With their smoky sweet flavor and lightly simmering heat, piquillo peppers are a family-friendly favorite. They’re typically simple to source (sold jarred) at higher-end supermarkets and specialty stores, But if they’re not available, what’s a good piquillo pepper substitute? What’s quick to pick up? What’ll give the best overall flavor that’s comparable? There are some alternatives that can work, though none will supply the depth of flavor that piquillos provide right from the jar.
Your best bet and fastest solution: Another jarred roasted red pepper
Even if your supermarket doesn’t carry piquillos, they may still carry another jarred roasted red pepper. A popular option is roasted bell peppers, but you may also discover hotter options if you’re looking for some extra spiciness. These peppers are often fire roasted, like piquillo, so there’s a layer of smokiness to the flavor. Look in both the jarred and canned vegetable sections to source. It’s hands down the fastest and easiest solution, but you may lose some of the flavor complexity that piquillos have in the bargain.
The kitchen solution: Roasting your own bell peppers
While roasted bell peppers will certainly do the trick as an alternative to piquillo peppers, the bell pepper on its own won’t have quite the level of sweetness that the piquillo delivers. Still it’s very similar in spiciness since the piquillo’s simmer (500 to 1,000 Scoville heat units) is closer to the bell’s zero heat than most anything else on the pepper scale.
Roasting (especially fire roasting over a grill) your own bell peppers is a terrific solution if you have the time. Once grilled, the peppers are then simple to steam in a sealed plastic baggie and then easily peeled. Add a little salt and pepper (or stuff your peppers as you like) and you have a delicious (although not quick) option.
The kitchen solution, part two – this time with spiciness: Roasting your own Fresno peppers
If you want to explore peppers higher on the Scoville scale, try fire roasting Fresno peppers instead. While they’re smaller – like a jalapeño in size – their walls are thick enough for peeling after roasting and they provide a pop of heat slightly hotter than your typical jalapeño. Think, at tops, mild serrano in overall spiciness.
Fresno peppers also have a natural sweetness and smokiness to their flavor which fits the piquillo flavor profile much better than the bell. If you can take the heat and don’t mind the prep work, it’s our preferred alternative to piquillo peppers.