Pequin Chili Peppers: At a Glance
This pretty little pepper only grows to about 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch at the very most, yet can give a zesty, spicy kick to your food. These are some of the smallest of chilies, and the name pequin means “small.” They have a flavor that has a touch of smokiness to them with a slightly nutty and fruity note. They grow on compact plants and start out a beautiful green color before ripening into a deep red color. When dried, the fruit turns an earthy brown-red.
The Pequin chili pepper is a spicy variety of Capsicum annuum and is a native to Mexico. The pepper sits fairly high on the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) coming in at 40,000 to 60,000, which makes it about 12 times spicier than the popular jalapeño pepper. This spicy little pepper is the main ingredient in the very popular Cholula hot sauce. The pequin pepper gives the sauce its smoky nuance.
Cooking with Pequin Chile Peppers
Generally, pequin peppers are dried before use. Due to the intense heat, the seeds and ribs should be removed before using, as that is where most of the heat is concentrated. The most common use of this pepper is in the making of hot sauces, and it can be used in Latin American, Asian, and Indian cuisine.
- Fresh Green Peppers: The fresh green version of the pequin pepper can be used to make fresh salsa. A little bit goes a long way, so use them carefully. The fresh peppers can be added to soup broths for a smoky addition. Simply puncture the pepper several times with a fork, and immerse them whole into the soup broth. Add fresh pequins to your pickling cucumbers for a zesty version of crunchy pickles. The fresh peppers can stay in the refrigerator for about a week.
- Dried Pequin Peppers: When the peppers are dried, they tend to develop more complex flavors with the smoky notes becoming accentuated. They can be dried at a low temperature in the oven, or in a dehydrator. The flakes are then ground and are used for making into a paste and sauces. The dried pepper flakes can also be mixed with salt and lemon and sprinkled on fresh fruit and are especially tasty when sprinkled over fresh pineapple. You can keep dried pequin chiles for nearly a year when stored in an airtight container.
- Ground Into Powder: The whole, dried peppers can be ground into a fine powder that is handy for adding to stir-fries, stews, bean dips, and curries. These little peppers have a fiery heat, so use them sparingly.
Pequin Chile Peppers: History and Origination
Many anthropologists believe that the pequin is the original wild pepper and is the mother of all peppers. They have traced its roots back 7,000 years to countries in South America, notably Brazil and Bolivia.
The plants still grow wild throughout South America, Latin America, and in the southwestern portions of the United States. Today, the majority of pequin chili peppers are grown in the state of Sonora in northern Mexico and is an important cash crop for both the international market as well as the domestic Mexican market.
Cultivation of Pequin Chili Peppers
Pequin peppers thrive on low-range mountain slopes; they grow best at sea level and as far up as 2,600 feet in elevation. The plants are shade lovers and develop best when grown under native trees and shrubs. The plants will stop growing if the temperature goes below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, and if the temperature goes above 90 degrees Fahrenheit, the blooms will die off and drop. They do best in a moderate and temperate environment.
The fruit can be harvested when green, or allowed to mature to a bright red color, where the flavor will be more complex and are perfect for drying. Please note that you should wear gloves when harvesting the peppers, as the capsicum oil can be quite hot and may burn your skin. Avoid rubbing your face or eyes when working with pequin peppers.
The plants are beautiful and are often planted as perennials to beautify a garden. They are sometimes used to attract birds as they seem to be fond of the seeds. For backyard plantings, place the plant in a shady area and water 1 to 2 inches every week. Birds seem to be the natural dispersant agent for the seeds of the peppers, and the plant is sometimes called “Bird Pepper.” Today, seeds can be harvested by hand, or cuttings can be taken for propagation.
About Our Pequin Chile Peppers
Our beautiful dried pequin chili peppers are presented in five different sizes that can be used from a home kitchen to a professional work kitchen. The one-ounce swing-top bottle would make a lovely gift for a food aficionado friend, and the three-ounce and five-ounce resealable rice paper bags are ideal for storing large amounts of the dried peppers in a small area.
We also offer bulk prices, so please give us a call for pricing on bulk spices. Our peppers are full of flavor and are sure to give any of your South American, Asian, or Indian dishes a lovely fiery kick while adding lovely smoky nuances to them.