Craving shishito peppers and none are around?
Or you have a recipe that calls for them, but you’d like to change things up a bit? What are your choices? What’s the best shishito pepper substitute when it comes to taste and flavor, and what about an alternative you can pick up at a moment’s notice? We have you covered for both occasions.
Your best alternative: Padrón pepper
Shishito peppers are one of those firecracker chilies where one in ten brings an extra special punch of heat. That’s what makes them a ton of fun to eat. Padrón chilies share that trait, 90% of the time they are relatively mild, but every so often you get an explosive surprise.
Padrón peppers are hotter than shishito, 500 to 2,500 Scoville heat units compared to the 100 to 500 of a shishito. So there’s a significant heat difference. That sudden hot shishito is only as hot as the mildest Padrón. And one of those explosive Padrón chilies will rival the heat of a mild jalapeño. Both of these chilies, though, live in the mild sector of the pepper scale, so most anyone can enjoy this spiciness.
In terms of flavor, the Padrón is nuttier and earthier than the shishito (which has highlights of citrus with a touch of grassiness and a hint of smoke), so the taste is not quite on par. Still, the explosive quality and overall mildness of these chilies make them good matches. They both, too, are terrific blistered with some oil and salt as a quick appetizer. Padrón chilies may be just as difficult to source, though, so in a pinch, you’ll need to turn in another direction.
Your supermarket alternative: Bell pepper
It’s not a sexy choice, but it’s the best you’ll come across when you have limited options. The bell, of course, has zero heat to it, so it’s not technically a hot pepper. But truly, the shishito is barely a blip on the Scoville scale in terms of overall heat itself, so it’s closer to the bell than most other chilies.
The flavor is comparable enough to substitute. The grassy citrus flavor of the shishito comps decently well against the bright grassiness of a green bell. A red bell brings with it a little more sweetness that may better fit your need, depending on the use case. You can blister bell peppers, but their thicker walls and overall bigger shape don’t quite have the same “pop in the mouth whole” eating experience as the shishito. But these are peppers you’ll find at any grocery store, so if your need is immediate, it’s by far your best solution.