Well do ya, punk? Though Padrón peppers share a family tree with habañeros and ghost peppers, these capsicum chilies are most often mild — until you bite into one that’s hot, hot, hot. Only roughly one in 10 is extremely spicy, making these a game of produce Russian roulette.
There's no clear way of knowing which Padrón pepper may be packing heat - choose carefully! (Illustration by Kristy Heilenday)
August is the month of the Pimento de Padrón, at least in Galicia, Spain; thousands of festivalgoers gather at the parish of Herbón, where the peppers were first cultivated more than 600 years ago. Though the peppers were discovered in South America, it’s Galicia that remains the most iconic producer (although the peppers are now grown and found throughout the world).
What to Buy
There’s no clear way of knowing which pepper may be packing heat — it varies depending on when it was harvested — but the younger the pepper, the milder it will be. Because the skin deepens as a pepper matures, bet on bright green peppers if you’re trying to stray from spiciness. If you’re a glutton for punishment, the hotter peppers will most likely have a deeper, even reddish hue.
How to Prepare
Simplicity is the name of the game. Take a page from the Spanish tapas playbook and pan-fry them, whole, in a skillet with the oil of your choice until the skins are blissfully blistered. Sprinkle with sea salt — and optional lemon or lime juice — for best results. If you want a milder chili, remove all seeds before cooking.
Recipe: Chiles Toreados with Charred Pineapple Avocado Relish
By Aaron Cross of Rancho T
Serves 3 to 4 as an appetizer
1 pineapple, peeled, cored and sliced 1/4-inch thick
1 red onion, sliced 1/4-inch thick
2 bunches of scallions
5 unpeeled cloves of garlic
3 slightly firm avocados, peeled and diced into 1/4-inch cubes
2 bunches of cilantro, diced
1 tablespoon of whole cumin seeds
1 tablespoon of agave nectar
olive oil, as needed
salt and pepper, to taste
15 to 20 Padrón peppers, whole
1 tablespoon of coarse sea salt
Place a sauté pan on a hardwood charcoal grill, burning at a high heat. Toast the cumin seeds and whole garlic cloves for roughly 2 minutes, then remove the pan from the heat. Grind the toasted seeds in a spice grinder and reserve. Peel the garlic from its skin, then chop each clove finely. Place the pineapple, red onion and scallions on a baking sheet, and drizzle lightly with olive oil, plus salt and pepper. Grill these items until they reach a caramelized char, then remove from the grill; once cooled, chop all three roughly intro 1/4-inch pieces. In a bowl, combine them with diced avocado, ground cumin, garlic, agave, cilantro, scallions, salt and pepper, then squeeze in juice from 2 limes, and mix gently to combine. Place in the fridge to cool, or serve immediately.
Lightly drizzle the Padrón peppers with olive oil and place them directly onto the grill until the peppers’ skin crisps, 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Once the peppers are evenly charred, remove them from the grill and arrange them neatly in a ring on a serving platter. Squeeze the juice from 2 limes over them, and sprinkle with a generous pinch of sea salt. Place the bowl of dipping relish in the center of the platter and serve. The simplicity of flavors, paired with the heat from the peppers, makes this a great summer dish.