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11 August 2020

Shishito peppers are a popular appetizer peppers notable for being rather mild, but every so often a particular pod will pack some heat. Learn all about them.

Scoville Heat Units: 50-200 SHU
Capsicum Annuum

The shishito pepper is a popular appetizer pepper that is interesting for being mostly a mild chili pepper, but every now and then a particular pod will pack some heat. The heat isn’t overwhelming, but it can be surprising, which adds allure and popularity to this particular pepper.

It is a vibrant green pepper that eventually matures to red, but are mostly eaten green. It is similar to the pimiento de padron pepper.

Shishito Peppers Appearance – What Do They Look Like?

The pods are small green peppers of fairly vibrant color, slender, growing 2-4 inches in length. They are wrinkly and have thinner walls, making them ideal for appetizers and nibbling.

Where Does the Name “Shishito” Come From?

The name, “Shishito”, derives from the Japanese words “shishi”, which means “lion”, and “togarashi”, which translated to “chili pepper”. Hence, in Japan, it is known as the “Lion Head pepper”.

Where do Shishito Peppers Come From?

Shishito peppers are popular in Japan, where the food is not known for being spicy, though they are increasingly appearing on American menus. In Korea, it is know as kkwari-gochu (“groundcherry pepper”) due to its wrinkled surface resembling groundcherries.

Is There Another Name for a Shishito Pepper?

Shishito peppers do not go by any other common names in America, though they are often confused for the popular Pimento de Padrón pepper, which is very similar in appearance.

Pimiento de Padron Peppers

These are from my garden. So good!

Shishito Peppers - So Many of Them!

Are Shishito Peppers Hot?

The typical heat range of the shishito peppers runs from 50 – 200 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Scale, which isn’t very hot at all. Compare it to a typical jalapeno pepper, which averages about 5,000 SHU, and it is roughly 100 times milder. About 1 in 10 shishito peppers are reach the higher range, causing some to compare eating them to a game of Russian roulette.

This may not sound like a large heat range, and to most chiliheads used to spicy food, it isn’t. However, for those unaccustomed to spicy foods, a bite from a 200 SHU shishito pepper can come as a surprise.

Shishito Pepper Flavor

It is fun to get the extra spicy shishito pepper every now and then, though again, don’t expect big heat. Even the hottest of them are quite mild. They have a fresh peppery flavor, however, with bell pepper brightness and slightly sweet. However, that tiny jolt of heat that comes with pods every so often is considered by most a pleasant surprise.

What Causes Only One in Ten Shishito Peppers to be Spicy?

Many chili peppers offer a large range of heat from pod to pod due to the amount of capsaicin produced during growing. For example, jalapeno peppers typically range from 2,500 to 8,000 Scoville Heat Units, which is quite a large range. This has to do with growing conditions, pepper plant stress, and other variables.

Cooking with Shishito Peppers

Popular methods for cooking with shishito peppers include searing them in oil in a cast iron pan or grilling them. Finish them with a bit of sea salt and/or some creme fraiche or salty cheese. They really do make for excellent starters or appetizers.

They are also popular for stuffing with soft cheeses and battering and frying.

I have personally grown shishito peppers in my garden and the plants are quite productive. I can easily pick a dozen at a time and cook them as a dinner starter. I love them.

Here is a simple recipe for cooking up shishito peppers. It’s great as an appetizer or a side dish.

Shishito Peppers Recipe

Ingredients

  • 12 shishito peppers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • Lime juice or lemon juice for serving

Cooking Directions

  1. Heat a large cast iron skillet or heavy skillet to medium-high heat. Add the olive oil and swirl to coat the pan.
  2. Add the peppers in a single layer and cook them about 5 minutes per side, until the skins char and blister up, turning them occasionally as you cook the peppers.
  3. Remove from heat and toss with about a teaspoon of flaky sea salt. You can add more if you’d like.
  4. Squeeze fresh lime juice or lemon juice over them and serve with a nice dipping sauce.

Try this recipe – Blistered Shishito Peppers with Flaky Sea Salt and Lime.

Blistered Shishito Peppers Recipe

Where to Buy Shishito Peppers

If you’re unable to find shishitos for sale in your local grocery stores, such as Trader Joes, or farmers market, try ordering them online. Here is some affiliate links to help you.

Further Information

Shishito Chili Peppers

This post was updated on 7/29/2020 to include new information and photos. It was originally published on 6/20/2018.

24 comments

  1. How would we preserve a huge harvest of these? Have 7 plants each approaching 4 ft tall….loaded with peppers….bees are Happy….
    Have usually canned 4 oz jars of jalapenos (use for pizza topping, or cream cheese dip, soup, etc)
    Could I substitute shishito peppers in same canning recipe which calls for a jalapeno pepper?

  2. John summa

    Are supposed to get crispy? Mine turned limp. Nice flavor. And I did have a hot one

  3. Stark Raven

    4 stars
    I have just planted Shishito pepper seeds in my garden and I am looking forward to trying them in my favorite stuffed pepper recipe, filled with bleu cheese/cream cheese blend and wrapped in bacon.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Yes, wonderful peppers, and a great way to serve them.

  4. Susan sandys

    I have grown what was shown to be shishito for two years. Both years they have been very small(only about 1/2” each pepper. What are they? Are they a mini?
    Susan Sandys

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Susan, some peppers can grow smaller depending on growing conditions. You may just have small shishitos. Still good, though!

  5. 5 stars
    I have been growing Shishito’s this year though I am previously unfamillier with them, I have eaten some of the green pods, though my question is: why are they eaten green? Are they better eaten green or red? I am leaving some to fully ripen.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Thanks, Mike. Yep, definitely VERY popular when green, as they have a great flavor that way, but I also personally enjoy them red. When I grow them myself, I let them ripen more often than not. Great both ways!

  6. Mike, thank you, so much, for introducing us to Shishito peppers!
    I finally found them and tried them, using the recipe you provided, was not disappointed!! Right now I’m looking at more ways to cook and serve them! They are quite tasty!

  7. darli tomson

    this is an excellent post, learned loads. happy to know i can grow next year. thanks so very much.

  8. Joyce Arnette

    I seared some shisito peppers yesterday, and the very first one I bit into actually made my throat close up! it was the scariest thing in the world.. That must have been the 1 in 1000 that contains that much heat…

    My hubby tried one and said it wasn’t hot at all.

    but now I’m scared to try eating them again!!

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Yep, you can get a hot one every now and then! That’s for sure.

    2. Joyce,

      I was very concerned when you said your throat closed up. My throat closes up when I am allergic to something. Do you think you might have an allergy or sensitivity to shishito peppers?

  9. Not sure about the 1 in 10 talk. I think it’s a myth. I grow these a lot and haven’t had a hot , or even a warm one yet. Unlike the padron which is also a small thin walled pepper and are mostly real hot, I’d be surprised if the shishito even has any capsaicin.

    1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

      Peggy, no, peppers should smell fresh and vegetal, a “green” smell. If it smells like rot, probably time to go. Not sure what type of smell you are detecting.

        1. Michael Hultquist - Chili Pepper Madness

          Carlos, check out the Resources tab at the top of the site for Chili Pepper Seeds and Plants resources.

  10. Dr. Manarii Tane

    These peppers are great when charred and blistered a bit. You do not require any oil to cook them, just put them in a heavy frying pan and keep stirring until nicely charred and blistered. Delicious!

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