Shishito Peppers: Complete Guide + Easy Recipe
Shishito peppers are a type of small, bright green pepper in the capsicum annuum family that is popular in Japanese cuisine. This pepper variety is somewhat wrinkled in appearance and is generally very mildly spicy, although they can occasionally pack a bit of heat. This creates an exciting game of snack roulette where occasionally one may eat a hot pepper. Shishito peppers are similar to padrón peppers in that regard.
Facts about Shishito Peppers
50 - 200
To get started, I’ll share my favorite easy blistered shishito pepper recipe. Then we’ll dive more into the history, context, and common questions about this pepper!
Easy blistered shishito peppers recipe
- 1/2 lb shishito peppers
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- lemon juice to taste
- flaky sea salt to taste
- Rinse the peppers and pat them dry. Be sure there's no moisture as it can cause oil splatters
- Heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat until hot, then add the peppers
- Cook the peppers, stirring occasionally, until they begin blistering and turn brown. This process should take about 5-7 minutes
- Once cooked, remove the peppers from the heat and transfer them to a serving dish
- Season with sea salt and a bit of lemon juice, then serve and enjoy!
What are shishito peppers?
Shishito peppers are named after the Japanese word for lion (獅子, shishi), as the tip of the pepper looks like a lion’s head. They are about as long and narrow as your finger and thin-walled. The pepper is usually harvested while it is still green, but will mature to a deep red if left to ripen. The pepper is thin-skinned and will blister and blacken easily when cooked.
Where are they from?
Shishito peppers originated in East Asia and are also known as “Shishitōgarashi” in Japan.
What is special about shishito peppers?
The flavor and skin of the shishito pepper is what make it so unique and delicious. They are only mildly spicy, making them suitable even for people who are sensitive to heat, and they have extremely thin skin compared to other peppers, so they blister more easily. Because of this, the most common way to cook them is to cook them quickly at high heat to blister and wilt them.
How hot are they? Are they spicy?
50-200 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)
Shishito peppers are usually mild, but about one out of every ten to twenty peppers will have noticeable heat. As with all peppers, the occurrence of spicier fruit can be attributed to things like the levels of exposure to sunlight, soil nutrient content, and environmental stresses. If you know one of your guests is extremely sensitive to heat, it’s smart to taste-test a few of your peppers to gauge how hot they are.
However, even at the spicier end of 200 SHU, most people will consider them to be very mild. To put it into perspective, jalapeños tend to range from 2,000 to 8,000 SHU, so the mildest jalapeño will still be 10x hotter than the spiciest shishito.
What do they taste like?
Most of the peppers are mild and even a bit sweet, making them perfect for an appetizer or snack. Their taste is unique and can be described as earthy and slightly sweet, with a pleasant smoky flavor. Blistered shishito peppers are a great option for a starter when sprinkled with flaky salt and served with a squirt of lemon juice.
Common culinary uses
Shishito peppers are a popular appetizer option, notable for being very mild. They can be skewered, broiled, grilled, fried, stewed, or chopped up raw and tossed in a salad. The peppers are usually thrown in oil before cooking, which reduces the amount of oil on the pan and ensures that the oil gets into all the crevices as the irregularly shaped pepper shrivels. Once they are blistered and charred in spots, the peppers are ready to eat. They are often finished with a generous pinch of salt and a squirt of lemon juice.
Are shishitos the same as padrón peppers?
Shishito peppers and padrón peppers are very similar, but they are not the same thing. They are both small, bright green peppers cooked and eaten the same way. Both are known for being mildly spicy but occasionally packing some heat. However, while shishito peppers hail from Japan, padrón peppers are from Spain. Shishitos are also much easier to find in the United States.
Where to get shishito peppers
Shishito peppers are widely available at specialty grocery stores and farmers’ markets in the United States. If you can’t find them at your local supermarket, try places like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. You may also have some luck shopping at a local Asian grocer since they are a common Japanese ingredient.
What can you use as a substitute?
If like me, you don’t have access to fancy specialty stores like Trader Joe’s, there are several substitutes that you can use instead. Padrón peppers (mentioned above) are a great substitute, although they can also be difficult to find. Mini bell peppers, Anaheim peppers, or cubanelle peppers are also good substitutes because they are similarly mild and can be blistered as an appetizer.
When are shishito peppers in season?
Shishito peppers are in season during the summertime, from June to September. They can be found at farmers’ markets and specialty grocery stores during this time. You may also be able to find imported or greenhouse-grown shishito peppers year-round.