Hungarian wax peppers are a variety of chili pepper developed in Hungary, home of paprika, another notable pepper product. These peppers are also known as hot yellow peppers or hot wax peppers, and they closely resemble the banana pepper, a relative in the pepper family. They can be used in a variety of ways in cooking, and they are available in some grocery stores and farmers' markets as fresh produce, in addition to being sold in pickled form.
These peppers can get quite large if they are allowed to grow to maturity, but they are usually harvested when they are about the length of a hand. They are naturally yellow at the time of harvest, although they can develop a rich red color if they are allowed to fully mature. The “wax” in the name is a reference to the slightly waxy texture of the rind of the pepper. Despite this, the rind is perfectly edible and in fact very flavorful.
In terms of heat, Hungarian wax peppers fall around the middle of the spectrum. The flavor is fairly mild, but it has a hint of a kick that can be distasteful to people who are extremely sensitive to heat. Some people remove the seeds and white ribs from the pepper to reduce the spice, while others prefer to leave them in so that they can get a good hit of the flavor.
Hungarian wax and banana peppers look so similar that the two are sometimes confused, so cooks may want to taste them before using them to make sure that they are the desired variety. If used in place of the more mild banana pepper, Hungarian wax peppers may make a dish unexpectedly zesty, while tame banana peppers may be disappointing when spicier peppers were expected.
Hot yellow peppers can be used raw and fresh in salads, marinades, dressings, and other dishes. They can also be added to stews, as they are in Hungary, and pickled for use as appetizers and garnishes. These peppers may also be roasted and pickled for more flavor, or dried for use out of season.
Like other peppers, Hungarian wax peppers can be cultivated in the home garden or kitchen, but they need a sunny spot, well-drained soil, and protection from temperature fluctuations and wind. Growing peppers can be tricky, as the plants will readily wilt if they are left dry too long, or grow moldy if they are overwatered. Peppers do well as container plants, however, which can be handy for people with limited gardening space.