Having a garden full of ripened hot peppers is like turning on the holiday lights in the middle of summer; it’s a beautiful thing! But sometimes you get so excited about growing them, that you forget to consider what you’re going to do with them all—guilty as charged! Do you know what to do with hot peppers after a big harvest? We do!
So, what do you do when you have a bunch of hot peppers that have a short shelf life? I’ve been collecting some of my favorite ways to use them up, and here are my top ten!
1. Make hot pepper jelly. This is a great way to use up a lot of peppers at once! Just mix the peppers with sugar, spices, and vinegar for a delicious condiment that can be used on sandwiches or crackers. A fun twist on hot pepper jelly we love is Blackberry Jalapeño Jelly!
2. Pickle them. Aside from the fact that you can legitimately “pack a pint of pickled peppers,” pickling is a great way to preserve jalapeños as is, or as part of a spicy pickle mix. Your choice. Slice the peppers in half, blanch them for two minutes, and then pickle them as you would cucumbers or any other vegetable. You can use the same recipe as our Quick Pickled Bell Peppers brine.
3. Roast them. For your larger, more tame hot peppers, roasted hot peppers have an amazing flavor! If you have milder hot peppers, simply cut the peppers in half, place them flesh side down on a baking sheet, then roast at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes. Put them in a bowl covered for ten minutes or so. Then the skins should peel right off, which you can discard, and save the rest for future recipes. For hotter peppers, do this outside on a grill or burner to avoid any eye or lung irritation.
4. Make hot pepper sauce. This is another great way to use up a lot of peppers at once! Simply cook, then blend the peppers with tomatoes, spices, and vinegar until you get a thick sauce. Enjoy it on tacos, burgers, or whatever else you’d like! Try our Habanero Hot Sauce recipe!
5. Freeze them. If you don’t plan on using your hot peppers right away, freezing is an easy option. Just wash, and dry thoroughly, then place in a ziplock bag or plastic container and store in the freezer for up to six months.
6. Dry them. Drying is another great option if you want to store your hot peppers for longer or turn them into spices. Simply place the peppers on a baking sheet and bake at 250 degrees F for about two hours until they’re completely dry.
7. Make red pepper flakes. Dry your peppers, then crush them. Bam! You’ve got an excellent condiment for pizza, pasta, or any other food that could use a bit of spice. You can slow-dry your peppers or speed up the process by baking them in the oven at the lowest possible temperature for an hour or two. Once they cool, place them in a plastic bag and use a rolling pin to crush the dried peppers. You can use a spice grinder or coffee grinder for this, but do so at your own risk, with all your windows open, fans blowing out, and a damp bandana over your mouth and nose. Oh … and some swimming goggles. In other words, maybe don’t!
8. Add them to soups, stews, and chili. Hot peppers add great flavor to soups, stews, and chili! Try adding some to your favorite stew or chili for a spicy kick.
9. Stuff them. Stuffed hot peppers (the milder types) make a great appetizer or side dish! Simply hollow out the peppers, then stuff them with cheese, rice, meat, vegetables, or whatever else you’d like.
10. Make salsa. Hot pepper salsa is another easy way to use up a lot of peppers at once! Just mix them with tomatoes, onion, garlic, and spices for a delicious condiment that can be enjoyed on tacos or burgers.
How to handle hot peppers when cooking
If you’ve ever had the pleasure of rubbing your eyes after you’ve handled hot peppers, you know why I had to include this section. If you haven’t enjoyed that particular sensation, well, you aren’t missing out.
Here are a few ways to preserve jalapeños and other peppers without making yourself regret it. First, understand that you can generally expect less of the capsaicin (the compound that gives peppers their heat) to get onto your skin or in the air the more intact you keep your peppers. It goes to follow that the more you slice, dice, grind, or otherwise disassemble your peppers, the more chance there is of getting that capsaicin on your hands or in your eyes.
One way to prevent irritation from this is to wear disposable gloves. Safety glasses can help prevent airborne capsaicin from getting into your eyes. And a damp bandana around your mouth and nose will help you avoid inhaling it. It’s also helpful to have your windows open if possible.
If you do get capsaicin in your eyes, wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water, then dip a paper towel into milk. Blot the paper towel around your eye. If you’re able, try to get a few drops of milk into your eye, that will help, too. From personal experience, I can vouch that Pepto-Bismol in the eye was recommended to me once and worked quickly!
What if you inhale pepper fumes? Some people have suggested that eating a banana will help, but your best bet is to get to fresh air as quickly as possible.
Now you know what to do with hot peppers! As you can tell, using up your hot peppers isn’t boring! But if you dare, try one of these creative recipes and enjoy the delicious flavors of hot peppers any time you want!
Hot peppers are one of the most diverse crops you can grow. At full ripeness, you can enjoy a rainbow of peppers, as well as a spectrum of heat on the Scoville scale, which rates the spiciness of each pepper. Hot peppers need lots of warm sunshine to thrive, and even though they’re often small, some of the hottest peppers need extra long growing seasons—Ghost Peppers need 150 days! Don’t let that deter you though; there are so many varieties of hot peppers, that you can grow them just about anywhere and be on your way to making hot sauces, salsas, and spicy chilis in no time! Learn what it takes to add hot peppers to your garden plan in our Hot Peppers Gardening Guide.