I freaking love peppers. They are so versatile and have so many different flavors. Here are some different types and my favorite recipes to use them in, ranked from sweetest to spiciest using Scoville heat units (SHU).
- •Bell peppers (0 SHU)SO sweet, mild, and versatile. I use these in my chicken stew (SOUTHWESTERN CHICKEN STEW), but also just like eating them raw after ribbing them and removing the seeds. Stuffed peppers are a classically good recipe for these, but if you're looking to preserve the crunchy texture a little more, brush lightly with olive oil and char them and thickly sliced red onions on a hot grill for your next cookout, or skewer 1-inch pieces for your favorite kabobs.
- •Italian long peppers (100-1,000 SHU)Somewhat spicy, but mild enough to be put on sandwiches or served with crudités or crusty bread with sharp cheeses, like shaved Parmesan or white cheddar. Fry them first to bring out their full aroma and soften the texture. Also great for pickling.
- •Anaheim peppers (500-1,000 SHU)These are large, mild and somewhat flat in texture. Classically used in Mexican chiles rellenos and because of their size and texture, they're really easy to stuff. I like making a slit lengthwise, filling them with a mixture of spiced beef, jack cheese, and vegetables, wrapping in a slice of beef bacon, and roasting.
- •Jalapeños (2,500 - 8,000 SHU)A kitchen staple. Good for almost anything you want to add heat to. I broil until blistered at 500 degrees F (about 5 min) for use in homemade tomatillo salsa, or slice thinly for banh mi or other kinds of sandwiches.
- •Chipotle peppers (5,000-10,000 SHU)Chipotle peppers are actually just smoked and dried jalapeños. The flavor is intensely smoky and completely different than jalapeños. These are available fried or also canned, in adobo sauce. Either type is excellent in slow cooker recipes, especially for large cuts of meat. My husband made an amazing brisket using these.
- •Serrano peppers (10,000-20,000 SHU)These are another staple at home. They look similar to jalapeños, but longer and thinner, with a noticeably crunchier texture and spicier taste. I love using these in Mexican recipes, like tomato salsa or pico de gallo.
- •Thai bird chili peppers (100,000-225,000 SHU)Also very spicy! Great in fragrant Thai curries, or my personal favorite: sliced into thin rounds and smashed with a mortar and pestle for Thai green papaya salad.
- •Scotch bonnet peppers (100,000-350,000 SHU)These look kind of like habañeros and also pack serious heat, but have a really nice smoky aroma. Shave off a few paper-thin slices, cook in olive oil, and add to sauces for fish or marinades for grilled chicken, vegetables or other meats.
- •Habañeros (200,000-500,000 SHU)Super HOT. Tame them down by removing the seeds and using sparingly (a tiny bit goes a LOOONG way). I like to leave the pepper whole, prick with a fork, and toss into a stockpot for chicken chili or in a slow cooker (seeds removed) for a spicy lentil soup. There's a hot sauce brand in Hawaii called Da Ring Stingah that uses habañeros and is great on pizza.
- •Ghost peppers (1 million SHU)I once ate one of these whole and raw on a dare, and thought I was going to die. Stay far, far away if you value your GI tract in any way, unless tempered into a hot sauce (choose carefully and use sparingly). Amazingly, there are about five peppers hotter than this, like the Carolina reaper (2.2 million SHU) and the Trinidad moruga scorpion pepper (2 million SHU), only for the bravest (or stupidest) souls on earth.