11 Best Pepperoncini Substitutes
If you cook Mediterranean-style dishes often, you may have come across pepperoncini peppers in different recipes.
These peppers are not as popular as some other pepper varieties, but they’re out there and they’re good!
But what do you do when one of your recipes calls for some of these bad boys, but you don’t have any around? Luckily, if you don’t have pepperoncini at hand, you can often use a different pepper variety instead.
What are the best pepperoncini substitutes? Peppers you can use instead of pepperoncini include banana, jalapeno, cherry, poblano, Trinidad perfume, Anaheim, Cubanelle, and Hungarian wax peppers. If you don’t have fresh peppers, you can also use pickled chilies, red pepper flakes, or hot sauce.
Continue reading to learn more about pepperoncini peppers and their best substitutes. We will also tell you what are the things you should consider when choosing a pepperoncini substitute.
What Is A Pepperoncini?
Pepperoncini is a chili pepper variety known for its hot and sweet flavor. These peppers are typically 2-3 inches long and have thin, wrinkled flesh. The color of these peppers may range from yellow to light green.
Pepperoncini is widely used in Mediterranean cuisine. This pepper variety is particularly popular in Italy, where it is called friggitelli.
Whether you are making arrabbiata sauce for pasta or other Italian dishes, the chances are high that you will come across pepperoncini in the recipe.
Many people also enjoy eating pickled pepperoncini. In fact, pickled pepperoncini is more popular than the fresh version of these peppers!
You can find jars of pickled pepperoncini in the pickles and condiments aisle of supermarkets.
Fresh or pickled, pepperoncini can be used in a variety of ways. You can use it in stews, soups, sandwiches, salads, etc. Pickled pepperoncini can be enjoyed on its own as a snack.
How Hot Is Pepperoncini?
On the Scoville Heat Scale, pepperoncini measure 100 to 500 SHU. This means even the hottest pepperoncini peppers are not very hot.
For comparison, the jalapeno peppers that we all eat and love measure 2,000 to 8,000 SHU, which makes them significantly hotter than pepperoncini.
In addition to not being overly spicy, pepperoncini peppers also have a fruity flavor that makes them even more palatable.
Is There A Substitute For Pepperoncini?
Different peppers have different flavor notes. You can feel the flavor differences between peppers when you eat them on their own. But when used in dishes along with other ingredients, you pretty much only feel the heat that peppers provide.
This makes it easy to substitute one pepper variety with many others! And pepperoncini is not an exception.
You can use other pepper varieties instead of pepperoncini in case you don’t have it at hand at the moment or you can’t get pepperoncini where you live.
Choosing A Pepperoncini Substitute
There are so many pepper varieties to choose from. But which one you should grab when looking for an alternative for pepperoncini?
Here are the things to consider when choosing a pepperoncini substitute:
- Level Of Heat. If you want to be able to substitute pepperoncini with another pepper variety without changing the amount you use, choose peppers that fall within the same range on the Scoville Heat Scale.
- If you are using peppers that are spicier than pepperoncini, start with a small amount and add more if you feel your dish needs more heat.
- Taste. Unlike many pepper varieties, pepperoncinis are mildly sweet and floral with moderate heat. If you want to achieve a similar flavor as when using pepperoncini, choose a variety with a fruity and sweet taste.
- Fresh Versus Canned. When choosing a substitute for pepperoncini, you also have the option of using canned peppers. Canned peppers are widely available and a great option for those who always have trouble maintaining their vegetables fresh.
- In general, the flavor of canned peppers is milder compared to fresh peppers and they contain a high amount of sodium. Fresh peppers, on the other hand, are crispier and hotter and have a brighter flavor.
- The Recipe. Another important thing to consider when choosing a substitute for pepperoncini is the dish you are making. For some dishes, you can only use fresh peppers. For others, you could also use hot sauces or dried peppers.
- Availability. While pepperoncini peppers have multiple substitutes, not all of them are widely available. Consider the options you have access to and choose the closest alternative to pepperoncini.
Best Pepperoncini Substitutes
If a recipe calls for pepperoncini peppers and you don’t have any at home or they don’t sell pepperoncini where you live, here’s a list of our top pepperoncini substitutes.
Though the heat levels and overall flavor profiles differ, any of these substitutes will make your dish taste a lot better than if you skip pepperoncini altogether!
1. Banana Peppers
Level Of Heat: 100-500 SHU
Banana peppers are one of the best pepperoncini substitutes. These peppers have the same heat level as pepperoncini peppers.
Banana peppers have a banana-like shape and are bright yellow (hence the name). And no, banana peppers do not taste like bananas!
Banana peppers are similar to pepperoncini peppers in terms of flavor and appearance too.
They have a mildly sweet flavor and look quite alike. Both peppers can range from yellow to green and turn orange or red when they ripen.
These similarities make banana peppers a good substitute for pepperoncini peppers when you don’t want to experiment with the heat level. Or, when the look of the peppers matters to you.
Banana peppers are widely available. You can find them both fresh and pickled.
2. Jalapeno Peppers
Level Of Heat: 2,000-8,000 SHU
Jalapeno peppers are the most popular pepper variety in the United States.
These are medium-size peppers that can range from mildly hot to quite spicy.
Unripe jalapenos are green and usually used for pickling. Ripe jalapenos are multi-hued or fully red.
Jalapeno peppers lack the sweetness that pepperoncini peppers have. They taste more like bell peppers — earthy, vegetal, and spicy.
Because jalapeno peppers are spicier than pepperoncini, we recommend you adjust the amount you use otherwise the dish may turn out hotter than expected.
Jalapeno peppers are very versatile and very easy to find. You can use jalapeno peppers fresh in cooked dishes, roast them, or pickle them.
Jalapenos can replace pepperoncini in nearly any dish. You can use these peppers for stews, soups, salsas, salads, etc.
3. Cherry Peppers
Level Of Heat: 2,500-5,000 SHU
Cherry peppers look very different from pepperoncini peppers. These peppers are bright red, small, and round.
Cherry peppers have a hint of sweetness along with their spicy flavor.
Cherry peppers can compete with jalapeno peppers in terms of their heat level. The mildest cherry peppers measure 2,000 SHU, which makes them about four times hotter than the spiciest pepperoncini.
The small size of these peppers may trick you into using more of them than you need. As a result, the dish will turn out rather spicy! So, start with a small number of cherry peppers and add more if you need more heat.
Pickled cherry peppers are a great substitute for pickled pepperoncini.
4. Poblano Peppers
Level Of Heat: 1,500-4,000 SHU
Poblano is one of those mildly spicy pepper varieties. These peppers look similar to bell peppers.
Poblanos grow to 6 inches long and are heart-shaped. Unlike bright green pepperoncini, poblano peppers are dark forest green when they are harvested.
Poblano peppers are relatively lower on the Scoville Heat Scale. And still, they are a few times spicier than pepperoncini peppers.
Raw poblano peppers taste earthy, similar to bell peppers. Cooking poblano peppers will bring out the sweet notes in them, making them taste more like pepperoncini.
You can also use dried poblano peppers to add some heat to your dishes. Dried poblanos are called ancho chiles and can be used in stews, soups, salsas, marinades, etc.
5. Trinidad Perfume Chili Peppers
Level Of Heat: 50-500 SHU
Trinidad Perfume peppers are another pepper variety that is low on the Scoville Heat Scale. These peppers are very mild — even milder than pepperoncinis!
If the mild heat of pepperoncini is still a lot for you, then you may enjoy making your dishes with Trinidad Perfume peppers.
Trinidad Perfume peppers are around 1 inch long. They are lantern-shaped with a pointy tip and have a bright yellow color when harvested.
Trinidad perfume chili peppers are mildly spicy and sweet, with citrusy and smoky undertones.
Aside from their unique flavor profile, Trinidad perfume peppers also have a nice perfume-like scent which gives them their name.
6. Anaheim Peppers
Level Of Heat: 500-2,500 SHU
Anaheim peppers are medium-size green peppers that are moderately hot.
These spicy peppers have hints of sweetness and fruitiness that make them taste similar to pepperoncini.
But in addition to this sweetness, Anaheim peppers also have smokey and tangy notes.
Anaheim and pepperoncini peppers look somewhat similar due to their shape and color, but Anaheim peppers tend to be bigger.
The mildest Anaheim peppers can be used as a pepperoncini substitute in the same amount. You can use Anaheim peppers in fresh salsas, soups, and stews. You can also stuff Anaheim peppers just as you do pepperoncini!
7. Hungarian Wax Peppers
Level Of Heat: 1,000-15,000 SHU
As their name implies, Hungarian wax peppers are peppers that have originated in Hungary. Aside from being popular in Hungarian cuisine, this pepper variety is also popular in Latin cooking!
Hungarian wax peppers look a lot like banana peppers, but they are spicier than banana peppers. These peppers also have some sweetness to them which makes them a good substitute for pepperoncini.
Hungarian wax peppers have a very wide range when it comes to their heat level. They can be mildly hot or as hot as serrano peppers.
If you are using Hungarian wax peppers instead of pepperoncini, try a small amount first so that you know how many of them you should use.
8. Cubanelle Chili Peppers
Level Of Heat: 0-1,000 SHU
Cubanelle chili peppers are not the most widely available peppers in the US. But if you are looking for a pepperoncini substitute and you come across Cubanelle peppers, you should certainly grab them!
Cubanelle peppers are sweet green peppers. Their spice level may reach 1,000 SHU on the Scoville Scale or they may not be hot at all.
Because Cubanelle peppers are only mildly hot, you can use them in the same amount as the recipe calls for pepperoncini.
Cubanelle peppers have thin walls just like pepperoncini peppers. These yellow-green peppers are especially good for fresh salads and dishes that don’t require a lot of cooking.
9. Pickled Peppers
Level Of Heat: Varies depending on the variety
Pickled peppers differ from fresh peppers in terms of their texture and flavor, especially as they lack the crispiness of fresh peppers.
So if you are looking for pepperoncini substitutes for dishes where the crispy texture of the pepperoncini matters, skip this option!
Flavor-wise, pickled peppers tend to have vinegary and tangy notes. Their heat level depends on the pepper variety. But we should note that pickled peppers are always milder than their fresh counterparts.
The best part about pickled peppers is that they have a very long shelf life even if they are homemade. You can expect pickled peppers to last 2-3 months if they are fully submerged in the pickling liquid. Fresh peppers last only 10-14 days.
If you don’t cook very often, but enjoy using peppers in your dishes whenever you do, it might be a good idea to buy pickled peppers instead of fresh peppers.
The best pickled pepper substitute for fresh pepperoncini is (of course) pickled pepperoncini, though you can use any pickled pepper you have at home. If the pickled peppers you have are too spicy, just adjust the amount you use.
Pickled peppers may not be as versatile as fresh peppers but you can still use them in a number of ways. You can use pickled peppers in salads, soups, dips, etc.
10. Red Pepper Flakes
Level Of Heat: 10,000-35,000 SHU
Red pepper flakes are pepper flakes made of different types of red peppers.
The heat level of red pepper flakes depends on the type of pepper used to make it.
Red pepper flakes can made be from cayenne, jalapeno, Fresno, Anaheim, and other peppers from the capsicum annum family.
As the heat level may vary, we recommend you check the label to find out what peppers the flakes are made of. Red pepper flakes made of cayenne pepper, for example, are hotter than pepper flakes made of jalapeno and Anaheim peppers.
Red pepper flakes are very versatile and it’s easy to control the amount you use. You can add them to all kinds of sauces, marinades, stews, soups, dips, etc. We go through a lot of these spicy lil’ fun flakes, so we like this option.
Red pepper flakes are not a good substitute for fresh pepperoncini in dishes where the texture of the peppers matters.
11. Hot Sauces
Level Of Heat: Varies depending on the sauce
If the texture of the pepperoncini peppers doesn’t play a key role in the dish and your only goal is to add some heat and pepper flavor, you can go ahead and use any hot sauce you have at home!
Different hot sauces have different levels of spiciness and flavor profiles. Any hot sauce will work so long as you use the right amount.
But the closest hot sauce substitute for pepperoncini would be a sauce made from pepperoncini, obviously. Banana pepper hot sauce is another great choice.
When using hot sauces instead of pepperoncini, take into account the fact that most hot sauces contain vinegar and salt.
You will need to adjust the amount of salt you use and make sure that the vinegary flavor of the sauce doesn’t interfere with the overall taste of the dish.
If you are using a sauce that is very hot, start with the smallest amount as pepperoncini peppers are only mildly hot. Try these if you’re ready to play around with different flavors!