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What is Pepperoncini? Discover the Flavorful World of This Tangy Chili Pepper

Editorial Team
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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What Are Pepperoncini Peppers?

Pepperoncini, a variety of the Capsicum annuum species, are a culinary delight cherished for their mild heat and tangy flavor. According to the Chile Pepper Institute at New Mexico State University, these yellow-green chili peppers register between 100 to 500 Scoville Heat Units, making them a gentler option for those who prefer a milder spice. Often found pickled in jars, pepperoncini have become a staple in Mediterranean cuisine and are closely related to bell peppers and spicier chili varieties. The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes that pepperoncini are rich in vitamin C, providing nutritional value alongside their zesty taste. Whether tossed in salads, garnishing pizzas, or enhancing sandwiches, understanding what pepperoncini is can elevate your dishes with both flavor and health benefits.

What are Pepperoncini?

The Italian word “pepperoncini” is the plural form of “pepperoncino.” In Italy, it actually refers to the hotter varieties of chili peppers generically known as “pepperone.” "Friggitelli" is the Italian word for the milder variety sold in the United States as pepperoncini. In the US, they may also be labeled as sweet Italian peppers or Tuscan peppers. They are also common in Greek and Eastern European cuisines, where they are called fefferoni, or golden Greek peppers.

Are Banana Peppers the Same as Pepperoncini?

Banana peppers and pepperoncini peppers are often mistaken for one another because of their similarities. As stated earlier, sometimes banana peppers are sold as pepperoncini peppers! This is because banana peppers and pepperoncini are very similar in many ways, especially when they’re pickled. But there are some differences between the two peppers.

The biggest difference is that while banana peppers have no heat, pepperoncini's have a small amount of heat in their mildest variety. The shape and skin texture of each pepper can differ ever so slightly as well. But the main difference between the two peppers is their heat factor.

The Pepperoncini Pepper Plant

The pepperoncini plant is a bushy, annual variety that grows to a height of about 3 feet (1m). The peppers it produces are tapered, wrinkled along their length and lobed at the ends. They are usually harvested at 2- or 3-inches long (5 to 8 cm), while they are still sweet and yellow-green. When allowed to mature, the peppers turn bright red and grow stronger in flavor.

When to Harvest Pepperonicini

If you decide to grow your own pepperoncini pepper plant, you will need to know when to harvest the peppers. Pepperoncini peppers take roughly seventy-two days to reach maturity. Once the plant begins to grow peppers, you will want to pick the peppers when they are a pale green or yellow color. As the plant continues to mature, the peppers will eventually develop pinkish skin. Then the color will deepen into red, which is a sign that the peppers have already lost their flavor. Once the peppers are fully mature, they will have red and wrinkly flesh, so it’s important to pick pepperoncini peppers when they have their signature yellow-green appearance.

Are Pepperoncini Spicy?

The heat of chili peppers is caused by a component called capsaicin. The amount of capsaicin in various types of chili peppers is measured according to the Scoville scale, named for American chemist Wilbur Scoville. The scale ranges from zero units for the bell peppers, which have no capsaicin, to 16,000,000 units for pure capsaicin. Pepperoncini rank in the second-lowest category, 100 to 500 Scoville units.

How to Eat Pepperoncini

In Italy, pepperoncini may be eaten fresh, they may be packed in olive oil or they may be dried. They are an essential component of the Italian dish known as antipasti, which is a mixed platter of pickles, olives and cured meats such as prosciutto and salami. Pepperoncini are widely used in cooking, especially in tomato sauces for pasta and in olive oil dipping sauces for crusty Italian bread.

Pepperoncini are popular in delicatessens as a filling for sandwiches or as an ingredient for pasta salads. Pepperoncini are an essential component of Greek salads, in which they are tossed with spinach, tomatoes, olives and feta cheese. They may also be featured on restaurant salad bars. For home use, pepperoncini are available in most supermarkets, where they are sold either whole or sliced. Some people enjoy pickled pepperoncini instead of fresh peppers on salads or in sandwiches.

How to Pickle Pepperoncini Peppers

To pickle pepperoncini peppers, you’ll need a few things. You will need pepperoncini peppers, garlic cloves, black peppercorns, vinegar, water, pickling salt, sugar, jars with lids, a hot water bath, and canning tools like a ladle and jar filler. First, wash and cut your peppers into pieces. Then add the water, vinegar, salt, and sugar to a large pot. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat to keep the water hot but not boiling.

Add the cut peppers to your jars, as well as the peppercorns and garlic. Ladle the liquid from the large pot into the jars, but leave some space at the top of the jar. Close the jars with the lids and rings and place them in the canner. Process the jars for ten minutes, then allow the jars to rest for five minutes in the canner. Place the jars in a dark space to cool down for twelve to twenty-four hours. Lastly, after the twenty-four hour mark, check the seals on your jars. Pickled pepperoncini are good to have around your home because they make a healthy addition to sandwiches and salads.

Are Pepperoncini Good for You?

Pepperoncini peppers pack a lot of flavor, a bit of spice, and many vitamins in each serving. Pepperoncini peppers are low in calories and carbohydrates while they’re high in vitamins A and C, like most peppers. Vitamin A is good for eyesight while vitamin C is an antioxidant that is good for your skin, your immune system, and collagen production. These peppers also contain significant amounts of calcium and iron. Not only that, but pepperoncini peppers are an excellent source of fiber as well. There are many benefits to eating pepperoncini peppers, and they taste great on a variety of foods.

Where to Buy Pepperoncini

If you’re looking for pepperoncini peppers, you’re more likely to find pickled varieties at your local grocery store or big-chain grocery stores. Grocery stores don’t often carry fresh varieties of this pepper. Instead, you may be able to find fresh pepperoncini at a local Italian market, a farmers market, or a specialty shop. If you’re searching for pickled peppers, you’re likely to find them in the condiment aisle next to other pickled items and peppers. Whether you purchase pickled or fresh pepperoncini, they make a great addition to sandwiches, salads, and more.

DelightedCooking is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
Discussion Comments
By anon961006 — On Jul 14, 2014

What happened to the older style darker green pepperoncini of 50 years ago?

By serenesurface — On Jan 03, 2014

I eat kabob often for lunch and the salad that comes with it, always has pickled pepperoncini. It's a great pepper, mild and tasty. I think that the size is not very uniform though because my salad always has a different sized ones. Sometimes it's longer and sometimes it's short. It goes real well with feta cheese. I could have a sandwich with just feta cheese, tomatoes and pepperoncini in it. Yummy!

And to clarify, pepperoncini are not hot, they are peppery. It's not the same thing. So those sensitive to hot peppers and chillis can have it without a problem.

By bear78 — On Jan 02, 2014

@ZipLine-- Banana peppers and pepperoncini look very similar but they are different. Pepperoncini is not as sweet as banana peppers, it's slightly hot. So if you like very sweet peppers, you might not like pepperoncini as much.

More than likely though, you have tasted pepperoncini before. You might not have know that that's what it was. Italian pizzas and Greek salads often have pepperoncini. Many olive bars have it pickled as well.

By ZipLine — On Jan 02, 2014

Are pepperoncini as sweet as banana peppers?

I love banana peppers and eat them all the time, I don't think I've ever had pepperoncini but it sounds like a great pepper.

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Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.
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