Everything You Need To Know About Espelette Peppers

The Espelette Pepper is also known as the Piment d’Espelette. This is a type of chili pepper that was developed in the French community of Espelette.

The Espelette is a type of mildly hot chili pepper that can be used in a range of cooking dishes. In this article, we will be discussing everything to do with Espelette Peppers.

Everything You Need To Know About Espelette Peppers

Origins Of The Espelette Pepper

This chili pepper originated in Central and Southern America. However, the Espelette pepper was adapted by the Basque people during the 16th Century. The Basque Country is situated between the France and Spain borders.

The peppers are grown in the French community of Espelette in Pyrénées-Atlantiques.

The peppers are found wherever you do in this village. You can see the pepper drying from balconies and local shops selling them. While a lot of foods are flavored with these peppers.

The Espelette Pepper Festival

Every year in October there is a festival to celebrate this pepper. This is due to this pepper being so important to the region. During this festival, you can buy and taste the Espelette pepper. There is also Basque dancing, games, music and parades.

What Is AOC And How Does That Relate To The Espelette Pepper

AOC stands for Appellation d’origine contrôlée. This then translates to controlled designation of origin.

This is a type of certification that is given to certain regional foods, wines and cheeses in France to protect their quality and consistency.

For example, champagne can only be made in Champagne in France. Therefore, Espelette peppers can only be grown in the Espelette region of France.

The reason this pepper has been protected is that the region relies financially on the sale of these peppers. This is also why the festival is so essential to this region of France, because this pepper can’t be sold anywhere else.

Therefore, this festival and the sale of their peppers is critical to the financial situation of Espelette.

Appearance Of The Espelette Pepper

While growing these peppers, they start off having a green color. Yet once the peppers are mature they will turn into a deep and rich red color. They normally grow to around 6 inches long, with a slight curve that results in a defined point at the end.

These peppers are used in a wide variety of ways. They are extremely popular and sold fresh, dried and even in powdered form. The festival has been held every year since 1968 and attracts around 20,000 tourists every year.

Everything You Need To Know About Espelette Peppers

Flavor And Heat Of The Espelette Pepper

The Espelette is graded 4,000 on Scoville scale. It is then seen as only mildly hot. Although a lot of people say that it actually tastes more sweet than hot. Alongside this, the Espelette peppers are high in vitamin C, B6, K and antioxidants.

The taste of this pepper is quite unique, As it tastes fresh and a little bit fruit with little hints of heat running throughout it. The spice of this pepper won’t overpower your dish, but you will detect a slight smoky taste.

If you use dried or powdered Espelette pepper, then this pepper tastes similar to paprika. The smokiness and sweetness is a little more intense, but it still isn’t overly hot.

Those who grow this kind of pepper, follow specific rules that have been set by the trade union of Espelette peppers. These peppers are treated as much as wine growers treat their grapes.

A lot of care is taken, to make sure the peppers are growing in the perfect conditions. They don’t want anything to affect the flavor or aroma of the peppers.

How To Cook With Espelette Peppers

The Basque has slowly evolved to include this pepper in the best way. Therefore, Basque and French cuisine is the best cuisine to use this pepper for. Although, it can be used in a variety of dishes from any cuisine.

In Basque, you can buy these peppers in many different forms. They can be bought fresh or dried, or they can be powdered, puréed, or pickled in jars. The Espelette pepper has slowly replaced black pepper in Basque cuisine.

Over the years, the Espelette pepper has become a vital and key ingredient in piperade. This dish is a famous Basque dish that is made using tomatoes, onion, peppers and Espelette peppers. It is very much like a sauce or relish.

There is also a piquant sauce that also uses these peppers in powdered form with fresh peppers and tomatoes. This sauce is used to cook seafood, red meats and vegetarian dishes.

Espelette peppers can be used with both sweet and savory dishes. There are some unique ways to use this pepper, from Espelette flavored sea salt and even Espelette jelly.

Substitutes For Espelette Peppers

As this pepper isn’t very spicy, you can substitute this pepper for another mild pepper. Sweet or smoked paprika are both great substitutes for the Espelette pepper. This is due to both peppers having a sweet and smoky flavor. Yet neither are that spicy.

Buying Espelette Peppers

Getting your hands on this pepper can be a little tricky. Unless you live near the French region, it can be difficult to buy fresh Espelette peppers.

Although, you can buy the powdered version of the Espelette pepper online. There are also seeds that you can purchase, if you are interested in growing your own Espelette peppers at home.

There are Espelette peppers that you can purchase, but they aren’t grown in Basque.

These may differ drastically to the Basque grown peppers, as they may be grown in a different way. However, these peppers are much more difficult to find.

As a result, if you want fresh or dried Espelette peppers, then a trip to the French region of Basque is the only way you can get your hands on them. As said above, you can purchase a powered version online, but only powered versions are available to buy.

Final Thoughts

The Espelette Pepper is a mildly hot pepper that is only grown in Espelette in France. This isn’t a very relatively hot pepper, as it is more sweet than spicy.

This is a protected type of pepper, which can only be purchased powdered online. If you want the fresh stuff, then you will need to take a trip to the region of France and possibly to their Espelette festival.

This is a very popular type of pepper in French cuisine, which is suitable for both sweet and savory dishes. A versatile pepper that can be enjoyed in a wide variety of dishes.

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