They’ve been popping up on appetizer menus of trendy restaurants for a while, but tiny, tasty shishito peppers have fully entered the mainstream and are now seen frequently at farmer’s markets and grocery stores around the country.
Shishito peppers are a favorite snack food in Japan, where this thin-skinned mild breed of pepper was developed. While similar to the Spanish Padrone, the shishito has a distinctive flavor and appearance all its own. The slender, finger-sized peppers are bright green in color (turning red when mature), with long creases in the body of the fruit. Their flavor is lively and sweet with a hint of smokiness.
The thin skin of the shishito allows it to blister and char quickly, which accentuates its naturally intense green chile aroma and flavor. Their small size, big flavor and quick cooking time makes the shishito pepper a natural for fast & easy summertime appetizers.
While generally very mild & sweet, every so often you’ll encounter a rather spicy shishito pepper. It’s frequently stated that about 1 in 10 shishito peppers are spicy, but we found the ratio to be more like 1 in 20. Just be prepared for the occasional blast of heat! (This just makes things more interesting.)
Shishito peppers are at their peak during late summer/early fall, so get them right now while they’re at their best.
Cooking tips for shishito peppers:
However you cook them, it’s a good idea to puncture each pepper before cooking to vent rapidly expanding hot air that could cause the cooking pepper to burst. Shishito peppers can be used any way you’d use any other chile pepper, but they’re small size makes them particularly good in appetizers or as a garnish with other dishes. You’ll often see shishito peppers pan-fried in a little oil and served as an appetizer or with drinks. They’re also wonderful when skewered and grilled on the barbecue.
Here are just a few of the many ways that we’ve prepared tasty little shishito peppers so far this summer. Enjoy!
Pan-fried Shishito Peppers
Pan-fried shishito peppers are a great nibble with drinks, and they’re easy to prepare.
- 24 shishito peppers, washed & patted dry
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- Toasted black & white sesame seeds
- Coarse sea salt
Heat the olive oil in a nice, wide non-stick pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot, but not smoking, add the peppers and cook them, turning frequently. Continue to cook until they brown and blister, about 10 – 12 minutes.
Remove to serving dishes, and finish by sprinkling with toasted black & white sesame seeds and coarse sea salt.
Pick the pepper up by the stem and eat the whole thing (minus the stem, of course).
Char-grilled Shishito Peppers
Quickly grilling the peppers over high heat chars the thin skins and accentuates the shishito’s naturally sweet-smoky flavor. A drizzle with a good, fruity olive oil and a sprinkle of coarse sea salt is all that’s needed to finish these flavorful little peppers to perfection.
Pre-heat the grill to medium-high.
Thread the shishito peppers onto skewers and brush with a little olive oil. When the grill is nice & hot, place the skewered shishito peppers on the grate. Turn frequently, until lightly charred here and there.
Remove from the grill and set aside to cool for a minute or two. Slide the peppers onto a serving plate, drizzle with your best extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
Serve hot or at room temperature.
Shrimp, Shishito & Pineapple Skewers
Perfect for those occasions when you want something with loads of flavor, but don’t have a lot of time. Once you assemble & skewer your ingredients, set the table, because cooking time is only a matter of minutes!
- 24 shishito peppers
- 32 large shrimp, shelled
- 1 small fresh pineapple, cleaned & cut into 3/4 inch thick wedges
- Sweet chili sauce for brushing
- 8 bamboo or metal grilling skewers
Prep the grill and preheat to medium high. If using bamboo skewers, soak them in cold water for at least 30 minutes.
Assemble the skewers by threading on a shrimp, followed by a shishito pepper, then a chunk of pineapple. Repeat, ending with a shrimp. You should have a total of 8 skewers when done.
When the grill is hot, brush both sides of the skewers with a little sweet chili sauce, then put them on the grill. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes, then turn the skewers, moving them around the grill to ensure even cooking. Brush with additional sweet chili sauce each time you turn them. When the shrimp are opaque and the shishito peppers are slightly charred, remove the skewers from the grill.
Serve with steamed rice and extra sweet chili sauce on the side.
Shishito Pepper Tempura
This is one of our all-time favorite ways to prepare tasty little shishito peppers. These crisp tempura-fried nuggets of goodness are at their best when they’re just out of the oil. Eat them as soon as they’re cool enough to pop into you mouth.
- 24 shishito peppers, rinsed & patted dry
- Other vegetables, such as sliced onion, broccoli florets, green beans or thinly sliced carrot (optional)
- Ponzu sauce for dipping
- Tempura batter (see below)
- 7 Tbsp plain flour
- 1 Tbsp cornstarch
- 1 cup rice flour, divided
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 egg yolk
- 2/3 cup ice cold water
- 4 cups cooking oil for deep frying
Heat the oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan to about 350 degrees F. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can test the heat of the oil by flicking a drop of the batter into the hot oil. If it sizzles and quickly rises to the surface and turns golden brown, the oil is probably hot enough. If it doesn’t, wait a minute or two and test again.
Sift the plain flour, cornstarch, 1/2 cup rice flour, baking powder and salt together and set aside.
Beat the egg yolk slightly and stir in the ice water.
Add the dry ingredients to the egg/water mixture and stir until barely mixed. The resulting mixture should be slightly lumpy.
Put the remaining 1/2 cup of rice flour into a dry bowl.
Dredge the peppers in the rice flour, the dip immediately into the batter, one by one. Shake off any excess batter and drop the coated pepper into the hot oil. Cook only about 5 or 6 peppers at a time; adding too many pieces at once can cause the temperature of the oil to drop quickly and will result in soggy, oil-laden tempura.
Deep fry the pepppers until golden brown, then remove from the oil with a skimmer and drain on paper towels.
Allow the oil to return to 350 degrees and continue frying the peppers until all are cooked.
Serve immediately with ponzu sauce for dipping.
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