How to cook with piquillo peppers

How to cook with piquillo peppers

Piquillo (pronounced pee-kee-yo) peppers are a small, sweet Spanish pepper, popular in La Rioja and Navarre. Unlike most small peppers, piquillo peppers are very mild and sweet and have a distinctive, triangular shape, with a sharp point at the bottom. It is this shape which earned them their name - piquillo being derived from the Spanish word for ‘little beak’. These cute peppers are almost exclusively found roasted, skinned and jarred rather than fresh. Although piquillo pepeprs are easy to eat straight from the jar or with a little drizzle of oil, they are also used in a huge range of Spanish dishes.

How do you use piquillo peppers?

You can use the peppers in similar ways to roasted red bell peppers - pureed into hummus or alioli, cut into slivers and mixed with lentils or chickpeas in a bean salad, or layered with chargrilled aubergines and cheese in a massive sandwich. However, the most popular way to eat these peppers in La Rioja is with bacalao (salt cod), or stuffed (also often with bacalao). When eaten with bacalao the peppers are often simmered in a rich tomato sauce which is pureed until smooth. They are also sometimes caramelised and cooked down into a piquillo pepper marmalade.

What are stuffed piquillo peppers filled with?

The piquillo pepper’s small size and firm skin makes them much easier to stuff than other jarred bell peppers. Stuffed piquillo peppers, or pimientos del piquillo relleno, can be filled with a wide variety of things, including tuna, bacalao, beef, cheese and black pudding. The fillings tend to be rich - for example tuna with alioli, bacalao brandade or fatty beef and pork mince. You can either serve the stuffed peppers cold, drizzled with olive oil, or hot and coated in a creamy piquillo pepper salsa.

How to make piquillo pepper alioli

This piquillo pepper alioli makes a small batch of fragrant alioli, perfect for serving with roast potatoes, patatas bravas or bacalao. If you want to make a slightly bigger batch, simply whisk a little bit more oil into the egg yolk and adjust the seasoning to taste - there's no need to add any more egg. It keeps in the fridge for about a week. 


Transfer the garlic and salt to a mortar and pestle, and smash the garlic until it forms a puree


Scrape the garlic and salt puree into another bowl, and add the egg yolk. Whisk the garlic and egg yolk together


Transfer the oil to a jug, or something which is easy to pour from. Add the oil, drop by drop at first, into the egg yolk, whisking as you go to emulsify the fat into the egg yolk


Once you've added about half the olive oil, you can go a little faster, adding small splashes of oil at a time while continuing to whisk


Add the lemon juice and whisk well. If you would like the alioli to be thinner, add a teaspoon of water and mix in


Transfer the minced piquillo peppers to a pestle and mortar, and crush as well as you can. Stir into the sauce


Taste the alioli, and add more salt, lemon juice or pepper to taste. If you would like it to be completely smooth, transfer to a small blender and blitz for a few seconds

Are piquillo peppers hot?

Piquillo peppers - despite their size - are very mild, sweet peppers, about as hot as a poblano. They are flame roasted before being peeled, so have a little bit of a smoky taste, and will bring sweetness and fragrance to your cooking rather than heat.

How are piquillo peppers prepared?

Piquillo peppers are typically harvested by hand, and then chargrilled either over a gas or wood flame until the skin turns black and blistered, and pulls away from the flesh. The peppers are then deskinned by hand, and packed in jars ready to be used. Unlike most roasted sweet peppers, piquillo peppers are traditionally canned without water or vinegar. Some piquillo pepper growers even believe that you shouldn’t wash the peppers to help remove the skin, as this will wash away the flavour of the pepper.

What is the difference between piquillo peppers, roasted bell peppers and peppadew peppers?

Peppadew peppers are a different species to piquillo peppers. “Peppadew” is the trademark name for sweet piquanté peppers or juanita peppers, which have a little bit of heat to them. They are also not skinned before being jarred, and are stored in a sweet vinegar solution which lightly pickles the peppers. Similarly, jarred roasted bell peppers tend to be stored in an acidic brine which changes the flavour of the pepper. Both peppadew peppers and red bell peppers are also quite different shapes from piquillo peppers, which makes them harder to stuff. 

How long does a jar of piquillo peppers last once opened?

Since piquillo peppers aren’t stored in vinegar or brine, they don’t last very long once opened. It’s best to use an open jar of piquillo peppers within 5 days.


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