There are hundreds of varieties of chilli peppers found all around the world. They vary in taste, texture and heat, changing colour as they ripen and transition from green to black/brown to red. Heat intensity increases as chillis ripen, however, some are hotter than others. As a general rule, the smaller the pepper, the darker the colour, the more pointed the top and narrower the shoulders the hotter it will be.
Common varieties found in New Zealand include Dutch red chillis which look very attractive but have a rather leathery texture. They are best dried, or used in sauces or curry pastes. Jalapeno chillies are cylindrical in shape with a blunt point and can be green or red. Green jalapeno is most commonly used raw, sliced on nachos or in a salsa. Red jalapeno has a tough skin so is best used in sauces, pickles or dried. There are two cayenne peppers most commonly found in New Zealand, the Asian cayenne pepper which is green and the Mexican cayenne pepper which is red. Both of these are ideally used in chilli and curry pastes, and the red is good in sauces. The skins, often quite thick, are too tough to use raw. Exotic Thai or Birds Eye Hots are preferred in many Asian dishes and tend to be rather hot. They are small long thin chilli and are available in either red or green. They are very versatile and may be used raw or cooked. The Habanero is a Mexican chilli that is a very attractive, lantern shaped, light green to orange coloured pod. It is extremely hot with an aromatic fruity flavour. Habanero is said to be the hottest chilli grown commercially!
Chilli peppers are a good source of vitamin C and contain a raft of other vitamins and minerals. However, for most people chilli peppers are eaten only in small quantities so are more important for flavour than nutritional value.
Chillies will stay firm at room temperature for 3-4 weeks. They may begin to dry out but can still be used. Chillies freeze well and may be used straight from the freezer.
Chilli peppers are often chopped up very finely and used fresh in dishes. After handling chillies, avoid touching the eyes, nose or mouth until you’ve washed your hands. A great tip to wash off residue chilli is to add a few drop of cooking oil to your hands, rub together very well, then wash off with soap.
Chilli peppers are a key flavouring ingredient in Mexican, Spanish, Indian, Asian and Thai dishes. Whether you bake, grill, roast, steam, stew, stir fry or stuff them, there are many ways in which you can add chilli to your meals.
Our Favourite Recipes
Chicken schnitzel never tasted so good! Our chilli and thyme infused breadcrumbs add an extra element of wow, and kick! to this dish.