Pimento peppers are small sweet peppers that look like hearts and have a very mild flavor. They give off little heat but are great for adding flavor to simple dishes, as well as being famous for being stuffed into olives or making pimento cheese.
We have written this article to tell you a little bit more about the pepper, from where you might have tried one before, to their Scoville heat unit, to the best time to pick them. Let’s jump right in!
What Is A Pimento Pepper?
A pimento pepper is a small but flavorsome pepper, which is sometimes called a cherry pepper and measures 3-4 inches long and around 2-3 inches wide.
The word ‘Pimiento’ means ‘pepper’ in Spanish and if if you have ever tried the famous southern pimento cheese, or a green olive stuffed with pimento, you have tried a pickled pimento pepper already.
In Portuguese, the word ‘Pimento’ and the Spanish ‘Pimiento’, both come from the Latin ‘pigmentum’, and this simply means ‘pigment’. Many years ago, the word ‘pimento’ was used to describe peppers and was even more generalized to include black pepper too.
Pimento Pepper Taste
As we previously mentioned, pimento peppers are not spicy and they are quite mild in comparison to other peppers. They can be sweet and succulent and though they are usually served pickled, often stuffed into olives, they can also be enjoyed fresh as soon as you pick them out of the garden.
They are often used similarly to how red bell peppers might be used such as in foods that require the Cajun Holy Trinity, in salads or pasta, or a sofrito recipe.
Some varieties of pimento pepper crank up the heat and these include the Santa Fe Grande and the Floral Gem variety. These are often dehydrated and ground up to make chili powders, but if you like an extra kick, can also be used in other foods and for stuffing,
Since pimento peppers are often turned into chili powders, however, it’s interesting to note that paprika, which is a popular spice found all over the world used to flavor up many different dishes, is made from dried pimento peppers as well as other mild or sweet peppers.
Let’s Talk Scoville Units
A specific heat measurement is used to measure how hot chili peppers are and this is known as Scoville units. When it comes to Scoville units and pimento peppers, they only measure around 500-1000 SHU.
If we compare this to a scotch bonnet pepper which measures 100,000 – 350,000 SHU, we can see just how mild the pepper is.
If we look at a more common pepper, the jalapeno pepper still measures around 2500-8000 SHU and this means even the hottest pimento pepper would still be 5 times milder.
When Should You Pick Pimento Peppers?
Picking pimento peppers is about making sure they are a deep red color and when you touch them, they feel very firm and not too soft.
The growing season for pimentos is from the late summer to the early fall and once you have picked them, you can store them and preserve them, just as you would with other peppers.
As we have already mentioned in this article, pimento peppers have been used for stuffing and in the famous pimento cheese. They are also good for pickling on their own, drying, and using in daily cooking.
Why not even turn pimento peppers into a chili powder or flavorsome sauce to add on top of meals? Stuffed pimento peppers and pickled pimento peppers are the most popular kind of peppers used in recipes, but what people love the most is the Southern Pimento Cheese.
This cheese has an iconic taste of the south and is made with plenty of shredded cheddar cheese, diced pimento peppers, and swirled with creamy mayonnaise and other seasonings.
You can buy the cheese at the store but making it from scratch is always ten times better. It is fresher, has a much better texture, and is bursting with flavor, so why not give it a try?
There are also plenty of other sauce or dip recipes you can try with pimento peppers from muhammara, romesco sauce, peperonata, ajvar, and red pepper sauce.
One of our favorites is the peperonata recipe, which includes sweet red peppers, onions, tomatoes, and garlic that are simmered in olive oil and can be served as a hearty spread or sauce with some crusty bruschetta.
It is an Italian dish and the ingredients are slowly stewed for a rich flavor.
Pimento Pepper Substitute
If you want that pimento flavor but can’t get your hands on any, you might be wondering if there are any kinds of pepper you can substitute them for.
If you are looking for pickled pimentos, you could simply use any other kind of sweeter pickled pepper and this should give you a similar result.
Pickled red peppers would be your best option, but pickled green peppers work too. You can even try pickling your pimento peppers at home.
If you are after fresh pimento peppers, however, bell peppers are usually the easiest to find in the store and can be used as a substitute in almost any dish.
Any sweet red pepper will do the trick, but we recommend either the piquillo pepper, the Corno di toro pepper, or any other Italian sweet pepper.
We hope by reading this article, you have learned a little more about pimento peppers and what they taste like, as well as what you might have already eaten them in before, or what you might use them for in future cooking.
Try out one of our recipes we have suggested or be experimental and make your own! Remember, pimento peppers are not spicy and give off sweeter flavors instead. This makes them perfect for anyone who does not like peppers that blow your head off!
You can find them at the store, but why not try planting some in your home garden? The plants grow easily and once picked, you can use them in a variety of different ways! Try them out for yourself, we promise you’ll love them!