Simply put, the best pepperoncini substitute is whatever pickled chili you can find where you live.
If the recipe calls for fresh peppers, then use whatever fresh chilies you can buy.
When it comes to chilis in general, whether they’re pickled or fresh, we can use whatever variety we can find.
Actually, I would say that the only thing that matters is that we can handle the spice level. Sure, chili varieties have different flavors but it’s the spice level that really sets them apart. You need to know how much heat you can handle.
The other option is to just skip adding a pepperoncini, if you think that it doesn’t play such an important role.
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Best Pepperoncini Substitute: My Favorites
1. Pickled chili: Cock Brand Pickled Red Chili
You can buy whatever pickled chili you find in the stored where you live. It can be any chili variety that you prefer or is the most popular where you live.
2. Banana peppers: Mezzetta Sweet Banana Wax Peppers
Banana peppers can be considered one of the best pepperoncini substitute because they look similar with similar color and shape and have the same heat, meaning these are some of the less hot chili peppers you’ll ever eat. But they’re delicious.
3. Jalapeño: La Costeña Sliced Jalapeño Peppers
When it comes to personal preferences for the best pepperoncini substitute, I always go for jalapeno because they have the flavor and the spiciness that I’m looking for. Plus, they’re pretty easy to find in large supermarkets.
4. Hot sauce: Hot N Saucy Garlic N Peperoncini Hot Sauce
A pepperoncini hot sauce can be without a doubt a wonderful substitute for the actual peppers. However, just as it’s the cause with pepperoncini, don’t expect the hot sauce to be actually hot. But it’s absolutely delicious and it goes into any dish. If you want a hot sauce with a good kick, choose one that isn’t made from pepperoncini.
5. Pickled pepperoncini: Reese Pepperoncini
Reese pepperoncini are some of the best on the market. Try these if you ever get the chance.
11 Best Pepperoncini Substitutes
One substitute is very close in spiciness and appearance, like banana peppers.
Another one is similar in appearance but oh so very different when it comes to how hot it is, like Hungarian wax peppers
Others are completely different in terms of both appearances and spiciness, like jalapeno, poblano, Anaheim, etc.
1. Pickled chili
As I’ve mentioned in my introduction, the best pepperoncini substitute is to go to your stores and buy a jar of pickled chilis.
Since pepperoncini are usually used pickled in recipes, getting the pickled chilis that you can find where you live is the best solution.
That way you can make a 1:1 substitution.
However, use fewer chilis if they’re too hot. Considering that the pepperoncini variety can only reach 100-500 SHU (Scoville Heat Units), we must pay attention to how much heat we like in our dishes.
Some will definitely welcome a spicier variety. I know I do, which is why my go-to substitute is pickled jalapeños. They’re just right up my alley both in terms of taste and heat level.
You just need to find the perfect variety for you.
2. Bell peppers + pickle juice/apple cider vinegar
A very good combination you can make is to use some bell peppers and add 2 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar.
Or combine bell peppers with pickle juice to get that vinegar taste that pickled peppers offer to a recipe.
The more complex solution to using the best pepperoncini substitute involves knowing how hot some chili varieties are and how they taste.
3. Banana peppers (same heat and look)
You can buy banana peppers fresh or pickled whole/slices. I would say that this is one the best pepperoncini substitutes if you can find it where you live.
Most people tend to confuse banana peppers and pepperoncini because they have a similar color and can also be similarly-shaped.
Pepperoncini have a more wrinkled skin than the smoother banana pepper, which can also have a pointier tip.
Banana peppers are also sweet but have a more mild taste.
What they truly have in common is the fact that neither is too spicy.
Both score 100-500 SHU on the Scoville scale.
For many, this will not only be the best pepperoncini substitute but also the easiest to find. If you’re not one of those, continue reading further for more recommendations.
4. Hungarian wax peppers
I can’t tell apart Hungarian wax peppers from banana peppers just from looking at them. But I can tell them apart when I taste them.
They really are different because the Hungarian ones have a wide Scoville range of 1,000 to 15,000 SHU. Their range is truly something else.
Even at their lowest, they can be twice as hot as the hottest pepperoncini.
They’re also quite hard to find so I don’t really recommend them as a substitute. It’s just for those who are looking for a very hot pepper with yellow-green skin and similar shape.
5. Jalapeño: My favorite substitute for pepperoncini
Is jalapeño the best pepperoncini substitute?
It can definitely be for quite a lot of people for very different reasons.
For me, it’s the best because they’re easy to find, whether I want to buy them pickled or fresh. Secondly, even fresh, I can find them year-round.
Moreover, I love their flavor. They’re delicious, which makes them very versatile. Even if some cuisines would frown upon using jalapeños instead of, let’s say, Thai/Indian green chilies, I still use these.
And I would even add them to an antipasto platter.
The main reason is that their spiciness is just perfect for me. That’s why I prefer using jalapeños for most of my dishes. I find them pleasantly hot and fragrant.
Jalapeño measures 2,500-8,000 SHU on the Scoville scale. The average is 5,000 SHU.
If you want to buy Anaheim, you’ll also find them under the name green chilies. They’re also known as California chili.
However, as far as I’m aware, they’re mostly available fresh or canned as fire roasted. I don’t know if there are any pickled versions of the Anaheim.
It can be an awesome substitute if you want to use them fresh. Or you can pickle your own if this is the variety you prefer.
They’re mildly hot, 500 to 2,500 SHU on the Scoville scale with an average of 1,500.
7. Trinidad Perfume
Trinidad Perfume chili peppers is another variety that has very low heat, it might be even a bit less hot than pepperoncini.
We find them at 0 to 500 SHU on the Scoville scale.
They’re also yellow. They look a bit like the extra-hot habanero but they couldn’t be more different in terms of spiciness.
On the very plus side, they have a fruity and very flavorful taste. They’re sweet, a bit citrusy, and tropical.
These are definitely best enjoyed fresh, which is why they’re frequently used for making mild tropical salsas.
The only reason for which I don’t nominate them as the absolute best pepperoncini substitute is because they’re pretty hard to find. Not everyone will have access to a Trinidad Perfume. You would have a lot more success if you were to grow them from seeds at home.
You definitely won’t find them pickled in jars.
Although these resemble green bell peppers or green kapia and not the yellow-green pepperoncini, they can work as a substitute if you don’t have anything else.
They’re quite mild, measuring 1,500-4,000 SHU on the Scoville scale.
On the other hand, you probably won’t find any pickled poblano to buy. You have more luck finding poblano powder or buying them fresh.
9. Cherry peppers
Another option that we can use as the best pepperoncini substitute is cherry peppers.
The good news is that we can buy them pickled. Since pepperoncini peppers are usually used pickled in recipe, cherry peppers can be a great replacement.
However, there are two things to keep in mind: they’re not as easy to find everywhere around the globe and they’re hotter.
Are cherry peppers hot?
They are about as hot as a jalapeño. The can score around 2,500 to 5,000 SHU on the Scoville scale.
For some, the fact that cherry peppers can offer some heat is awesome. They’ll be a welcomed change from the non-existent heat that pepperoncini possess.
10. Hot sauces
If you don’t care about the texture that peppers provide to your food, you can easily obtain the flavor that they add to the rest of the ingredients if you’re using a hot sauce.
Moreover, most hot sauces have vinegar among the ingredients. They will add a bit of a vinegary taste, just like pickled peppers.
Hot sauces can serve as condiments for an endless list of savory dishes, tacos, pizza, sandwiches, eggs, burgers, hot dogs, dips, marinates, BBQ sauce, etc.
When it comes to hot sauces that can serve as the best pepperoncini substitute, I recommend using either a pepperoncini hot sauce or a banana pepper hot sauce if you don’t want something spicy.
They will barely provide any heat, just like their fresh counterparts.
Otherwise, use whatever hot sauce you prefer, as hot as you like it.
11. Chili flakes
If all you care about is adding heat to your dishes, chili flakes or red pepper flakes are your answer.
They’re easy to use and they go in everything, including on pizza and sandwiches.
Flakes are also a lot easier to find than pickled or fresh peppers. Plus, their price can be quite inexpensive, depending on what your local stores provide.
What You Need to Know about Pepperoncini Peppers
Pepperoncini are sweet Italian chili peppers or it’s an Italian name given to mean hot chili peppers in general. Pepperoncini is a name given to peppers from the Capsicum annuum and Capsicum frutescens families.
That’s the name they’re known by in the US but they’re also known as Golden Greek pepper, Sweet Italian or Tuscan pepper.
They’re thin walled and they only grow about 2 to 3 inches in length. This variety has yellow-green skin. Some almost look like very small yellow bell peppers, while others look like banana and Hungarian wax peppers.
When it comes to taste, it depends if you’re using them fresh or pickled. Depending on that, the taste can be described as tangy, sweet, or with a bit of a vinegar taste for the pickled ones.
The interesting thing about this pepper variety is that they’re usually sold pickled. They are preserved in vinegar and sold in jars.
Pepperoncini Scoville scale
On the Scoville scale, pepperoncini scores absolutely very low.
It reaches only 100-500 SHU (Scoville Heat Units). That will barely create a tingle on the tongue. It’s just a bit hotter than bell peppers, which are situated at 0-100 SHU.
Thus, most substitutes for this pepper variety are going to be spicier but there are a couple of options that are in that very low range. You’ll just have to decide if you want to buy them pickled or fresh.
How to Pickle Pepperoncini
This recipe was inspired from slenderkitchen.com. You can check it out in full here.
You can also use this recipe to pickle whatever other chili variety you want. That way, you won’t have to search for the best pepperoncini substitute ever again.
- 4 cups pepperoncini peppers
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar)
- 1-2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves
- 1/2 tbsp peppercorns
You can also add fresh dill or dry dill weed or dill seeds or mustard seeds or pearl onions or whatever other ingredients you want.
You can add the peppers whole or you can carefully cut a slit down the side of the pepper to infuse the chilis with flavor.
Bring the water, vinegar, and salt to a boil.
Fill the jars with peppers and the rest of the ingredients.
Pour the boiling liquid over the peppers and cover.
Let the jar cool slightly before refrigerating. Refrigerate for 3 days before consuming.
If you want to preserve the jars for months or even years to come, you’ll need to sterilize the jars.
Pepperoncini recipes: how to use the pickled pepper
Pickled pepperoncini are frequently used as a condiment on burgers, pizzas, sandwiches, in salads.
Or even as a garnish, sticking out from a Bloody Mary.
They’re usually found on an antipasto platter that can contain various meats, cheeses and vegetables: prosciutto, salami, beef bresaola, fresh tomatoes, provolone cheese, mozzarella, parmesan cheese, olives, artichoke hearts, roasted bell peppers, pickled pepperoncini, marinated mushrooms, etc.
The fresh ones can be cooked like any other pepper in whatever dish you’re making.
How to pick the best pepperoncini substitute
When it comes to looking for something like the best pepperoncini substitute, which is a chili pepper, first there’s a matter of establishing just how hot the chili is.
Once you know how hot it is, where it’s situated on the Scoville scale, you can decide if you want a chili substitute that ‘s in the same range or if you want something that’s a lot more spicy, way up on the scale.
Obviously, the second matter is the taste of the pepper we’re trying to find replacements for.
Well, in my opinion, all chilies are delicious as long as they’re not trying to cause me pain. I like moderately hot foods but I can’t go higher without feeling like everything is on fire. On the other hand, I don’t like it if there is just a hint of spice in my stir-fries or noodle dishes or some of my favorite Mexican foods.
That’s why I said that it’s important to know what heat levels you want when we’re searching for pepperoncini substitutes.
The third thing to consider is that pepperoncini are frequently used as pickled peppers.
You’ll have to decide if the best pepperoncini substitute will be another pickled chili variety or if it’s going to be fresh chilies.
All of my above recommendations that serve as candidates for the best pepperoncini substitute will work perfectly in whatever recipe you want to make, no matter if you want to use them fresh or pickled.