Pequin peppers (pronounced “pee/puh-KEEN”) are small, fiery chili peppers that pack a serious punch. A member of the capsicum annuum family, pequin peppers are closely related to jalapeños and serrano peppers, but these little peppers will make your eyes water and your nose run like a little girl who just realized her Barbie doll’s head is on backwards.
Okay, so maybe that wasn’t the most appetizing comparison, but you get the idea. Pequin peppers are HOT. But they’re also delicious, and once you get past the initial shock of their heat, you’ll find they have a wonderful flavor that can be used in all sorts of dishes.
If you’re looking to add some spice to your life, read on for everything you need to know about pequin peppers and how they can enhance your culinary creations.
How Hot are Pequin Peppers?
The almighty pequin (sometimes spelled Piquin) pepper is a tiny chili pepper that measures in at just ½ to ¾ of an inch long. Tiny but mighty, these peppers pack a weighty punch, with a Scoville rating of 30,000 to 80,000 units. For comparison, jalapeño peppers have a Scoville rating of 2,000 to 8,000 units, making pequin peppers 3 to 8 times hotter. In other words, handle with care!
The science behind the heat is this: Pequin peppers possess a high concentration of capsaicin, the chemical combination that makes chili peppers hot. When you eat a chili pepper, capsaicin binds to pain receptors in your mouth and throat, sending signals to your brain that says, “Uh oh, we’re in trouble!” In response, your brain releases endorphins, which block pain signals and give you a sense of euphoria.
It’s the same process that happens when you get a runner’s high or eat dark chocolate. Except with chili peppers, the endorphins don’t last as long, and you’re left with a burning sensation in your mouth. Still, it can be addicting in a masochistic sort of way, and once you get a taste for the heat, you might find yourself reaching for pequin peppers more often than you’d like to admit.
The Origin of Pequin Peppers
Pequin chile peppers are aboriginal to Mexico and the American Southwest, where they’ve been used in cooking for centuries. These peppers were first brought to the Americas by migrating peoples from Central and South America, and they were bred for select traits as they made their way into Mexico.
Today, pequin peppers are still found growing wild in the mountains of northern Mexico. However, they’re also cultivated in Mexico and the central and southern United States, where they’re used in a variety of dishes.
The name “pequin” is assumed to come from the Spanish word pequeño, meaning “small.” Back in the day, these little Piquin peppers were used as a currency of sorts, traded for goods and services. They were also used as a flavor enhancer in dishes like mole poblano, a traditional Mexican sauce made with chocolate, chili peppers, and other ingredients.
If you’re lucky enough to live in an area where pequin peppers are grown, you can find them fresh at your local farmers market or grocery store. If not, you can order them online from a variety of sources, like Sonoran Spice.
How do Pequin Peppers Taste?
Piquant and earthy, with just a hint of sweetness, Piquin peppers have a unique flavor that can enhance all sorts of dishes. When used fresh, they have a bright, citrusy flavor that’s perfect in salsa or as a garnish. When dried, they take on a more smoky flavor that’s ideal for chili or other dishes where you want a bit of heat without overwhelming the other flavors.
The greener, less ripe peppers will have a milder flavor, which allows those who are sensitive to heat to still enjoy the flavor of these peppers without setting their mouths on fire. As the peppers ripen, they’ll become redder in color and considerably hotter in flavor.
The Benefits of Pequin Peppers
In addition to their flavor, pequin peppers offer a variety of health benefits. Capsaicin, the compound that makes chili peppers hot, has been shown to boost metabolism, reduce appetite, and ultimately promote weight loss. It’s also an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, which means it can help protect your cells from damage.
Not only are pequin chile peppers delicious, but they’re also packed with nutrients like vitamins A, C, and K, beta-carotene, and potassium. In addition, chile pequin contains significant amounts of iron and magnesium, making them an excellent food for those who are deficient in these minerals.
In general, chili peppers are good for your health. They can help fight depression, improve circulation, and even clear up sinus infections. Moreover, some studies have shown that capsaicin can help prevent cancer by killing cancer cells and preventing new ones from forming. It does this through the antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds found in chili peppers.
There’s a lot more to these little peppers than meets the eye. So the next time you’re looking to add some flavor and heat to your meal, reach for a pequin pepper or two. You might just be surprised by how much you enjoy it.
Cooking With Pequin Peppers
Speaking of adding flavor to your meal, let’s talk about how to cook with pequin peppers. These little peppers pack a big punch, so a little goes a long way.
One of the most popular ways to use pequin peppers is in salsa. This dish can be as simple or as complex as you’d like, and it’s a great way to show off the flavor of these peppers. Just chop up some fresh pequin peppers, tomatoes, onions, and cilantro, and you’re good to go.
If you’re looking for something a little more substantial, try making chili with dried pequin peppers. This dish is hearty and filling, and the smoky flavor of the dried peppers really comes through. Just soak the peppers in water for a few minutes to soften them up, then add them to your chili pot along with the other ingredients.
Pequin peppers can also be used in a variety of other dishes, like soups, stews, sauces, and marinades. Get creative and see what you can come up with. There’s no wrong way to use these peppers, so have fun and experiment.
Here are a few ideas to get you started:
- Add them to your favorite salsa recipe for a bit of extra heat
- Make a batch of chili con carne using dried pequin peppers
- Mix fresh pequin peppers into guacamole or other dips
- Sprinkle dried peppers on salads or use them as a seasoning for roasted vegetables
Hot tip: When cooking with fresh pequin peppers, be sure to wear gloves to protect your hands from the capsaicin. This compound can cause a burning sensation if it comes into contact with your skin.
Pequin Pepper Tips to Spice Up Your Recipes
Where to Buy Pequin Peppers
If you can’t find fresh or dried pequin peppers at your local grocery store, don’t worry. You can purchase them online from a variety of sources. At Sonoran Spice, we carry dried pequin peppers, as well as a world of other chili peppers and spices.
All of our spice products are 100 percent pure, with no fillers, dyes, or any other types of additives. In addition, our powder, flake, and whole pepper products are naturally gluten-free. With this in mind, you can rest assured you’re getting the highest quality product available when you shop with us.
What’s more, we offer worldwide shipping, and we ship the same day if you order before 12pm! So whether you’re stocking your spice cabinet or looking for wholesale options, we’ve got you covered.
Contact us today to learn more about our products or to place an order. We look forward to hearing from you!