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

Pepperoncini, also known as Tuscan peppers or golden Greek peppers, are a variety of chili pepper that originated in Italy and Greece. They are small, usually 2-3 inches long, and have a bright yellow or green color. They are usually picked when they are green, or they can be allowed to fully ripen and turn red.

Pepperoncini are known for their mild heat and slightly sweet flavor. On the Scoville Scale, pepperoncini range from 100 to 500 Scoville heat units (SHU), making them one of the milder chili peppers. Their flavor is tangy and slightly sweet, with a hint of bitterness. They are commonly pickled and used in salads, sandwiches, and Greek cuisine.

Mezzetta Golden Greek Pepperoncini, 16 oz.
Pickled pepperoncini add a tangy and mildly spicy flavor that can elevate any dish. Their unique taste and crunchy texture can enhance salads, pizzas, sandwiches, and even main courses, making them a versatile ingredient in your kitchen.

Last update on 2024-07-13. We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you. 

Fresh pepperoncini on the vine

Pepperoncini fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)100 – 500
Median heat (SHU)300
Jalapeño reference point5 to 80 times milder
Capsicum speciesAnnuum
Size2 to 3 inches, tapered
FlavorSweet, Tangy

How hot are pepperoncini peppers?

They barely nudge the pepper scale, right down there with the pimento pepper in terms of hotness. In fact, the pepperoncini (100 to 500 Scoville heat units) is much closer to a bell pepper than a jalapeño (2,500 to 8,000 SHU), which comes in on average 40 times hotter.

–> Learn More: Pepperoncini Vs. Jalapeño—How Do They Compare?

When comparing the pepperoncini across a wide breadth of the Scoville scale, you can see how mild this chili pepper really is. Versus the cayenne (30,000 – 50,000 SHU), habanero (100,000 – 350,000 SHU), or ghost pepper (~950,000 SHU), it’s a mere drop in the bucket in terms of overall spiciness. This is about as family-friendly a chili as you can get.

Compared to its doppelgänger cousin, the banana pepper, the pepperoncini is very close in overall spiciness. The banana pepper ranges from 0 to 500 SHU while the pepperoncini has just a slightly higher floor (at 100 SHU) and shares the same ceiling in terms of heat.

–> Learn More: Pepperoncini Vs. Banana Pepper

What do they look like and taste like?

In terms of size, this is a medium-length (2 to 3 inches) tapered pepper sort of like the Anaheim pepper in shape, and they certainly look a lot like a banana pepper too. They start a light green and ripen to a red color, though the majority of pickled pepperoncini are, of course, eaten when greenish-yellow. It’s then that they are the best overall flavor for pickling.

Fresh, they have a sweet peppery taste with a very light tang. There can also be a hint of bitterness to the flavor. But, as was mentioned, that’s not how these chilies are normally eaten. When pickled, it’s that pickling juice that’s the driving force of the flavor. It’s a delicious mix of sweet, tangy, and a very eatable tickle of heat. This is one pepper, particularly pickled, that the whole family can enjoy.

Pepperoncini juice uses
Don’t overlook pepperoncini juice (its pickling brine) as an ingredient as well!

Cooking with pepperoncini

With the low level of spiciness in the pepperoncini, you can approach handling and cooking much more like you would a bell pepper than a jalapeño. Handling the chilies when whole and uncut can be done without gloves (and without much concern for chili burn.)

Though we still recommend using kitchen gloves when cutting any chili pepper, no matter the level of spiciness. You can get chili burn as easily from a pepperoncini as you can a habanero (though the impact will not be as severe.) Read our post on treating chili burn as a preventative measure. As well, read our post “Jalapeño in Eye? Here’s What To Do.” All of the recommendations hold true for a chili burn caused by pepperoncini as well.

Other tips:

  • Removing the membrane from the chili will remove much of the heat the pepper holds. That’s true no matter the pepper. The seeds hold a minimal amount of capsaicin (the compound that provides the heat.) It’s the pith that matters. Of course, there isn’t much heat in a pepperoncini as it stands, so keeping it in place helps provide the warmth this pepper provides.
  • Don’t overlook the pickled pepperoncini juice as a potential ingredient. Seriously. The “juice” is simply the brine the chili comes in, and it has a lot of interesting use cases as well. Read our post on fun pepperoncini juice uses to get your imagination going here.
  • The banana pepper is the best overall substitute for the pepperoncini. We mentioned the banana pepper previously, and they are similar in many ways – sometimes eerily so. They share very comparable heat and looks. You can often find pickled banana peppers right beside them in the grocery store aisles. For additional options, check out our pepperoncini substitutes post that covers quite a few in-depth.

Common pepperoncini ingredient pairings

Many of the most common ingredient pairings with pepperonicini are showcased in traditional Italian antipasto. You’ll find that this chili pepper is among the most versatile when it comes to usage, both due to its very eatable heat but also its tasty sweetness and tang.

  • Feta Cheese: The salty, tangy flavor of feta cheese pairs well with the mild heat and tang of pickled pepperoncini, creating a balanced and flavorful combination that works well in salads and sandwiches.
  • Olives: The briny, slightly bitter taste of olives complements the tangy heat of pepperoncini, enhancing the overall flavor profile in dishes like pasta, salads, and pizzas.
  • Italian Meats: Italian meats such as salami or prosciutto have a rich, savory flavor that contrasts nicely with the spicy, tangy pepperoncini taste, making them a great pair for antipasto platters.
  • Tomatoes: The sweet acidity of tomatoes balances out the heat of the chili, making them a classic pairing in Mediterranean cuisine.
  • Garlic: The strong, pungent flavor of garlic pairs well with the tangy heat of pepperoncini. They are often paired in dishes like pasta, pizza, and pickles.
  • Olive Oil: The smooth, fruity taste of olive oil can help to mellow out the light heat of this pepper, making it a great pairing for salads and marinades. It also adds a subtle depth to pickled pepperoncini’s tanginess.
  • Pasta: The neutral flavor of pasta provides a great base for the spicy, tangy taste of pepperoncini, creating a balanced and satisfying meal.
  • Bread: Pepperoncini is one of the best sandwich chilies, and a lot has to do with how it pairs with bread. The mild, slightly sweet flavor of bread works quite well with the fresh tanginess from the pepper.
  • Lemon: The fresh, acidic taste of lemon can help to enhance the tangy flavor of pepperoncini, making it a great pairing for salads and seafood dishes.
  • Red Wine Vinegar: The sharp, fruity acidity of red wine vinegar complements the tangy heat of pepperoncini, enhancing the overall flavor profile in dishes like salads and pickles.

Some of our favorite pepperoncini recipes

  • Pepperoncini Beef: This is a classic use for this chili pepper. It’s a simple slow cooker recipe, and the results are mouth-watering to look at and even more delicious to taste.
  • Pickled Banana Peppers/Pepperoncini: This is technically labeled on our site as a banana pepper recipe, but it works just as well here!
  • Pickled Pepperoncini Deviled Eggs: We use jalapeño in this specific recipe, but we also reference how good it is using pepperoncini as a mild alternative instead.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 7, 2024 to include new content.
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I recently bought Delallo “mild” pepperoncini peppers and they were as hot as a jalapeño! They came in hot, medium and mild and I chose mild because I didn’t want anything with too much heat. No added spicy ingredients on the label. How can this be if your article claims that they are as mild as a green bell pepper?