Rising from obscurity to a staple of trendy menus in just a few short years, shishito peppers offer a stylish starter or snack that seems to fit with any cuisine. This concise guide offers tips on buying and storage, ideas on how to use shishito peppers, and links to recipes.
Often arriving at the table either blistered or charred, bright green skin shines through blackened edges, infused with a smoky, sultry charm.
Sprinkled with flaky sea salt, each bite pops with a gentle crunch to captivate all the senses. No one can resist such a savory treat, and it would be a shame to let restaurant chefs have all the fun. You can cook shishito peppers like a pro every single time once you learn the basics.
What Are Shishito Peppers and Where Did They Come From?
We have Japan to thank for these slender green chili peppers where they’ve been grown since the Edo period (1603 – 1868 CE).
However, it’s believed that they were first brought to East Asia by Portuguese explorers, and evolved from padron peppers. This new variant became known as shishito because the wrinkled skin was said to look like a lion’s head — shishi in Japanese.
Unlike padron peppers, shishitos are typically mild, with predominantly grassy, vegetal notes and a gently peppery flavor.
Part of the fun is playing what some shishito fans refer to as “pepper roulette,” because roughly one out of every ten peppers have a considerable spicy kick. While even the timidest eaters could easily go through a whole serving without batting an eye, every now and then, a genuinely spicy one can sneak into the mix.
Japanese tapas restaurants called izakayas have emerged as wildly successful ventures in the United States over the past decade, where simple small plates are the main fare. Shishito peppers are a staple for eating with sake or beer as finger food.
From that approachable, crowd-pleasing introduction, these little capsicums have spread to grocery stores and kitchens everywhere.
Blistered shishito peppers is a poplar preparation;
see a link under Recipe Ideas
Buying and Storing Shishito Peppers
If you want to buy shishito peppers at their peak, start searching farmers markets during the summer months when they’re in season. Increased demand means that they’re available all year round at most grocery stores, too.
Although they can turn red when allowed to fully mature on the vine, they’re typically sold green and unripe. Red shishito are sweeter, like red bell peppers compared to green bell peppers.
The skin should be glossy, firm, and creased all over. The stems will still be attached at the top, which is the only part that isn’t edible.
Fresh shishito peppers will keep for 1 to 2 weeks in the refrigerator, stored whole and unwashed in a paper bag.
How To Prep and Cook Shishito Peppers
Cooking shishito makes the flesh more tender and nuanced in flavor, but you can certainly eat them raw as well. There’s no need to remove the seeds or inner membrane since they don’t add any extra heat.
Shishitos are often eaten whole, using the stems as a handle to easily pick up with your fingers and later discard or compost. They’re best cooked over dry, high heat to maintain their structural integrity while adding a woodsy, earthy depth of flavor, either grilled, roasted, air fried, deep-fried, or sautéed.
Shishito Peppers Nutrition Notes
Like other green vegetables, shishito peppers offer a whole host of nutritional benefits alongside great taste. In terms of vitamins, they’re an especially good source of vitamin C — a single shishito pepper can provide around 35% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin C! Vitamin K is another notable nutrient.
Shishito peppers make such a great snack because they’re low in calories and contain a reasonable amount of fiber. See a full picture of the nutritional profile of shishito peppers.
Recipe Ideas and Serving Suggestions for Shishito Peppers
Incredibly versatile and well suited to much more than just traditional Japanese dishes, shishito peppers can breathe new life into old favorites or inspire original creations alike.
Blistered: Most people first encounter blistered blistered shishito peppers, and for good reason. This simple, foolproof approach is a delicious snack all by itself or paired with a simple vegan aioli sauce for dipping.
Air fryer treat: Shishitos blister so nicely and easily this way. Try this 3-ingredient air fryer blistered shishito peppers preparation, for one.
Poppers: If jalapeño peppers are just too hot to handle, try shishito pepper poppers instead. Creamy mashed sweet potato stuffing accentuates and mellows the heat of shishito peppers, creating a light, kid-friendly appetizer to start any party on the right note.
Pizza topper: Add a burst of fresh flavor to your pizza by adding a handful of sliced or chopped shishito peppers on top. Either raw or roasted, they’ll fit right in with the usual classic vegetable, dairy-free cheese, and plant-based meat combinations.
Pickled peppers: There’s no such thing as “too many shishito peppers” when you can simply make pickled shishito peppers from any excess. Briny, crisp, and sometimes spicy, they’re a delightful addition to all sorts of sandwiches and salads.
Tempura: Elevate your appetizer game with tempura shishito peppers. Lightly coated for maximum crunch and satisfaction, they go brilliantly with a frosty mug of beer, too.
Embellished noodles: Break out the wok and stir up some good trouble with stir-fried shishito pepper noodles! Lightly candied maple cashews finish the dish for a sweet and crunchy contrast.
Salsa: Whether you call it shishito salsa or pico de gallo to be more precise, you’ll want to spoon this versatile condiment over all your tacos, nachos, burritos, and more.
Skewers: Fire up the grill and throw some teriyaki shishito skewers on to get any party started. Enjoy as is or add your favorite meatless protein to make a complete meal you can eat on a stick.
Jalapeño swap-in: If jalapeños are too hot for your palate to handle, shishitos are a perfect substitute. They give you that fresh chili pepper flavor, without all the heat. Try shishitos in Creamy Jalapeño Guacamole, for example.
More chili peppers …
Contributed by Hannah Kaminsky: Hannah has developed an international following for her delicious recipes and mouthwatering food photography at the award-winning blog BitterSweet. Passionate about big flavors and simple techniques, she’s the author of Vegan Desserts, Vegan à la Mode, Easy as Vegan Pie, Real Food, Really Fast, Sweet Vegan Treats, The Student Vegan Cookbook, Super Vegan Scoops, and The Everyday Vegan Cheat Sheet Pan. Visit Hannah at BittersweetBlog.com.
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