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

Shishito peppers are a variety of pepper from East Asia, more specifically from Japan. They are small, thin-walled, and usually about two to four inches long with a bright green color. Shishito peppers have a unique flavor profile that is sweet, slightly smoky, and very mild. While most shishito peppers are mild, it’s said that about one in every ten tends to have a spicy kick, making it a bit of a culinary adventure when consuming them.

Shishito peppers are often used in Asian cuisine and have become increasingly popular in other parts of the world as well, especially in the United States. They are typically served blistered and salted as an appetizer, but can also be used in a variety of dishes including stir-fries and salads.

Shishito Pepper
Fresh shishito peppers

Shishito pepper fast facts

Scoville heat units (SHU)50 – 200
Median heat (SHU)125
Jalapeño reference point13 to 160 times milder
Capsicum speciesAnnuum
SizeApproximately 2 to 4 inches long, bulbous (sometimes, at end of pepper)
FlavorSweet, Grassy, Citrusy, Smoky

How did shishito peppers become native to Japan?

How chili peppers ended up anywhere outside of the Americas is typically a story of exploration centuries ago. It’s likely the shishito has its roots from the Padrón pepper which is native to Spain. They look a lot alike, and, as you’ll see, they share the same quirky heat, though the Padrón is noticeably spicier, reaching at its maximum the spiciness of a mild jalapeño (500 to 2,500 SHU).

The Padrón likely ended up in Spain in the 16th century from South America. From there, the Japanese likely were introduced to the chili. The mix of growing the Padrón in Japanese soil, along with selecting the mildest peppers in the lot for propagation, likely converted the taste and heat of the Shishito into what we have today.

How hot are shishito peppers?

With a very mild range on the Scoville scale, from 50 to 200 Scoville heat units, the typical shishito is sort of like a rounding error of hotness above a zero-heat bell pepper. Meaning: They aren’t hot at all, at least most of the time. It’s sort of a pulsing light warmth instead of true spiciness, very much under the radar. Comparing it to the jalapeño, the typical shishito pepper is 13 to 160 times milder. Though, there’s a catch.

Roughly, one out of every ten shishito peppers will rev the spiciness just a little further. They don’t reach even mild jalapeño heat, but it’s enough to catch you by surprise. Padrón chilies have a similar “Russian roulette” tendency, and they both add a level of playfulness to the eating experience.

Think of that random spiciness hitting near the minimum points of either a poblano or Padrón (500 to 1,000 SHU), and you’ll know what to expect. It’s a spiciness that’s still very mild in the scope of the Scoville scale. It’s just surprising because it’s a random doubling, tripling, or more of spiciness compared to the others you’ve eaten.

What do they look like and taste like?

The typical shishito is slender, two to four inches in length, thin-walled, and slightly wrinkled. It has a bulbous end to the pepper that some Japanese say looks like a lion’s head. In fact, its name speaks to its shape. Shishito is a mash-up of two Japanese words: shishi for “lion” and tōgarashi for “chili pepper”. Think of the giant lion heads in Japanese parades and festivals and you’ll see it from time to time.

Shishito peppers do look a lot like Padrón chilies, and they can be mistaken for one another in markets. To tell them apart: Padrón peppers tend to be a little more stocky and a little less wrinkly. Shishito are also slightly shinier. Both tells, though, can be hard to consider without both chilies being present.

Their taste is where shishito peppers make up for their near total lack of heat. These are flavorful sweeter chilies: grassy and citrusy with a slight hint of smokiness. That citrusy sweetness is not as common on the lower end of the Scoville scale, which makes the shishito’s flavor pretty unique.

Cooking with shishito peppers

With their thin walls, these chilies are growing fast in popularity as grilling peppers. Char-grilled or fried with a little olive oil and sea salt and you have a very tasty appetizer chili with a little extra flair, given the one-in-ten heat jump. Their sweet grassy flavor also makes them an excellent chili for stir-fry. And they also work quite well as a tempura vegetable.

Blistered shishitos is the recipe this chili is most known for, which involved char-grilling the peppers to give them a smoky, earthy flavor. Many restaurants offer this dish as an appetizer or side.

Blistered Shishito Peppers
This is one of the easiest appetizers to make, and the flavor is well beyond the little time it takes. All it takes is three ingredients and ten minutes. It's such a delicious mix of salty, smoky, and sweet.
Check out this recipe
Blistered Shishito Peppers
Blistered Shishito Peppers
Blistered shishito peppers is one of the most popular recipes for this chili.

More cooking tips:

  • Don’t assume mild means no chili burn. Shishitos are very mild, and you can easily handle them whole with your bare hands. But cutting any chili open, no matter the heat, releases oils containing capsaicin (the compound behind the spiciness.) Even the mildest pepper can cause chili burn discomfort. Use kitchen gloves when handling. And we recommend reading up on treating chili burn prior to handling any pepper.
  • Compared to the Padrón, shishitos aren’t as earthy or nutty. So if you’re choosing between the two, consider these taste variations against the other foods you’re cooking. In once instance, a sweeter, milder chili may make more sense (shishito), in another, something a little spicier and earthier (Padrón).
  • With their thin walls, shishito aren’t optimal for stuffing. But that hasn’t stopped some pro chefs from exploring what’s possible here too. For amateur chefs, stuffing these chilies provides plenty of frustration (expect more than a few ripped chilies while stuffing), so we’d still recommend jumping to a poblano (larger stuffed recipes) or jalapeño (poppers) for any stuffed peppers recipes.
  • Your best substitute for the shishito is (not surprisingly) the Padrón pepper. It’s only slightly hotter, has a similar look, and behaves in the same “Russian roulette” fashion. For more ideas, read our post on the best shishito substitutes.

Common shishito pepper ingredient pairings

Many Japanese ingredients are common pairings with the shishito, and they fit well with the unique flavor profile of this chili pepper. Here are some of the most common you’ll find in recipes.

  • Garlic: Garlic’s robust flavor complements the mild heat and sweetness of shishito peppers. It’s a common pairing in many stir-fry dishes and sautés, enhancing the overall flavor profile.
  • Soy Sauce: The salty, umami flavor of soy sauce pairs well with the light heat and sweet notes of shishito peppers. It can help balance the pepper’s heat while adding depth to the dish.
  • Sesame Oil: This oil has a rich, nutty flavor that complements the mild, sweet flavor of shishito peppers. It’s often used in Asian cuisine for sautéing these peppers.
  • Lemon/Lime: The acidity and freshness of citrus fruits like lemon or lime can cut through the mild heat of shishito peppers, providing a refreshing contrast. Citrus is often used in grilling or roasting shishito peppers.
  • Sea Salt: The simple flavor enhancer, sea salt can help bring out the natural sweetness of shishito peppers. A light sprinkle of sea salt can elevate the taste of blistered shishito peppers.
  • Ponzu Sauce: This Japanese sauce, with its tangy, sweet, and salty flavor, pairs perfectly with the sweet and slightly smoky flavor of shishito peppers, especially when they’re grilled or pan-fried.
  • Ginger: Ginger’s spicy, aromatic flavor is a great match for the mild heat of shishito peppers. It adds an extra kick and depth of flavor to dishes featuring these peppers.
  • Basil: The sweet, slightly peppery flavor of basil complements the mild heat and sweetness of shishito peppers. It can add a fresh, aromatic note to stir-fry or pasta dishes with shishito peppers.
  • Sake: This Japanese rice wine adds a subtle sweetness and depth of flavor to dishes, complementing the mild heat and sweet flavor of shishito peppers. It’s often used in sauces or marinades for these peppers.
  • Chili Flakes: For those who prefer a bit more heat, chili flakes can enhance the mild spiciness of shishito peppers. They’re a good addition to stir-fry dishes or when roasting these peppers.

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UPDATE NOTICE: This post was updated on May 22, 2024 to include new content.
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I think in Memphis area call spice market of India. The manager has contacted supplier for shishito Chili pepper.


You can generally find them at your local farmers market, I found two growers at the sutter creek farmers Mkt in Sutter Creek California. One of those growers the Amador Garlic Grower ships all over the country and has Black Garlic too!
Amadorgarlicgrower@gmail. Com


I’ve found Shishito peppers at Walmart.