What are manzano peppers?
There are few medium-hot chilies with true fruitiness. Most have a bright crisp flavor or an earthiness with a hint of fruit. The manzano pepper is one of the exceptions. Its apple-like shape hints at fruity, and it doesn’t disappoint with a refreshing citrus flavor. This fruitiness, along with the chili’s thick walls and tempting medium-heat (12,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units), makes the manzano a superb salsa chili. That is, when you can find it. The manzano can be challenging to grow outside of its native cool climate, the Andes, and because of this, it can be tough to find for those outside of Mexico and South America.
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Manzano pepper fast facts
- Scoville heat units (SHU): 12,000 – 30,000 SHU
- Median heat: 21,000 SHU
- Origin: South America
- Capsicum species: Pubescens
- Jalapeño reference scale: 2 to 12 times hotter
- Use: Culinary
- Size: Approximately 1 to 2 inches long, round
- Flavor: Sweet, Citrusy
How hot is the manzano pepper?
There’s a good eating level of heat in the manzano – 12,000 to 30,000 Scoville heat units. This makes it about twice as hot as the jalapeño pepper at a minimum, with the potential for the difference to be up to twelve times hotter (mildest jalapeño to hottest manzano). It’s in line with the serrano pepper and the chile de àrbol in terms of spiciness – it packs a jab, but not so much as to overwhelm the palate or mask the pepper’s unique fruitiness.
What do manzano peppers taste like and look like?
The looks really do fit for this chili’s fruitiness. “Manzano” means “apple” in Spanish, and – no surprise – the manzano is shaped like a golf ball-sized apple. It’s a doppelganger chili, like the Bulgarian carrot pepper is to the carrot. It matures from green to a vibrant yellowish-orange, sometimes slipping towards red.
Also like the Bulgarian carrot pepper, it’s surprisingly sweet for this level of the pepper scale. Not as sweet as a fiery scotch bonnet chili, but citrusy sweet all the same. This sweetness, paired with the pepper’s thick walls, make the manzano taste like a richer, spicier, and (for many) tastier bell pepper.
What makes these chilies unique?
How about furry leaves and black seeds? Unlike the great majority of medium-heat chilies that belong to the C. annum species of peppers, the manzano is a member of the species C. pubescens. What does this mean? The manzano plant – like its close relatives the rocoto and the peron peppers – have a light fur on them and the chili itself contains black seeds. Only peppers from C. pubescens have these traits.
Are manzano peppers hard to grow?
Yes, they are harder to grow than most other chilies. That comes from where it originates, the Andes. It’s a chili that can withstand colder temperatures better (no frost) than nearly any other pepper, but it also prefers a cooler base temperature – 40 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit. It doesn’t perform as well in high heat environments as other chilies do. If you try growing them in higher temperatures, your best bet is to offer the plant lots of shade.
How can you use manzano pepper?
As mentioned, the sweetness and thick walls make this chili an excellent salsa pepper. It’ also terrific in hot sauces and those thick walls are perfect for slicing and grilling as a spy side dish. Pickled manzano peppers are very tasty too – the sweetness of the pepper in a unique counterpart to the sour vinegar. And don’t forget manzano poppers – it’s an excellent alternative to the jalapeño popper.
On drying manzano peppers – You don’t typically dry these chilies. Those thick walls that are so meaty and tasty when fresh are not conducive to drying.
Where can you buy manzano pepper?
They can be difficult to track down outside of Mexico, where they are nearly at every market. If you have a local Mexican market near you, it may be your best bet. If you live in an urban area with Mexican influence, the mainstream supermarkets there may even carry them. Online you can buy manzano pepper seeds (Amazon) and sometimes even pickled manzano peppers.
If you’re lucky enough to track these chilies down, you’re in for a real medium-heat treat. The citrusy sweetness contains enough heat to excite spicy food fans, yet it’s not so hot as to turn off everyone else. if you can handle a cayenne, you can certainly handle a manzano.