What Exactly Is a Banana Pepper?
I recently found myself eating an Italian sub sandwich in the middle of a road trip through Wyoming and thinking to myself, "Pickled banana peppers do not get the justice that they deserve." These bright yellow, pickled peppers not only brought this particular meat and cheese sandwich to life, but they're amazing in so many other applications. Yet, I cannot remember a time where I have ever purchased them from a grocery store. That changes today. Banana peppers are now going to become a part of my weekly eating regimen because they're too delicious to ignore. Here's everything you need to know about 'em so that you, too, can hop aboard the SS Banana Pepper Express.
What Are Banana Peppers?
First, no, banana peppers do not have a similar flavor to bananas. Their name comes from their bright yellow color and long, banana-like shape. They are also referred to as banana chilis or a yellow wax pepper. They have a sweet, mild taste and they're about five times milder than the average jalapeno. To call these peppers "spicy" would be a stretch, as their flavor sensation is more of a subtle tang. If you want to quantify it, banana peppers typically offer about 500 scoville units (a jalapeno falls somewhere between 2,500–8,000).
Raw or Pickled?
You can eat these peppers raw or pickled, but you've likely only encountered them pickled because that's what's more readily available. If you're into gardening, you can definitely grow your own banana peppers right in your own backyard and enjoy them raw, grilled, baked or pickle them yourself. If you've ever had banana peppers on pizzas, in sandwiches, or in salads, you're likely eating a pickled banana pepper.
Are Banana Peppers the Same as Pepperoncini Peppers?
Pickled banana peppers and pepperoncini are commonly confused for one another, but let it be known that they are not the same. They are, however, from the same family of peppers — capsicum annuum. In terms of heat, they both hover around the same, mild range of 100 to 500 scoville units, though it is possible that some banana peppers have no heat at all. This is not the case for pepperoncini as all of these peppers possess some fiery flavor.
When it comes to flavor, they are pretty similar, though you may notice a slight bitterness with pepperoncini that you don't get from banana peppers. Their differences in flavor are more discernible when the peppers are raw — after they're pickled, they taste even more similar. These two peppers are close enough in taste that they can be used interchangeably.
While they do have similar appearances, which is likely the cause for confusion, pepperoncini peppers are slightly more green in color and have a wrinkly texture in comparison to banana peppers, which have a brighter yellow color and smooth exterior. Banana peppers also have a pointier end than the rounded end on a pepperoncini.
How Can I Use Banana Peppers?
Like any pickled product, these peppers are great for adding acidity, brightness, and a subtle bit of heat to any dish. Pickled banana peppers are most commonly sliced into rings and used as a topping, though if you can get your hands on a raw banana pepper, they are great to stuff like you would a jalapeno popper or a stuffed bell pepper. The pickled pepper rings are most commonly enjoyed in sandwiches (vegetarian or meat), pizzas, toasts, tacos, nachos, and salads. If you want to add something salty and acidic but don't want to bear through the heat of a pickled jalapeno or something spicier, these mild peppers are a great flavor compromise.
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This story originally appeared on allrecipes.com