What’s The Best Cubanelle Pepper Substitute?

Known for its thin walls and sweet taste, the cubanelle – a.k.a. the Italian frying pepper – is fast growing in popularity. But, even so, if you live outside of areas with Italian or Caribbean influence, they can be hard finds in stores. So where do you turn if a recipe calls for the cubanelle and none are available? What’s the best cubanelle pepper substitute that will save your dish with a similar heat and flavor? You do have options that’ll work, though, none perfectly match the cubanelle’s capability in the frying pan.

Your best option: Anaheim pepper

The Anaheim is a jump up in heat (500 to 2,500 Scoville heat units) compared to the cubanelle. But really any chili is an upgrade to the cubanelle’s extremely mild 100 to 1,000 SHU. They both are still mild chilies, though, so we are talking a just a little additional simmer, not an intense heatwave.

In terms of taste, Anaheim peppers have a slight sweetness that’s comparable enough to a cubanelle to work in most recipes. Anaheim chilies don’t quite compare as frying peppers; their thicker walls make them better as stuffing peppers than frying peppers, but they can substitute as a frying pepper if needed.

The easy to find alternative: Bell pepper

Yes, you are stepping down to zero heat with this alternative,  but the cubanelle is not that far behind. And, of course, the bell pepper is available wherever produce is sold. Both are sweet peppers, so the flavors are in the same ballpark. It’s close enough, at least, to substitute when the Anaheim chili is not an option. 

The bell, though, also has thick walls – great for stuffing, but not as great for frying. Though, it, like the Anaheim pepper, can do as a frying pepper. The Anaheim is slightly the better of these two options, but plenty of recipes call for sautéed bell peppers.

An option with tang: Banana pepper

Yes, the flavor is different. The banana pepper has a sweet tang to it, so it’s not always a good substitution. But they do have a similar heat profile – the banana pepper ranging from 0 to 500 SHU – and they are also often used as a sandwich and pizza topping. If your recipe can do with a little extra tang, then the banana pepper is an option to try.

Banana peppers also have thinner walls (at least compared to our other substitutes) so they’ll do reasonably well with pan-frying or sautéeing. Those walls are thick enough, though, that they stuff decently well too.

An option with earthiness: Poblano pepper

The poblano has a mild heat profile, only a touch hotter than the cubanelle (1,000 to 1,500 SHU.) So heat-wise, it’s a reasonable substitute. But, the flavor of the poblano trends towards earthiness with its natural sweetness.

Does it work? Yes, it’s a viable cubanelle substitute and they are easier to find than Anaheim chilies. It all comes down to availability and what flavor would work best for your use case here.

Must-read related posts

  • The Hot Pepper List: The cubanelle is one of over 150 different chilies that we profile at PepperScale. Search our dynamic list to find even more alternatives and filter by name, heat, flavor, origin, and more.
  • Our Hot Sauce Rankings: We rank over 100 hot sauces by flavor, heat balance, usability, and collectibility. Plus, you can search the rankings by the chili pepper used.
  • Poblano Vs. Anaheim: We compare two of the chilies that make good cubanelle alternatives head-to-head.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on June 1, 2022 to include new content.
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