Pequin pepper grows straight up to the sky on hardy, shrub-like plants that can grow up to five feet tall. The small oval peppers start out light green and as they ripen can have an occasional purple tinge, and then mature to a bright red. Pequin pepper chiles measure an average of one-inch-long and 1/4 to 1/2 inch wide. On the Scoville scale, the chiles average 40,000 to 60,000 heat units, or roughly ten-times spicier than a jalapeno pepper.
The small peppers have medium-thick walls and few seeds attached to a central placenta. Beneath the intensity of the spice, Pequin pepper is slightly smoky and fruity. When dried, the flavors are intensified.
Pequin, or Piquin, chile peppers are a small, spicy variety of Capsicum annuum, native to Mexico. They are often confused with a wild variety, the chiltepin, which looks similar but is round and berry-like. Both peppers are commonly referred to as “bird peppers” due to the fondness bird’s seem to have the small peppers. The name “Pequin” comes from the Spanish word ‘pequino’ meaning “little.” Pequin pepper is most often harvested at maturity and dried, though fresh peppers are sometimes sold in their immature, green state.
Pequin chile peppers contain high amounts of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as beta-carotene and potassium. The small peppers also contain large amounts of iron, magnesium, and protein. The compound capsaicin is mainly present in the seeds and ribs of the pepper and is responsible for the burning sensation in the mouth. This compound is a beneficial anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Research is being conducted on capsaicin for its cancer-fighting properties.
Pequin Chiles have a very hot flavor with slightly sweet and citrus undertones that really pack a punch! Use Pequins to heat up Pasta Diablo with shrimp or lobster, chili, salsa, and stew.
The small Pequin pepper, also called Chile Pequin, is used in hot sauces, salsas, and soups. The pepper packs a lot of heat, so a little goes a long way. The immature green peppers are sold fresh more often than the mature, dried, red peppers. The green peppers are used in fresh salsas. Pequin pepper can be pickled and are the perfect size to spice up cucumbers in a pickling brine. To impart a soup with the flavors of the chile, puncture a fresh pepper several times with a fork or end of a knife and put the whole chile into the broth.
Pequin pepper develops a more complex flavor when dried; the chiles can be dried in a low-temperature oven or dehydrator. Dried Pequin chile peppers are ground into flakes and used as a spice for pasta, chicken or beef dishes or in dry rubs. Fresh Pequin chile peppers will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Pequin Pepper is a common ingredient in liquid hot pepper seasonings and with their rich flavor, they add a fiery zest to beans, sauces, soups, and stews. Easily crush the dried chiles and sprinkle on bean and rice dishes, homemade salsas and any number of Latin dishes in need of some spicy, tangy flavor. Add 1 or 2 to your Mexican Moles.
Toast and then rehydrate your Pequin Chiles and you can make a zesty puree with a delightful earthy flavor with hints of roasted peanuts.
So what do you do with a pepper this hot?
You make a homemade hot sauce, of course. Take a good handful of chiles, a few cloves of garlic, ½ of water, 1 cup of cider vinegar, and a toasted and reconstituted guajillo chile and give it all a good whirl in your blender until liquefied. Pass through a fine mesh strainer in a large, wide baking dish (to get the air out of the sauce). Let the mixture sit for an hour and then bottle it up. It’ll keep in the fridge for 6 months.
If you’re a fan of Mexican dried chiles then be sure to check out our Habanero Chiles, Cascabel Chiles, Chipotle “Morita” Chiles, Chipotle “Meco” Chiles, Ancho Chiles, Guajillo Chiles, De Arbol Chiles and Pasilla Chiles.
Chile Pequin Pepper Sauce Recipe
Prep and Cook Time: about 15 minutes
Enough small pequin pepper to fill the bottle
While distilled Vinegar (enough to fill the jar)
- Cut the stems on the pepper to about 1/4″ about the pod.
- Wash and dry the pequin peppers.
- Stuff the peppers, one at a time into the jar. I use a chopstick to help position and stuff the peppers so that I can get as many as possible in the jar.
- Once the jar is full, pour ½ tsp. to 1 tsp. of salt into the jar. The amount depends on the size of the bottle.
- Heat the vinegar in a saucepan or in the microwave. Bring to a boil.
- Fill the bottle about 3/4 full with the hot vinegar. Roll and pat the bottle to eliminate trapped air bubbles.
- Continue to fill the bottle with the vinegar until all of the peppers are completely covered.
- Cap the bottle and roll, and gently shake to distribute and dissolve the salt.
- Set in the pantry. In about 2 weeks you can start enjoying it. The longer it sits, the hotter it gets.
- Once I start using it, I put it in the refrigerator where it stays until it’s all gone.
To use: Use it much like you would Tabasco. Just drizzle a little over each serving with some added spice.