Piquillo Peppers: Spanish Sweet Red Peppers

piquillo peppers
Piquillo peppers are small, sweet, mildly-spicy Spanish peppers that are traditionally found roasted or stuffed in Mediterranean cuisine and tapas. They are famous for being one of the few chili peppers that aren't very spicy. Instead, they are cherished for their sweetness and are used in various dishes because of their versatility. 

What Are Piquillo Peppers?

Piquillo chili peppers are a variety of Capsicum annuum known for their sweetness. Unlike many other Capsicum annuum, piquillos are incredibly mild, coming in between 500-1,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale.

Piquillos are traditionally grown in Spain, in the northern town of Lodosa. In Spanish, piquillo means “little beak,” which is a fitting name for the shape of these peppers that are wide at the top, narrowing to a pointed end.  

They’re usually around 2-3 inches long and are deep red. Piquillos tend to have thin but juicy flesh, and their skin is firm and crunchy. 

While piquillo peppers can be used raw or cooked, the most common preparation you’ll find is roasted, either whole, diced, or julienned.

Roasted piquillo peppers.
Roasted piquillo peppers.

Are Piquillo Peppers Hot Or Sweet?

Piquillos are mild but have a wonderful smoky, fruity sweetness. At 500-1,000 SHUs, piquillos are notably mild, and the spiciness that does come through only highlights the sweetness of the pepper.

The piquillo is about six times milder than the average jalapeno pepper, which has 2,500-8,000 SHUs. However, piquillos have considerably more sweet and smoky flavor notes than jalapenos, making them popular for roasting and eating raw.

Piquillo Peppers Vs. Pimentos

Even though they are both from the same Capsicum annuum, piquillos and pimentos are different types of chilis. Both are small, sweet peppers that are on the mild side. Pimentos are also 500-1,000 SHUs on the Scoville scale, making them similar in heat to piquillos.

Pimentos are also popularly grown and cooked in Spain, making them go hand-in-hand with piquillos in various dishes. These peppers make perfectly suitable substitutes for one another, as they taste similar and offer almost no heat.

Are Piquillo Peppers The Same As Roasted Red Peppers?

While piquillo peppers are excellent when roasted, they differ slightly from traditional red pepper. Roasted red peppers usually refer to a roasted red bell pepper, which tends to be milder and sweeter than piquillos.

Piquillo peppers have a slightly more bitter taste than red bell peppers, and when roasted, they have a less pronounced fruity flavor. Also, while piquillos are mild, they still have some underlying heat. Bell peppers score 0 SHU on the Scoville scale, so they will have no pronounced spiciness, whether roasted or raw.

Substitutes for Piquillo Peppers

While red bell peppers might have some small flavor differences from piquillos, overall, they have many similar characteristics that make them an ideal substitute.

In many dishes, red bell peppers can be adapted to recipes similarly to piquillos, as they have a similar level of sweetness and a beautiful bright red color. They will cook down at an equal rate.

If you’re looking for a pepper with a little more heat than a bell pepper but still has some sweetness, I recommend using cubanelle chili peppers as a piquillo substitute. At 100-1,000 SHUs, cubanelles will be in the same spiciness range as piquillos, with notes of fruity sweetness. However, you won’t get the same bright red color, if that’s an important part of your dish.

What Are Piquillo Peppers Used For?

Piquillos are commonly found roasted and jarred, making for an excellent condiment or topping to any dish! Their rounded shape and size make them perfect for stuffing and baking or enjoying raw as a snack.

I love to use them in cajun cooking, as they pair beautifully in a paella with the smoky qualities of chorizo or Italian sausage alongside the delicate seafood.

You could also prepare baked stuffed piquillo peppers as tapas with a simple filling of goat cheese, lemon juice, chives, paprika and other seasonings. 

stuffed piquillo peppers
Stuffed piquillo peppers.

Finely sliced, raw piquillos make the perfect garnish for soups and stews. You could also toss them in a simple dressing of olive oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to make a sweet, peppery garnish for a wide variety of Spanish dishes, such as Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) or Pulpo a la Gallega (Galician style octopus).

Where To Buy Piquillo Peppers

They should be available in most grocery stores if you’re looking to buy piquillos. They are commonly roasted in either jars or cans, but you can occasionally find them fresh soon after harvest season.

If you can’t find piquillos locally, you can always order them online through retailers such as Donostia.

Can You Grow Piquillo Peppers?

While piquillos are native to Northern Spain, you can grow them in your backyard! Like many other varieties of Capsicum annuum, piquillos can easily grow annually in most warm climates.

They must be planted in direct sunlight after the season’s last frost and tended to until their last harvest, usually in September or October. Piquillos can also be successfully overwintered indoors and will continue to produce fruits during each growing season.


Leland has spent most of his life in both the garden and the kitchen. A veggie garden is a place of harmony between his love of cooking and working with plants. Naturally, he loves peppers and plants about a dozen new and interesting varieties every year. His current pepper project is preparing to overwinter a jalapeño plant which he hopes will continue to flourish until the next flowering season. Leland is always excited to learn about new spicy and flavorful chilis, and he is constantly looking for new recipes to put his new peppers to the test!

Recent Posts