Piquillo peppers have a distinct sweet taste that people love. They have the mildest heat, so even kids can enjoy them. Since these peppers are not always accessible, you often have to look for a substitute for Piquillo Peppers.
In this article, we’ll tell you all about these alternatives. We’ll also offer tips on which option for piquillo peppers works better in different recipes.
Piquillo peppers are small, sweet-tasting red peppers originating from northern Spain.
The word piquillo is Spanish for “little beak,” which is what these peppers look like. They are red with pointed tips that resemble a bird’s beak.
When raw, they have smooth, almost shiny skin. These peppers typically come in jars roasted and pickled. For this reason, their skin is wrinkly.
They have a distinctly sweet taste and just the slightest hint of heat. This makes them a favorite of many. Roasted piquillo peppers also have tangy and smoky notes.
The hotness of peppers is measured through a Scoville scale, with Scoville Heat Units or SHU. The higher it is on the scale, the hotter it is. Bell peppers are at 0, as they do not have any heat at all.
Piquillo peppers are at 500-1,000 SHU. This puts them among the mildest peppers. Sitting on the extreme of the scale is the Carolina Reaper with 2.2 million SHU.
Choose a piquillo pepper substitute with almost undetectable heat for the best results.
Cubanelle peppers are at 100-1,000 SHU. They are right with piquillo peppers on the Scoville scale. Not only that, but they also have a sweet flavor. This makes them the closest and even the best substitute for piquillo peppers.
They are usually green when unripe, though. If color is important to your dish, go for the ripe ones, as they have a similar red hue.
Roasted bell peppers also make an excellent substitute for piquillo peppers. This is especially true if you want to eliminate heat but enjoy a peppery sweet flavor. Red bell peppers are kid-friendly at 0 SHU.
These peppers are also perfect when stuffed. For this reason, they can replace piquillos in a stuffed pepper recipe. Also, they’re affordable and easy to find. You may even have them in your fridge.
Cherry peppers are a red chili pepper variety that resembles oversized cherries. This pepper’s 2,500-5,000 SHU rating has earned it the nickname “cherry bomb.” Despite their heat, cherry peppers also have hints of sweetness. So they make good alternatives to piquillo peppers.
Their cavity is large and thick, so you can also stuff them. Note that they have a very different appearance than piquillo. That said, your swap will be noticeable. But that wouldn’t matter if your recipe requires chopped or julienned peppers.
Banana peppers are yellow when unripe, hence the name. They still turn red, though, when repined fully. These peppers have a tangy and sweet flavor and are nearly as mild as piquillos on the Scoville scale.
A big downside is that they’re not that common, so you might have trouble looking for them. If you are lucky enough to find them, you’ll have a perfect substitute for piquillo peppers.
Paprika is a ground mix of various red peppers. So you can use smoked paprika as a substitute for piquillo peppers. It will not give you that kick, but it’ll provide a sweet and smoky flavor. If you like the heat, there are hot versions available.
Paprika is also a common kitchen item; you might have this on your shelf. But since it’s powder, it’s only suitable for specific recipes.
If you want more heat to your dish, go for cayenne peppers. They are good substitutes for piquillo peppers because they are widely available. In fact, they are among the most popular peppers in the US.
Note that these peppers sit at 30,000-50,000 on the Scoville scale. That said, they’re not the most kid-friendly alternatives.
Habanero peppers are at 100,000-350,000 on the Scoville scale. They’re a lot hotter than piquillo peppers. But they are a good choice if you want to spice up your meals.
Canned red habanero peppers are great alternatives to pickled piquillo peppers. Likewise, fresh habanero peppers can be a replacement for fresh piquillos.
Jalapeno peppers are the most popular peppers in the US. That said, they’re accessible options. Jalapeno peppers are rated 2,500-8,000 SHU. They’re ideal if you want to add a fair amount of heat to your dish.
They also have a smoky, earthy flavor, so they can replace piquillos in most dishes. If the heat is too much for you, you can try cooking them to reduce the heat.
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are a great piquillo alternative. These canned jalapeno peppers are smoky, tangy, sweet, and mildly spicy, so they fit the bill. They can be an excellent piquillo pepper substitute in some dishes.
The adobo sauce they come with is savory and can blend well with many other ingredients. But the brine will also alter the taste of your dishes as it has vinegar and tomatoes.
A Fresno pepper is also a good substitute for piquillo peppers. They taste sweet and smoky but take the heat up a notch. The mildest Fresno chili peppers are at 2,500 SHU, so they’re still hotter than the hottest piquillo peppers.
They are also large and firm, so they’re an excellent choice for stuffed pepper recipes. That said, they can replace piquillo peppers in almost all recipes. If you need more smokiness, try roasted Fresno peppers.
Sumac is a red berry commonly ground and sold as a powder. Unlike piquillo peppers, sumac does not have any heat. But it is tangy, smoky, and spicy, so it tastes like piquillo peppers.
Sumac is not that popular, so you might not find it in your local grocery store. You’ll have better luck finding it online. Plus, sumac is a powder, so it will not be suitable for all dishes. For instance, you cannot make stuffed peppers with it.
A liquid substitute for piquillo peppers is balsamic vinegar. Regular balsamic vinegar has similar sweet and tangy flavors, so it can work in some dishes.
But since balsamic vinegar is a souring agent, it doesn’t have the heat piquillo peppers have. Plus, it is a thin liquid, so it will not work for all dishes that call for piquillos.
The flavor profile of piquillo peppers makes them excellent additions to savory dishes. You can use them the same way as red bell peppers. You can stuff, roast, smoke, and even puree piquillo.
They’re great in soups, stews, casseroles, and other meat dishes. Paella recipes also taste better with piquillo peppers. They’re most commonly used in a Spanish tapas recipe.
Piquillo peppers typically come in jars, pickled. Unopened, these jars will last for two years. Once opened, you should consume them within three days.
To preserve piquillo peppers, you can roast them and pickle them. When properly sealed and stored, they’ll last for years.
While both peppers may look and taste identical, they are not the same. Piquillo peppers are hotter, as pimento peppers sit at 100-500 SHU.
If you need a substitute for piquillo peppers, you’ll easily find one. The top options are red bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, and cayenne peppers. If a powdered alternative works, smoked paprika and sumac will do the job.
But if you are in a hurry, you can also opt for balsamic vinegar. Remember to consider your heat tolerance when making a choice. Some alternatives have more heat than piquillos.