At last count, there were around 50,000 pepper varieties in the world. That’s a lot. Although there are much less than that in the supermarket, there’s still a big selection for you to use in cooking. These range from mild and sweet to eye-watering hot.

Comparison: Pepperoncini vs banana pepper

Two common types of pepper are the pepperoncini and the banana pepper. In some ways, they’re very similar. But they do have some subtle differences which can impact your dish. We put these two peppers under the microscope to find out how they differ in appearance, heat, taste, availability, and versatility. By the end of this article, you’ll know which is the best option for your next recipe.

A comparison of banana pepper and pepperoncini
A quick comparison of the two peppers.

Appearance

Let’s start with the hardest attribute, the looks. They both look very similar in color, shape, and length. Those in the food industry have been known to get these varieties confused.

 PepperonciniBanana Pepper
ColorTypically greenish yellowTypically greenish yellow
Length2-3”2-3”
SkinSlightly wrinkled with bendsSmooth
ShapeBanana shape, slightly bulbousPointed banana shape

It’s tough to separate the two based on color and size. Your best bet is to look at the skin. The banana pepper will often have a smoother complexion; the pepperoncini usually has wrinkles and imperfections. Banana peppers also tend to be more pointy, like a banana.

Fast Fact: The pepperoncini is a sweet, mild pepper. It is known as friggitelli in Italy.

Heat factor

Before we compare the heat of these peppers, let’s look at the scale we use to analyze them. To compare the chilis, a standardized measure known as the Scoville heat unit (SHU) is useful. This measure tells us the concentration of capsaicin, the active compound responsible for the chili’s heat.

If you’re after a hot chili pepper, then you may be disappointed with both these two options.

 PepperonciniBanana Pepper
TemperatureVery mildVery mild
SHU100-5000-500

The pepperoncini and banana pepper are both extremely mild options. You could barely sense any heat from them; they’re only just warmer than a bell pepper!

Unlike virtually all other peppers, the banana pepper can drop down to zero SHU units. At its mildest, the pepperoncini scores 100.


Taste

Both peppers offer a lovely sweet flavor which you can appreciate as the heat isn’t overpowering. Although the two peppers have a similar taste, the pepperoncini will provide a little more tang.

 PepperonciniBanana Pepper
TasteMild, sweet and tangyMild, sweet with less tang
Best suited forPickling and PizzaStuffing or raw

Availability

In the U.S. banana peppers are by far the most readily available fresh option. They’re in most supermarkets as well as online. Pepperoncini is less readily available, so the diehard lovers of this variety generally resort to growing their own at home.

Versatility in recipes

Most of the time, I prefer using banana peppers in recipes. They have thicker walls, which means they’re more robust. Stuff them with your favorite mixture of mince and seasoning for a hearty, colorful meal. Pepperoncini won’t hold its shape as well, and the heat will often cause the walls to break up.

Banana pepper is also the best option for any recipes that use the pepper raw such as a sandwich or sprinkled on salads. Once again, the thicker walls help it hold its shape and look a lot more appealing on the plate.

Pepperoncini excels in other areas. They’re excellent for pickling thanks to their tangy flavor. They’re also perfect on top of a pizza to add flavor that you couldn’t get from banana peppers. Pepperoncini and artichoke soup provides a delicious combination of flavors.

An infographic showing the difference between pepperoncini and banana pepper.Which is best for cooking?

Peppers are a vibrant, flavor-packed ingredient, used in a wide variety of dishes. They add texture, flavor, heat, and color to a meal. However, they come in a vast array of types, so it’s important to know what you’re using before feeding it to your family or friends.

A common question is “what’s the difference between pepperoncini and banana pepper?“. It’s a good question as they’re quite similar in looks, heat, and flavor. To distinguish the two, look at the skin; if it’s wrinkled usually means you’re dealing with pepperoncini.

A plate of stuffed chili peppers
Stuff chilis with your favorite fillings.

Probably the biggest question most cooks have is which variety is best to eat. The banana pepper is undoubtedly the most versatile option as it’s robust and is excellent for stuffing. It’s milder flavor make it excellent served raw also. But if you like to add a bit of extra flavor to your dishes, it’s hard to beat the pepperoncini. They have a tang that takes pizza and other Italian dishes to another level.

How to chop a chili pepper

Dicing

  1. Slice the chili in half length-ways then use your fingers to scrape out the seeds and white membrane.
  2. Take the first half and slice it thinly into lengths then rotate them and chop the thin pieces into small cubes.

Slicing

Sliced chili peppers on white background
The white membrane and seeds are the hottest parts of the chilli.
  1. Slice the chili in half length-ways then use your fingers to scrape out the seeds and white membrane.
  2. Hold both halves together and cut them into small slices.

Helpful Tips

  • If you prefer a hot dish then leave the seeds and membrane in; they provide most of the heat.
  • The best way to store chillis is in a paper bag, sealed at the top, in the fridge. Chillis last up to 14 days when stored correctly.
  • Always wash your hands after preparing chilis as the juice can irritate or burn your eyes.

Do you have a favorite between these two? Why not let us know in the comments below.

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