamin C, and may reduce the risk of heart attacks due to the anticoagulants they contain that can impact blood clotting. If you’re wondering if color counts when it comes to flavor, the answer is yes. Green bells are milder and the least sweet, as they’re picked unripe. Yellows are sweeter, and then orange follows suit. The most flavorful (and nutritious due to beta-carotene!) bell is red pepper, which you can try for yourself in our Thai-Ish Lemongrass Bowl.
This petite chile pepper is tiny but mighty. Habaneros have a slightly fruity flavor—but don’t let that fool you. They bring the heat at about 100,000 to 350,000 SHU on the Scoville heat unit scale. Although their small, rounded shape makes them seem bite-sized, we wouldn’t recommend taking even a nibble raw. You should proceed with caution when cooking with these peppers, and be judicious when you add them to your salsas, wings, and chilis. Like many of their capsicum counterparts, habaneros have plenty of vitamin C. They also have capsaicin, which research has shown to fight obesity and lower cholesterol. We love a savory-sweet habanero jam on a melty grilled cheese.
One more time for the people in the back: habanero = hot.
We’re closing out our roundup with cayenne. Long and skinny, these cherry red peppers are a surefire way to add spice to your life. They’re actually more mild than most hot peppers, making them a versatile choice for BBQ rubs, meat marinades, and dips. Diced, chopped, ground into powder, or roasted—you can’t go wrong with cayenne. They’re known for their potential to improve digestion, reduce high blood pressure, and clear congestion. If you want to yield the full nutritional benefits, enjoy cayenne in its natural form. If it’s just the flavor you’re looking for, feel free to use store-bought powder!
If peppers have piqued your interest, pop some in your shopping cart on your next grocery run. Whether you’re whipping up a crudité platter, savory curry, or garnish for cocktails, peppers are a pretty great choice.
Other Peppers We Love
Taste profile: Mild and sweet (though they can also be hot)
Cooking Use: The sweet variety are often found jarred. These peppers are an easy way to add color and a pop of flavor to salads and antipasto platters. Or, chop and layer into a sandwich or veggie wrap for a sweet twist.
Taste profile: Mild, rich and earthy
Cooking Use: Poblanos have thick walls so they hold up well to cooking. The mild flavor of this type of pepper makes them easy to chop up and throw into a salsa or use as topping, like we do in our Laredo Chicken and Shrimp dish.
Taste profile: Flavorful and sweet, most shishitos are very mild, but there’s a catch – one in every 10-20 peppers will surprise you with a kick of spice, though still much more mild than even the weakest jalapeño.
Cooking Use: Perfect for a cocktail party, shishito peppers make a great finger food: Toss them lightly in olive oil and cook in a hot skillet, or throw on the grill turning frequently until peppers are blistered. Sprinkle with sea salt and serve whole.
Taste profile: Tangy, sweet, and spicy
Cooking Use: This type of pepper is commonly dried and used in mole sauces, but they can be rehydrated and blended into soups and chiles, or pulverized in a food processor and sprinkled over fresh mango or pineapple slices for a sweet and spicy treat.
Taste profile: Bright, grassy and hot
Cooking Use: Frequently eaten raw, this type of hot pepper can be three times as hot as a jalapeno! Slice or chop and mix into salsas, pico de gallo, or guacamole and use to garnish chili or tacos.
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