What’s A Good Hungarian Wax Pepper Substitute?

Hungarian wax peppers are a popular variety of chili pepper that have a tangy, slightly sweet flavor. These chilies are quite versatile – as good fresh as they are pickled (sometimes sold as hot banana peppers or hot wax peppers), as tasty as poppers as they are simply grilled. Yet, they can be difficult to find. If you are looking for a good Hungarian wax pepper substitute, there are several options to choose from. The good news: You have some excellent options, particularly pickled.

Your best bet: Banana peppers

Banana peppers are a great substitute for Hungarian wax peppers. They have a similar flavor profile – slightly sweet, slightly tangy that complements many dishes. They even look alike, and, as such, can be confused for each other by both buyers and store employees. Banana peppers are widely available pickled, but many grocers also carry them fresh as well. They are much easier to find fresh than Hungarian wax.

But there’s a catch: the spiciness. The heat level is quite different between these two chilies. Banana peppers are extremely mild, running from 0 to 500 Scoville heat units (SHU), while Hungarian wax peppers provide a solid medium heat, 5,000 to 10,000 SHU. If that drop in overall spiciness is not an issue, go ahead and use banana peppers as a one-to-one replacement for Hungarian wax peppers.

An excellent second choice: Pepperoncini

Pepperoncini are a bit more difficult to find than banana peppers, but they also make an excellent alternative for Hungarian wax peppers. Like banana peppers, they have a sweet and tangy flavor with just a touch of heat (100 to 500 Scoville heat units). They also come in both fresh and pickled at grocers (though pickled is much more common).

While pepperoncini are a good flavor match, the main difference, again, is that spiciness. Their Scoville heat range averages only a touch hotter than banana peppers, so pepperoncini are fairly mild and not a match for the spiciness in Hungarian wax.

The heat equivalent (with a fresh caveat): Jalapeño peppers

If you are looking for a pickled alternative for Hungarian wax peppers, pickled jalapeños provide a flavor profile that closely resembles them due to the intense tang of the pickling brine.

Plus, jalapeños and Hungarian wax are very similar in overall spiciness. Jalapeños range from 2,500 to 8,000 SHU, so Hungarian wax peppers (at 5,000 to 10,000 SHU) are only slightly spicier. Both provide a low-medium heat that’s very eatable. If a heat match is what you’re after, the jalapeño is among the best.

Comparing the fresh chilies, though, there’s a caveat. The flavors of these chilies are completely different, and that’s front and center when using them fresh. Green jalapenos have a bright, grassy flavor that verges on bitterness. As they age to red, they gain some sweetness, but it’s not comparable to the sweet tanginess you get from a Hungarian wax.

–> Learn More: Green Vs. Red Jalapeño – How Do They Compare?

Still, fresh jalapeños are widely available, and that alone (along with the comparable spiciness) may be enough to make them the best fresh Hungarian wax substitute of the bunch. Plus, they are arguably the best popper pepper on the planet. So, if your desire for a Hungarian wax pepper substitute is specific to use in poppers, jalapeno peppers are your best choice.

Other options

There are many hot peppers in this mild to medium-heat range of the Scoville scale that can act as cooking alternatives for Hungarian wax peppers. Your options include poblano peppers, cubanelle peppers, Anaheim peppers, shishito peppers, and many more. Most won’t have the same flavor profile, but as a heat substitute, you’ll find what will work for your recipe.

If none of the above work, explore our hot pepper list that covers over 150 chilies from mild to super-hot. Search by name, heat level, flavor, origin, and more.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on August 7, 2022 to include new content.
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