What are Piquillo Peppers?
Piquillo peppers grow in the Navarra region of Northern Spain along the Ebro River. For generations, these peppers have been picked and produced almost entirely by hand, using no chemicals in the washing, roasting, and peeling process. Slow roasting over open wood-fires gives these unique peppers a complex, rich and teasingly spicy-sweet flavor.
Originally the people of Navarra used these piquillos, fresh and jarred, just for themselves, and sold only the “cuernos,” or the dried peppers on long strings to travelers. About 40 years ago a famous restaurant in San Sabastian, started by a man from Navarra, featured produce from Navarra and specifically the piquillos. The fame of these peppers traveled far and wide. Demand created pressure on local people to become more market oriented and to find production methods that allowed for more volume.
Today 1742 acres of Navarra land is dedicated to the Piquillo pepper with an annual crop of 11,000 tons of peppers. These unique pointed (piquillo means little beak) peppers have become known by chefs throughout the world.
How are Piquillo Peppers processed?
During the months of September and October, Piquillo peppers are hand picked daily from each plant to ensure the perfect ripeness and shape. They are slow roasted over embers, causing them to lose over 60% of their weight in liquid, and leaving them with a full intense flavor. Once roasted, they are then hand peeled and seeded. The seeds are reserved from the year’s best crop to be used for the following year. The peppers are not rinsed before they are packed, leaving them with specks of black charred skin – the hallmark of the Piquillo.
The Piquillos are packed according to size, color, and quality. The reddest and most whole peppers are considered the highest quality. As people have learned more about the Piquillo pepper, there has been an increase in demand for the unripe, or green, Piquillo as well.
How do I know if I am buying authentic Piquillo Peppers?
Pure Piquillo peppers imported to the US carry an exclusive seal of authenticity granted by the Official Service for Inspection of Spanish Exports. To earn the Seal of Authenticity, each pepper must be hand-picked in the Ribera del Ebro region of Northern Spain, roasted over an open fire, then carefully peeled and packed. No chemicals of any kind may be used in their preparation. This seal is your assurance that you are eating an authentic sweet red Piquillo Pepper from Spain.
Why are Piquillo Peppers good for me?
Like all peppers, piquillos are high in vitamin C – even higher than citrus fruits! They also contain vitamin A and are high in beta carotene, one of the precursors to vitamin A.
How should I prepare Piquillo Peppers?
Depending upon their ripeness at time of picking the piquillos may be green, red and green, or pure green. The greener ones are less ripe, but their sharper, less sweet flavor is sought after for certain dishes. The most simple and classic way to eat Piquillo peppers is to roast them and sprinkle with salt and a few drops of fine olive oil. Another is to roast or fry them gently with olive oil and garlic. Stuffed piquillo peppers are perhaps the quintessential dish of the cuisine of Navarra. They are a very versatile vegetable and can be cooked or garnished with just about anything. Check out our recipe section for some more ideas.