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What Is a Piquillo Pepper?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

A piquillo pepper is a type of small red chili pepper with a shape similar to a triangle that is grown in Spain. It has a flavor that is slightly sweet and spicy, but it is not a truly hot pepper. It is usually harvested twice a year, between September and December, and the level of ripeness at harvesting influences the flavor of the pepper. The piquillo pepper is often served roasted, although there are many other methods of preparations as well, such as stuffing them or using them in soup. Similar to most vegetables, piquillo peppers are low in calories and they are a good source of fiber and several vitamins.

There are many different types of peppers, and the piquillo pepper is a small pepper that is usually bright red in color. The name piquillo means "little beak," and the shape of the pepper is reminiscent of a bird's beak. It is has a rounded, triangular shape that is slightly curved as it narrows to a sharp point. The piquillo pepper is grown in northern Spain in the Navarro region near the Ebro River. It has a vibrant, slightly sweet and spicy flavor with just a little heat.

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Traditionally, harvest time for the piquillo pepper occurs two times a year. The peppers are picked by hand, usually between the months of September and December. Some growers only harvest when the peppers have reached the peak state of ripeness and they are a rich shade of bright red. Other growers pick peppers at varying stages of ripeness, so some are red, while others are green, or a combination of both colors. When the peppers are green, they have had the least amount of time to ripen, which results in a flavor that is much sharper with less sweetness.

There is a multitude of ways to prepare and serve the piquillo pepper, one of the most common being to roast them over an open fire and peel the skin off. The roasted peppers are packed in jars or cans for retail sale all over the world and can be enjoyed plain or with a little olive oil and salt. Fresh piquillo peppers can be used in a variety of recipes; for example, they can be stuffed with meat, cheese, or seafood, as well as fried in olive oil and garlic. The piquillo peppers can also be used as an ingredient in a range of soups and other dishes. They are a flavorful, nutritious ingredient with high fiber and low calories in addition to being rich in the C, A, E, and B complex vitamins.

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