Cubanelle Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Pairings, And More

Cubanelle peppers, also known as “Cuban pepper”, are a variety of sweet peppers that are popular in many cuisines. They are mild, with a sweet flavor and a little bit of heat, registering 100 to 1,000 on the Scoville scale. These peppers are typically light green in color, but they can ripen to a bright red or yellow-orange. They are long and tapered, usually about four to six inches in length, and have a slightly wrinkled appearance.

Cubanelle peppers are widely used in dishes that require a sweet, mild flavor without the intense heat of other pepper varieties. They are a common ingredient in Cuban, Puerto Rican, and Dominican cuisines, often used in casseroles, stews, and stuffed pepper recipes.

Cubanelle peppers, with their tapered appearance

Cubanelle pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)100 – 1,000
Median heat (SHU)550
Jalapeño reference point3 to 80 times milder
SpeciesCapsicum Annuum
OriginItaly, Cuba
SizeUp to 6 inches long, curved

How hot are Cubanelle peppers?

There are few milder chilies out there. This chili makes the mild poblano pepper (1,000 to 1,500 Scoville heat units or SHU) seem spicy. With a range of 100 to 1,000 SHU, the Cubanelle pepper is at least three times milder than a jalapeño pepper (2,500 to 8,000 SHU) and it can range all the way down to 80 times milder. 

Another way to look at it: the Cubanelle is closer to the heat of a bell pepper (0 SHU) than it is to the jalapeño. Comparables on the Scoville scale include the banana pepper (0 to 500 SHU), the pepperoncini (100 to 500 SHU), and the Italian long hot pepper (100 to 1,000 SHU, an exact match to the Cubanelle as they are considered by many to be the same chili, just grown in different regions.

But most people are not picking up Cubanelles for their heat; it’s their sweetness, versatility, and thin walls that are great for frying that make this pepper such a popular choice.

What does it look like and taste like?

Its shape is very much like the Anaheim or banana pepper: long (four to six inches in length) and tapered with a width of about two inches. The Cubanelle starts a yellowish-green and matures into a rich red color. In fact, both the Anaheim and the banana pepper are good potential substitutes for a Cubanelle (just not as sweet.)

Think of the Cubanelle like a sweeter, more flavorful bell pepper, and you’ll get why these peppers are so popular. The sweetness of the Cubanelle pepper is even more pronounced when it’s fully ripe and has turned from green to its mature red color. And frying this chili with a little olive oil releases that sweetness even more. 

cubanelle pepper
Cubanelle peppers on the vine

Cooking with Cubanelle peppers

First, these chilies are a must for authentic Cuban cuisine, so if you are experimenting with Cuban cooking, make sure you come prepared with Cubanelle.

Frying these chilies is, as mentioned, an extremely popular use. Fried up, they are great on their own or on subs like the ever-popular sausage and pepper sandwich. These sandwiches traditionally feature the Italian frying pepper. Cubanelles are also terrific in salads and soups, as well as on pizza. It’s also a terrific chili for fresh mild salsa, especially if you like your salsas on the sweeter tasting side.

More tips

  • They make a great substitute for bell or poblano peppers. So anywhere you’d consider using them, you should give thought to the Cubanelle. This includes stuffed pepper recipes too, though the thin walls of the Cubanelle aren’t quite as well equipped to be stuffed as the thick walls of the bell or poblano.
  • If you’re looking for a Cubanelle substitute, you have many options. Bell peppers and poblanos are viable alternatives, so are banana peppers. See your best substitutes.
  • As these chilies are very mild, the chance of extreme chili burn is small. But you can still experience discomfort from handling Cubanelles. Like with all chilies, it’s recommended to use kitchen gloves when handling and know how to treat chili burn just in case.

Common Cubanelle pepper ingredient pairings

This is a versatile chili in the kitchen, like a bell pepper, so the list of ingredients that work with the Cubanelle is deep. Here are just a few to get you thinking about how to experiment with the Cubanelle in your cooking.

  • Garlic: Garlic is a versatile ingredient that pairs well with the mild heat and sweet flavor of Cubanelle peppers. Its pungent flavor complements and enhances the pepper’s taste.
  • Onions: Onions add a savory depth to Cubanelle peppers. Their natural sweetness when cooked balances the mild heat of the peppers, creating a harmonious blend of flavors.
  • Tomatoes: The acidity and sweetness of tomatoes pair well with Cubanelle peppers. They help to balance out the heat and add a rich, savory taste.
  • Olive Oil: Olive oil’s rich, fruity flavor complements Cubanelle peppers nicely. It helps to mellow out the heat and adds a silky texture that enhances the overall dish. It’s one of the reasons why fried Cubanelles are so delicious.
  • Cumin: Cumin’s earthy and warm flavor pairs well with the mild heat of Cubanelle peppers. It adds some flavor depth by leaning away from the chili’s natural sweetness.
  • Oregano: Oregano’s robust and slightly bitter flavor complements the sweet and mild heat of Cubanelle peppers. It adds a Mediterranean touch to dishes.
  • Paprika: Paprika enhances the heat of Cubanelle peppers without overpowering their flavor. Its smoky sweetness pairs nicely with the pepper’s mild heat.
  • Lime: The citrusy tang of lime is a great match for the sweet heat of Cubanelle peppers. It adds a fresh, vibrant flavor that brightens up dishes.
  • Cheese: Cheese, especially varieties like mozzarella or feta, can help balance the heat of Cubanelle peppers. The creamy, mild flavor of cheese contrasts nicely with the pepper’s heat.
  • Cilantro: Cilantro’s fresh, citrusy flavor complements the sweet and mild heat of Cubanelle peppers. It adds a refreshing note that balances the overall flavor of the dish.

Must-read related posts

  • The Hot Pepper List: We profile 170+ chilies. Search them by heat level, flavor, and more. Both culinary and ornamentals.
  • The Black Cuban Pepper Guide: “Cuban” is in its name, but expect a world of pain from the Black Cuban compared to the Cubanelle.
  • Our Hot Sauce Rankings: We review and rank 100+ hot sauces to help you find your next new favorite.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 9, 2024 to include new content.
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there are more than on variety of these peppers I grow the blocky one. excellent crisp juicy nice crunch.