What is Pepperoncini: Nutrition and Substitute
There are only five chili pepper species in the world. However, each species has its own set of cultivars that can provide a wide range of spiciness or ‘heat’ based on the Scoville scale. One of the peppers that have the mildest ‘heat’ is the pepperoncini pepper. What is this spice and is it good for you? If a dish calls for such peppers but you don’t have one, what other ingredients can serve as good substitutes?
All About Pepperoncini
Pepperoncini are hot chili peppers that are a mainstay in many Italian dishes. However, this is a misnomer. It is not a ‘true’ hot chili in that it ranks low in the Scoville scale. It has the same Scoville rating as pimientos and banana peppers. They can range from about 100 to 500 Scoville units. The jalapeno that we all love has a Scoville rating of 2,500 to 5,000 units. This makes pepperoncini a great ingredient for those who cannot stand spicy foods but still want to have that ‘kick’ with each bite.
These peppers are also known as sweet Italian peppers or Tuscan peppers. Others call it friggetelli. There is also a Greek version of this pepper. The Italian version is longer and a bit more bitter. On the other hand, the Greek variant is short and sweet. They comprise of peppers that belong to two species of chili peppers called Capsicum frutescens and Capsicum annuum.
Friggetelli look a lot like banana peppers. Their tapered appearance bears some semblance to Anaheim pepper. The traditional friggetelli is about two to three inches long and has a green color. Once it ripens, however, its skin turns a bright red.
Four pieces of pepperoncini pepper make up a single serving. This will give you 10 calories, 80 percent of which comes from carbohydrates. Its protein and fat content are negligible. There is Vitamin C and Vitamin A. However, you will have to consume at least a hundred grams of these Italian peppers for you to reap the benefits of the vitamins.
A more important component of pepperoncini is capsaicin. This is a substance that has thermogenic properties. It increases the body’s metabolic rate. This leads to the faster mobilization and utilization of stored body fat. It is for this reason that hot chili peppers are good natural supplements for those who want to lose weight. Capsaicin can also play a role in the reduction of blood pressure and cholesterol levels. It can also help prevent blood clots from forming. Together, these can translate to a healthier cardiovascular system.
It also contains dietary fiber. A serving of this pepper can provide about 1 gram of dietary fiber. Its fiber content pales in comparison to vegetables and fruits. However, given that the serving size is quite minimal, the fiber content is significant. It can aid in the more efficient transit of fecal matter through the large intestines.
This nutrition profile of the pepperoncini pepper is exclusive to the fresh variety. Unfortunately, most of the Italian peppers that we have on the market come in jars as pickles. These pickled peppers often contain about 360 mg of sodium per serving. If you have heart problems, consuming more than a serving of these peppers may not be good for you.
It is quite difficult to source fresh friggetelli. One of the best ways you can get this kind of pepper is by growing it yourself. For those who may not have the resources for growing pepperoncini, the best recourse is to look for substitutes. Here are a few options.
- Banana Peppers
These banana-shaped peppers are the best pepperoncini substitutes. They have almost the same Scoville units of heat and are long and tapered, too. Banana peppers have a mild, tangy, and sweet taste. When ripe, they turn from yellow to orange or red.
- Trinidad Perfume Chili Peppers
These peppers have the same Scoville rating as banana peppers. Their spiciness is almost non-existent. Cooked Trinidad chili peppers provide a delicate, perfume-like scent. It also has a smoky and fruity flavor that goes well with mild dishes. It starts out as green and ripens into a bright yellow color.
- Cherry Peppers
These have the same Scoville rating as a pepperoncini pepper at 100 to 500 units. Cherry peppers are called pimiento in other parts of the world. It has a characteristic heart shape and a bright-red color. It is longer than Italian peppers at about 3 to 4 inches. It has a sweet taste that makes it a great addition to antipasto platters.
Pepperoncini are sweet Italian peppers. They make good ingredients for many dishes because of their mild, slightly bitter, and sweet taste.