Simple, flavorful and easy to prepare – Padrón peppers are a classic Spanish tapa. We present the authentic Padrón peppers recipe and other variations.
Padrón peppers are small, succulent green representatives of the Capsicum annuum species with an elongated conical shape.
They come from Padrón municipality of the Galicia region in Northwestern Spain, hence their name, Pimientos de Padrón or Peppers from Padrón.
They were first grown from seeds brought from Mexico. Over the course of several decades they acclimated to the local soil and became the prized Galician heirloom pepper of today. Presently they are also cultivated in Southern Spain, Morocco, the USA, Canada, and Mexico.
‘Some are hot and others not’.
Some of the small peppers contain more capsaicin (pronounced “cap-SAY-a-sin”), the compound responsible for heat, and are spicier than others.
The people of Galicia often say that ‘some are hot and others not’ (in Galician ‘Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non’). In our experience the ratio between spicy and mild is 50/50, at least based on the ones we buy at Whole Foods.
NOTE: Padron peppers are not shishito peppers. Many confuse the two on account of the occasional hot pepper present in every small batch of shishitos but the two have distinctly different origins despite their common species link. Shishitogarashi are similarly tender and small, but are native to Japan and are generally sweeter.
How to Cook Padrón Peppers
1. The Traditional Spanish Way
In Spanish tapas bars and cervercerias (beerhouses) Pimientos de Padrón are traditionally deep fried in olive oil. Deep frying blissfully blisters their thin skins and softens their tender flesh.
They are served to patrons hot, unpretentiously piled up in a steaming heap and seasoned with flakes of local sea salt – just like shown below. Simple is best.
In home conditions you might not feel fascinated by the thought and cost of filling an entire fryer with olive oil. If that’s the case – simply choose one of the following two options for authentic tasting Padróns.
- Either deep fry the peppers in about 2 cups of olive oil in a suitable small and deep saucepan (you will have to work in batches) or
- Choose the method many Galicians use at home – pan frying.
2. Pan Fried Padrón Peppers
This method could not be simpler – it requires no prep work and only a short cooking time.
- Rinse and dry the peppers before use.
- Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and add a couple of peeled garlic cloves – move them around for about a minute until they begin to turn golden and become soft.
- Toss the peppers in the pan and turn them around every minute or so as they begin to blister, puff up and start to darken (pictures #2 and #3 below). Be careful – as the peppers burst olive oil splatter burns are very possible! A splatter screen is very helpful.
- Serve seasoned with sea salt flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice to brighten the flavors (#4 below).
Other methods to cook Pimientos de Padrón include roasting them or grilling them.
3. Oven Roasted Padrón peppers
If you roast them in the manner illustrated below they will taste very close to the pan fried version. And there will be way less oil splattering to worry about.
- Simply rinse and dry the peppers, toss them in olive oil and place them on a baking sheet or in an oven proof skillet (#2).
- Roast in a 425 F oven until they blister up, get puffy and darken (about 8 -10 minutes). For best results turn them around using kitchen tongs about half way through the time in the oven so they blister up evenly, then serve.
Because they are so small we like to place our Padrón peppers in a grilling basket to keep them in one place and easily turn them around over direct heat. Makes grilling a breeze!
In Spain the sweet/spicy peppers are also served with fried eggs and potatoes (huevos rotos), stuffed with tetilla cheese (Pimientos de Padrón rellenos de queso) or as an accompaniment to other dishes.
Padrón peppers are one of the culinary stars of traditional Spanish tapas. Prepare them deep fried, pan fried, oven roasted or grilled for delicious results every time.
- 1 dry pint Padrón peppers*
- 1 tbsp olive oil (or as needed for deep fried version)
- 2 cloves garlic, optional, for the pan frying method
- sea salt, to taste
- lemon juice, to taste, optional
Deep fry the Padrón peppers in olive oil at 350 F (either in a fryer or appropriately filled deep small saucepan). As soon as they blister all around and begin to turn dark, remove them from the oil. About 45 seconds to a minute is all it takes. Appearance is a more reliable guide than time.
Serve right away seasoned with sea salt flakes.
Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Fry the garlic cloves for about 50-60 seconds, until they just begin to turn golden. Add the Padrón peppers and turn them around with a wooden spoon or kitchen tongs as soon as the bottom surface begins to blister up. Do this until they have blistered all around, the thin skins burst and they begin to darken.**
Remove from the pan, place in serving dish and season with sea salt flakes and a squeeze of lemon juice.
Preheat oven to 425 F. Toss the Padrón peppers in olive oil and spread them over a baking sheet or oven safe skillet. Roast until the skins blister and begin to darken and burst. Use kitchen tongs to flip around the peppers about half way through (4 mins in). Total time should be between 8-10 minutes. Serve seasoned with sea salt flakes mixed with smoked paprika (totally optional, but imparts a great smokey flavor).
Use medium-high heat grill (about 375 F). Toss the Padrón peppers in olive oil and place over direct heat. As they start to blister, turn them around for even roasting on all sides. Use a grilling basket for easier handling. Serve seasoned with sea salt.
*In the USA Padrón peppers are typically sold in stores portioned in baskets of 1 dry pint. A dry pint is a measure of volume used for fruit & vegetables and is the equivalent of about two heaping cups of Padrón peppers.
They are sooo good that we recommend you double the recipe even if there are still 2 people eating.
**For the pan frying method use a splatter screen to minimize the chance of splatter burns.
Where to Buy Padrón Peppers and/or Seeds to Grow Them
In moderate climates Padrón peppers are in season throughout the summer – starting in May and lasting into October. Expect to find them fresh at farmer’s markets across the country. You can even buy them by the pound directly from farms such as this one.
During the rest of the year they are imported from Mexico and are available at Whole Foods, ethnic produce outlets and other stores with more diverse organic produce selections.
If you want to grow your own you can purchase plants, Padrón pepper seeds or simply reserve and dry the seeds from a couple of fresh organic peppers and plant those. The typical cycle from planting to fruit is about 60 days.
Recommended Beer Pairings
Craft beer is alive and well in the hip culinary center of Europe aka the North of Spain and Padrón peppers are commonly featured on the menus of local cervecerias.
Crisp pale lagers (such as Estrella Galicia from A Coruña) and amber lagers are quite popular in Galicia and perfectly support the flavor profile of the peppers. To that end look for Mexican lagers (in the Vienna lager style or pale versions) and crisp German style lagers (from pale to amber and dark ones like Munich Dunkel).
Not to miss are citrusy IPAs, for obvious reasons when it comes to their aroma and taste.
All the styles referenced above will either balance or cleanse the spiciness of the chili heat and their good carbonation will cleanse the palate in between bites.
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