Cubanelle Pepper Guide: Heat, Flavor, Uses

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What are Cubanelle Peppers?

Cubanelle peppers (a.k.a. Cuban peppers, Italian frying peppers, or aji cubanela) are a variety of mild chili pepper (100 to 1,000 Scoville heat units). It’s a favorite throughout Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico, and a must for preparing authentic cuisine from those regions. The Cubanelle’s sweet flavor and thin walls make it a terrific frying pepper – perfect for use on salads, sandwiches, and even as a side all on its own.

cubanelle pepper
Cubanelle peppers on the vine

Table of Contents

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
UseCulinary
SizeUp to 6 inches long, curved
FlavorSweet

How hot are Cubanelle peppers?

There are few milder chilies out there. This chili makes the poblano pepper (a very popular mild chili) seem spicy. With a range of 100 to 1,000 Scoville heat units (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 to 80 times milder. 

Another way to look at it: the Cubanelle is closer to the heat of a bell pepper (0 SHU, as a sweet pepper) 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 and thin walls that are great for frying that make this pepper such a popular choice.

What does a Cubanelle pepper taste like?

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. 

What does it look like?

Its shape is very much like the Anaheim or banana pepper: long (up to six inches) and curved 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.)

–> Learn More: What Are Good Cubanelle Pepper Substitutes?

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.

In fact, 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.

It’s also a terrific chili for fresh mild salsa, especially if you like your salsas on the sweeter tasting side.

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.

Growing Cubanelles

Growing Cubanelle peppers requires a warm, sunny environment as they thrive best in hot climates. Start by planting the seeds indoors approximately 8-10 weeks before the last expected frost. They germinate best at a temperature of around 70-85 degrees Fahrenheit. Once the seedlings are about 1-2 inches tall, transplant them to larger pots. Ensure the soil is well-draining and rich in organic matter. Regular watering is crucial, but avoid waterlogged soil as it can lead to root rot. 

When the threat of frost has passed, and the soil temperature has consistently reached above 60 degrees Fahrenheit, it’s time to transplant your Cubanelle peppers outdoors. Choose a spot with full sun exposure and space the plants about 18-24 inches apart. Regularly check for pests and diseases, such as aphids and pepper leaf curl, to ensure healthy growth.

The peppers typically mature in 60-75 days, turning from green to a bright red when they are ripe and ready to pick. Pruning is not necessary but can help increase yield and size of the peppers. Regular fertilization is recommended to provide the necessary nutrients for optimal growth.

Where can you buy Cubanelle peppers?

With the increasing popularity of chili peppers these days, Cubanelles are becoming easier and easier to find. Many supermarkets carry them, especially if you live in Caribbean or Italian influenced regions. If you have a green thumb and want to grow your own, Cubanelle pepper seeds can sometimes be found at garden centers and easily found through online venders.

This is a sweet pepper, not known for its heat, so don’t expect to find hot sauces and packaged spicy salsas on the market. But as a fresh chili, the Cubanelle pepper is definitely on the rise for its mild and flavorful taste. The next time you are reaching for that bell pepper, take a look to see if there’s a Cubanelle nearby. It’s a small step up in heat that may really surprise you in flavor.

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02/18/2024 07:35 pm GMT
  • The Hot Pepper List: We profile 150+ 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 December 12, 2023 to include new content.
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Joseph

there are more than on variety of these peppers I grow the blocky one. excellent crisp juicy nice crunch.