If you’re familiar with Spanish cuisine, you’ll most likely be familiar with the delicious flavor of the Piquillo Pepper.
You may have heard these mild, sweet and smoky peppers referred to as pimento peppers or capiscum.
Piquillo peppers have become very popular worldwide, and they’re known throughout the globe as ‘capiscum piquillo’.
While Piquillo peppers have a delicious and distinctive flavor that makes many people who try them want to incorporate them into their own cooking, unfortunately, these peppers can be difficult to find in some areas.
If you’re struggling to find piquillo peppers in your local area, don’t despair!
Although the flavor of this pepper is definitely hard to match, we’ve found 8 great substitutes that you can use to deliver a similar taste experience through your cooking.
Read on to learn which 8 ingredients you can use instead of piquillo peppers in a pinch!
The Top 8 Substitutes For Piquillo Peppers
1. Jalapeno Peppers
When it comes to susbtituting piquillo peppers in recipes that call for them, you can’t go wrong with the trusty jalapeno pepper.
Jalapeno peppers are one of the most popular peppers worldwide, used in various cuisines from around the globe.
If you want to ensure that the jalapeno pepper replicates the spice level of the piquillo pepper as closely as possible, be sure to cook it before serving.
Raw jalapeno peppers are very spicy and can irritate your mouth in an unpleasant way, but if you cook them enough, they become much milder.
2. Banana Peppers
Although banana peppers are possibly less readily available than jalapenos (depending on where you live), they are some of the closest peppers to piquillos both in terms of flavor and appearance.
They are also curved and can be found in vibrant shades of red as well as the yellow shade typically associated with banana peppers for obvious reasons.
These South American peppers are definitely hotter and spicier than piquillo peppers, but they also have a slight sweetness than mimics the complex flavor profile of the piquillo peppers.
If you haven’t tried much Mediterranean or Indian cuisine, you may not be familiar with sumac, although it’s also frequently incorporated in Mexican food.
This unique spice is known for its earthy, smoky flavor, and the spice is often paired with piquillos in Middle Eastern recipes because it enhances the taste profile with some added tartness.
You might need to go to a Middle Eastern grocery store to find sumac, but you could also purchase it online.
Even if you have to wait for it to be delivered, it will be worth it because it’s such a great substitute for the smoky flavor of the piquillo pepper in just about any recipe.
4. Fresno Peppers
Another kind of pepper you could use instead of piquillo peppers is the fresno pepper. Fresno peppers are closely related to jalapeno peppers, which is why this Mexican pepper is known as the jalapeno M.
While fresno peppers look very similar to jalapeno peppers in size and shape, there is a key difference in the flavor.
Fresno peppers are milder than jalapenos, which make them a really good substitute for piquillo peppers. It’s still more medium than mild in terms of its spice level, though.
Again, this is an ingredient you may need to look for at specialist grocery stores, and if you want to replicate the unique piquillo pepper flavor as closely as possible, you should opt for roasted fresno peppers as opposed to raw peppers.
5. Smoked Paprika
Because piquillo peppers have a distinctive, smoky aftertaste alongside the mild spice and sweetness, you can use smoked paprika to deliver some of the same flavor as the piquillo pepper.
While the flavor of smoked paprika is by no means exactly the same as piquillo pepper, it will deliver a smoky sweetness that is in some way reminiscent of the taste of piquillo peppers.
Additionally, you can find spicy versions of smoked paprika, so if you want to replicate the mild kick of the piquillo pepper, simply opt for a mildly spicy smoked paprika variety, or combine the smoked paprika with some chili powder.
6. Habanero Peppers
Habanero peppers, specifically the red variety, are a staple of Mexican cuisine as well as Caribbean food and Indian cooking. If you can find some raw, canned, red habaneros, you’ll have a worthy substitute for piquillo peppers.
The reason we recommend getting raw habanero peppers out of a can rather than using cooked habaneros is because the fresh, red kind are the least spicy.
They’re still spicier on average than piquillo peppers, but uncooked habaneros taste similar to the spicier piquillos out there.
Look for canned habanero peppers in the international aisle of your grocery store, or order them online.
7. Cherry Peppers
Cherry peppers are both beautiful and delicious in their own right, but they also work really well in place of piquillo peppers in basically any recipe.
As well as mild to medium spice, cherry peppers deliver a slight sweetness, so they tick two boxes from the flavor profile of piquillo peppers.
Cherry peppers can be difficult to find because they’re not usually located in the fresh produce aisle. Instead, you’ll often find them in the pickled food aisle because this is how they are typically preserved.
8. Bell Peppers
Bell peppers definitely aren’t the most accurate flavor substitute for piquillo peppers in terms of flavor, but if you simply like the taste of piquillo peppers as opposed to the spice, there are ways of preparing bell peppers to make a solid substitute.
Plus, these peppers are readily available in almost any grocery store, so you won’t have to hunt for this ingredient as much as some of the others on our list.
Because bell peppers are sweet and are either extremely mild or not spicy at all, they are a versatile pepper that you can season and cook to make them taste more like piquillo peppers.
Adding some smoked paprika and mild chili powder (see also ‘4 Substitutes For Guajillo Chili Powder You Can Try‘) to your bell peppers and roasting them to bring out the flavor will result in an excellent piquillo pepper substitute.
Frequently Asked Questions
What Is A Piquillo Pepper?
If you’re still not exactly sure what a piquillo pepper is, it’s a type of chili pepper. It has a sweet and smoky flavor and is milder than other types of chili peppers. They actually taste more like bell peppers than most chili peppers.
Native to Northern regions of Spain, this pepper’s name means ‘little break’. It’s in season during the Autumn months of September, October, November, and December.
Are Piquillo Peppers The Same As Pimentos?
Although piquillo peppers are similar to pimentos because they are closely related, they are not the same kind of pepper. Piquillos are quite mild, but they are still spicier than pimento peppers.
How Hot Are Piquillo Peppers?
We have been describing the heat of the piquillo pepper as ‘mild’ throughout this article, but terms such as ‘mild’, ‘medium’, and ‘hot’ can be subjective.
Piquillo peppers fall somewhere between 500 Scoville (heat) units and 1,000 units on the spice scale, which is very low on the spectrum. For context, the habanero pepper scores 150,000 Scoville units.
If you’ve ever tried a poblano pepper (see also ‘What Do Poblano Peppers Taste Like? Everything You Need To Know‘), piquillos will pretty much always be milder than this variety.
Piquillo peppers can be elusive in some areas of the world, but there are at least 8 different substitutes you can use instead.
Jalapeno peppers, habanero peppers, bell peppers, banana peppers, smoked paprika, sumac, and cherry peppers can all be used instead of piquillo peppers.
You may need to cook them (or not cook them) in a specific way and add some seasoning to make the flavor match more accurate, but any of these will work very well in recipes that call for the sweet, mild smokiness piquillo peppers.