Calabrian Chili Peppers: Everything You Need To Know

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Everything you need to know about Calabrian Chili Peppers

If you love spicy flavors and Italian food, you’ve probably already heard of Calabrian chili peppers. Their moderate spiciness, aromatic scents and good nutritional values make them perfect to dress many different meals. If you still don’t know what Calabrian chili is, don’t worry: I’ll brief you about it right away.

In this article, you’ll read what Calabrian chili peppers are, how they are produced and if they can be good for your health. Later on, we’ll see with which foods they go best with. Let’s start!

What’s Calabrian chili?

A brief history

Calabrian chili is a variety of red peperoncini from Southern Italy. It owes its name to the region of Calabria (Italy’s “toe”), in which it’s been cultivated for hundreds of years. It was first introduced to Italy by Spanish visitors. In Calabria, it found a soil and a climate suitable for growth and became very important in the region’s culinary traditions – so important, that there’s a yearly festival dedicated to it. The “Peperoncino Festival” is held every year in September and hosts courses about peppers and tastings, as well as contests and live performances.

Chili Peppers hanging from a rope for the Peperoncino Peppers
Decorations for the “Peperoncino Festival”

Calabrian chili peppers sprout in February. At first, they are green or yellow but, as they ripe, they become dark red. They have a round to conical shape, which can be curved. Traditional growers usually let them age on the vine until they show a slightly wrinkled exterior, which means that they’re fully ripe. They can be grown on the ground or in pots, in which they can make a very nice decoration for your house. Actually, when they were first imported to Italy, people were a little diffident about them and used them mainly as home decorations for some time. Only later they discovered how good they were to eat.

Are they good for health?

As we said before, Calabrian chili peppers have a moderate spiciness (about 30,000 SHU on the Scoville scale) and fruity, smoky flavors, but these are not the only features for which they should be praised. Their nutritional values make them a very healthy spice. Calabrian chili peppers are, indeed, rich with vitamins A, B-6 and C. They also have high quantities of potassium, iron, magnesium and capsaicin – a chemical compound good for circulation and digestion.

However, they’re not a magic formula and can have some downside effects too. Eating too many chili peppers (not only the calabrian ones) can cause a burning sensation and stomach pain. Moreover, some researches suggest that an excessive consumption of capsaicin may increase the chances of developing cancer. So, it’s always better not to exaggerate and to taste this treat with moderation.

Now you know all the theory about this unique type of peppers, but we still have to answer to the biggest question of all: how to eat them?

What to eat with Calabrian chili peppers?

Calabrian chili peppers have many applications, whether cooked, raw or dried. You can have them with pasta and pizza, of course. Peppers are indeed the most important ingredient in a very famous Italian meal: pasta all’arrabbiata. If you like pepper-scented seasonings, you can use dried Calabrian chili to flavor oils and vinegars. Pepper-scented oil is one of my favorite seasonings and I strongly recommend it.

When raw, Calabrian chili peppers are good with chocolate and hummus. However, if I may put my two cents in, these pairings (although good) can’t compete with a traditional recipe that I personally love: raw chili peppers stuffed with tuna and anchovies. In Calabria, it’s a traditional summer meal and it’s really, really exquisite.

This was the last tip, for now. I hope you found this article useful and that it makes you want to try new recipes. If you know other good pairings with Calabrian chili peppers, write them in the comments!

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