How to Use Peppers of All Kinds

From spicy habaneros to sweet bell peppers, find out which varieties are best for adding heat or just giving some crunch.

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Photo By: Matt Armendariz ©2013, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved

Types of Peppers

This colorful and crunchy ingredient comes in a variety of shapes, sizes and levels of heat. We've rounded up some of the top varieties so you know when to use each.

Habaneros

Habaneros may be small, but they pack some serious heat. You’ll probably want to use them sparingly in their raw form; try removing the seeds and interior flesh to tame the intensity. Just remember to wear gloves when handling habaneros, or any chile pepper, for that matter. If you’ve ever touched a hot pepper and then touched your eyes, you’ll know what we're talking about.

Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Like habaneros, these small hot peppers appear in various hues of green, yellow and red, but have a smokier, fruitier fragrance. Cook them in a bit of olive oil to help tame the heat and open up the marvelously floral aroma. A few paper-thin slices can brighten (and spice up) a light butter sauce for grilled fish or a hot marinade for vegetables, such as eggplant, and meat.

Thai Bird Chiles

These small but menacing peppers rank close to the habanero on the heat scale. Common throughout Southeast Asia, Thai bird chiles are used in a variety of ways. In Vietnamese cooking, they're found in soups, salads and stir-fries, and in Thai cuisine, they often appear in curries. True heat lovers have been known to devour them raw, right off the stem.

Jalapenos

Jalapenos are slightly less spicy than habaneros and Scotch bonnet peppers, so they’re safer to chop and eat raw (or lightly cooked). They pair wonderfully with the richness of avocados or the sweetness of tomatoes and corn. Try incorporating some finely diced jalapeno into a salsa or salad dressing.

Chipotle Peppers

Chipotle peppers are dried, smoked jalapenos with an exterior appearance similar to that of raisins or prunes. Try blending a few chipotles with a creamy mayonnaise or combine them with olive oil and blistered tomatoes to make a dressing. The intense smokiness is particularly excellent in slow-cooker recipes. Drop a few chipotles into a slow braise of pork shoulder and you’ll see for yourself.

Serrano Peppers

One of the most-commonly used chiles in Mexican cooking, serrano peppers are often eaten raw —though they are notably spicier than jalapenos. These peppers have a thin skin and meaty flesh compared with others, making them ideal mix-ins for pico de gallo and salsa recipes.

Italian Long Peppers

Also known as “frying peppers” or "long hots," these peppers add great texture and heat to a sandwich. Try frying them whole in olive oil with parsley, salt and black pepper, and serving them on a hard roll with a sharp cheese. You can also use them as a side for breaded veal, chicken, fish and beef dishes.

Wax Peppers

These peppers are known for their medium-hot flavor. Often mistaken for banana chiles, wax peppers are commonly served fresh in salads and salsas or as a pickled appetizer. Braise some onion slices until tender, add a sprinkle of your favorite vinegar and then stir in some sliced wax peppers at the last minute for a great crunch.

Bell Peppers

The sweetest and mildest of all, bell peppers are celebrated for their excellent crisp texture that’s perfect on sandwiches or in salads. Remove the seeds and the ribs from a few red bell peppers and blend the peppers until smooth with some olive oil, a touch of honey, and salt and pepper for an easy yet versatile salad dressing.

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Spicy Foods