What’s The Best Shishito Pepper Substitute?

Craving shishito peppers and none are around? Or do you have a recipe that calls for them, but you’d like to change things up a bit? What are your choices? What’s the best shishito pepper substitute when it comes to taste and flavor, and what about an alternative you can pick up at a moment’s notice? We have you covered for both occasions. 

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Your best alternative: Padrón pepper

Shishito peppers are one of those firecracker chilies where one in ten brings an extra special punch of heat. That’s what makes them a ton of fun to eat. Padrón chilies share that trait, 90% of the time they are relatively mild, but every so often you get an explosive surprise.

Padrón peppers are hotter than shishito, 500 to 2,500 Scoville heat units compared to the 50 to 200 of a shishito. So there’s a significant heat difference. That sudden hot shishito is only as hot as the mildest Padrón. And one of those explosive Padrón chilies will rival the heat of a mild jalapeño. Both of these chilies, though, live in the mild sector of the pepper scale, so most anyone can enjoy this spiciness.

In terms of flavor, the Padrón is nuttier and earthier than the shishito (which has highlights of citrus with a touch of grassiness and a hint of smoke), so the taste is not quite on par. Still, the explosive quality and overall mildness of these chilies make them good matches.

They both, too, are terrific blistered with some oil and salt as a quick appetizer. Padrón chilies may be just as difficult to source, though, so in a pinch, you’ll need to turn in another direction.

Your fresh supermarket alternative: Bell pepper

It’s not a sexy choice, but it’s the best you’ll come across when you have limited options. The bell, of course, has zero heat to it, so it’s not technically a hot pepper. But truly, the shishito is barely a blip on the Scoville scale in terms of overall heat itself, so it’s closer to the bell than most other chilies.

The flavor is comparable enough to substitute. The grassy citrus flavor of the shishito comps decently well against the bright grassiness of a green bell. A red bell brings with it a little more sweetness that may better fit your need, depending on the use case.

You can blister bell peppers, but their thicker walls and overall bigger shape don’t quite have the same “pop in the mouth whole” eating experience as the shishito. But these are peppers you’ll find at any grocery store, so if your need is immediate, it’s by far your best solution.

On supermarket shelves: Banana peppers

Banana peppers have a similar mild heat profile, ranging from 0 to 500 Scoville heat units. But their flavor profile is quite different, particularly because they’re most often found pickled on store shelves. They have a natural sweet tanginess that’s only expanded with the pickling brine. That’s quite different than the grassy, smoky flavors of the shishito.

Still, if you’re simply looking for similar heat, there are few better matches than the banana pepper. Just consider the impact on the tastes within your dish.

  • The Hot Pepper List: Shishitos are one of over 150 chilies that we profile. Our dynamic list allows you to search all these chilies and filter by name, heat, flavor, and more.
  • Blistered Shishito Peppers Recipe: This is the classic way to eat these chilies (and incredibly delicious.)
  • Our Hot Sauce Rankings: Discover over rankings of over 100 different hot sauces. Use it to find your next new favorite for the table.

UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on June 19, 2022 to include new content.
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