Monday, June 6, 2011

A Pickled Peck of Padron Peppers - Twist Your Tongue with Flavor

While I was at the inaugural Atlanta Food & Wine Festival a few weeks ago, I attended a demo by Donald Link, on the topic of working with hot peppers. When Link told the crowd he's used over 150 different varieties of peppers, we knew we were listening to the right dude.

During the presentation Chef Link made a quick and colorful batch of pickled peppers, and while they did look great, it was the vinegar they were brined in that really caught my attention. 

The James Beard Award winning chef said that every station in his kitchens have some of this spicy vinegar in it, and that this magic potion is used liberally in all kinds of things; rice, dressings, and marinades, just to name a few.

So, when Michele came home last week with a bag of oversized Padron peppers, I decided to give this a whirl. I was in one of those 'don't do any research before you start' moods, and just went for it. I decided to use vinegar and sugar, but no salt.

I know salt, and lots of it, is found in virtually all pickling brines, but I wanted to see what would happen if it was omitted. Since I'm not exactly sure what I'm going to use this vinegar on or in, I thought that would give me more flexibility

Of course, the only problem with an experiment like this is I have to wait a few weeks, at least, to taste my creation. I'm not a patient person, but hopefully I'll be rewarded. If you can't find Pardon peppers (see bonus coverage below), then any small fresh pepper will work, especially jalapeno or red Fresno chilies. Enjoy! 

Disclaimer: Like I said in the video, this is an experiment. Try this at your own risk!

Enough peppers to almost fill a quart jar
3 cups white vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
4 cloves garlic, peeled, halved
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

View the complete recipe

Bonus Padron Pepper Coverage!

Padron peppers are such a fascinating fruit (yes, like tomatoes, they are technically a fruit), and I covered them in way more detail in this post I did last August. I've posted the video below, but I encourage you curious culinarians to go check out the full post here. Enjoy!


Duncan said...

does the air left in the peppers themselves cause a problem?? i.e should you pierce the peppers so they fill with vinegar?

Jackson said...

Oh man, I have a real soft spot for pickled peppers!! I like them on sandwhiches the most.

terry lee said...

Chef, your brine would also be good with some pulled Boston butt, for some N.C. BB-Q.

You know what is better than Boston butt?...Tennessee tail....what ?

Anonymous said...

for some reason I thought you were going to pickle peppers in patron alcohol...

I fail

Dano said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dano said...

Chef, would there be any benefit to deglazing a pan with a flavored vinegar like this over regular vinegar?

Chef John said...

Duncan, I'm wondering that myself. I've seen whole picked jalapeƱo, so it should be okay, but we will see. One reson I left whole was to maybe try some stuffed pickled peppers.

Dano, you can use this vinegar as you would any vinegar.

Simon B said...

Greetings from across the pond in England, Chef John!

I stumbled across your site yesterday, when looking for some classic American recipes - how on earth have I missed it for so many years?! What an absolute gem!

I absolutely love your style of cooking and presentation, and you sound so friendly and lovely in your voiceovers!

My apologies for the gushing fan-fest, but you've just clocked up another loyal follower, sir! (You'll have to forgive me when I ask you to explain what some of your cuts of meat are over there in the States, though!)

Keep up the amazing work! I'm just off to spend my lunchtime going through some more of your old posts...

JoAnn said...

Find padron seeds at or I love these fried with a little garlic for tapas

philogaia said...

Simon B - Please try to pace yourself on Chef John's old posts. I am pretty new as well and after several months I think I've gone through most of them now. It is fun that you are looking for classic American recipes. I look for classic British recipes! So if you have any recommendations I'd love to hear about it.

Chef John - I am really curious about how salt free pickles would come out. I'd always heard that they weren't as crisp. I'll be waiting for the follow-up!

Simon B said...

Philogaia - my weary eyes bear testament to your wise and sage advice to take it easy on reviewing the old posts!

As for classic English recipes, the first two that spring to mind are (i) a proper, steamed Steak and Kidney pudding (or "Kate and Sidney pudding" if you're from London) with suet pastry; and (ii) a Lancashire Hotpot.

There's so many classic British recipes that are coming back into fashion over here now - it's fantastic!

If you want to learn more about British recipes (and I hope you do!), then I don't know if it's considered bad form to name websites on here, but I'm a member of a very friendly forum which consists of mainly British foodies (although they're spread all over the world), along with a couple of Americans (to keep us on our toes!) who'd be more than happy to share their recipes and thoughts. I'd be glad to post the website, as long as it's OK with Chef John.

All the best.

Hilding said...

Haha! "It looks like a picture", so funny! I wonder if I coudl get some of these in Sweden.. If not I will try this with some other pepper for sure!

Tomas said...

Hey John,

First off, greetings from Belgium!

Secondly, I love your site ;-)

I was thinking: the entirety of the jar would keep even longer if you, after filling it with the boiling brine, turn the jar upside down.
That way all the bacteria (which are always there) on the inside of the lid will burn en won't cause any problems.


Chris K. said...

Wow, man. I really hope you know a good attorney after posting this recipe.

Anonymous said...

Just trying to post. In Mex we use pickled peppers on fish and oysters yum yum

Robert said...

Looks good. In Mex we use pickled peppers on oysters and shellfish

Chef John said...

Chris... Are you just trying to have my lawyer earn some easy money, or do you have a legit concern?!

Chris K. said...

Maybe I'm being over-cautious, but I feel you're being a bit cavalier with food safety on this one.

Air left in the peppers coupled with the omission of salt would contribute to an environment conducive to harmful bacterial growth.

Especially when you claim this product "keeps indefinitely" in the fridge. It won't, and somebody could really get sick.

So to respectfully answer your question: yes, I think it's a legitimate concern.

Chef John said...

I guess I'll add a disclaimer, but I don't think much can happen in that high an acid environment. Plus the liquid was just about boiled when filled. Many home bbq sauce doesn't contain salt, yet keeps fine because of the acid. I also check with peeps that do whole pickled jalapenos and they reported now problem from the air. Like I said in the video, this is an experiment, but thanks for the concern.

philogaia said...

Simon B - Given that Chef John posts videos from fellow bloggers and posts links to other good stuff, I don't think this would be an issue to have you post the link to your group.

Chef John - you want to weigh in on this?

Steve said...


I had some of the same thoughts as Chris K regarding safety. I think I'd consider these "refrigerator pickled peppers" and keep them refrigerated.

BTW, you did inspire me to start fooling around with pickling with the Pickled Grilled Vegetables posting from a few weeks ago and have some pickled cucumbers and jalapenos in the fridge right now.

I don't bother with jars -- I use plastic tubs -- and just make enough to last for a few days.

LuisAA said...

I loveeeee these peppers! I am actually so lucky to be from a town near PADRON so summer is just simply glory with these little ones!!

Anonymous said...

Hey Chef John

was going back over this post to do some pickling and was curious if Simon B ever posted the link regarding British recipes and blog?

Btw, congrat your acquisition by AF...

Chef John said...

Sorry, I don't think so.

Michelle et Abigail said...

How did these turn out in the end?

Steven Funk said...

never seen a recipe like this with sugar, traditionally in teh south it's just white vinegar and maybe some garlic.

Steven Funk said...

traditionally in teh south they would just use white vinegar withour the sugar. If they were southern foodies they might add a clove or 2 of garlic.

Anonymous said...

Chef John,

How did these turn out???

Anonymous said...

Please, Chef John....911!!!

I'm making your Padron Pepper recipe. PLEASE tell how well this worked for you. I really am skeptical about not adding salt.
Please elaborate.

Chef John said...

Funny you ask as I was going to update this recipe. Apparently I should have cut the peppers open and used some salt. I'd use another recipe for now.

Anonymous said...

As always, Thanks:)

PS I am the head chef at a small, private college in PA with a large contingent of New Yorkers. Your Spiedie Chicken recipe rules here. On behalf of my 1,000 kids, Thanks as well!

Judd Anderson said...

Great site, and well made videos.

I'm brand new to pickling and am looking for the following answers. How long should one wait until putting the bottled peppers, into the fridge? Additionally, how long should we wait before eating/using?

Spyce said...

Hi Chef John,

I was looking for things to do with the abundance of peppers from my garden and saw this recipe and the comment about safety.

Over the years, I've learned a few things about making flavored vinegar through information obtained from county extension centers. Jars or bottles should be sterilized by boiling for 10 minutes before packing. Treatment of the lids depends on type being used. I'll include a link from an extension center that covers that information.

Salt does not have to be used when making flavored vinegar, and the peppers do not have to be cut or pierced before packing. These are optional steps. The filled jars should be stored in a cool, dark place for 3-4 weeks to allow the flavors to develop.

When properly prepared and bottled, the vinegar should keep for 3-4 months if stored in a cool place. Refrigeration may extend the quality for 6-8 months.

I am going to give your recipe a shot because I have never made a pepper vinegar with sugar. I am going to use a mixture of hot peppers from my garden. I usually stab the peppers a few times before packing as that quickens the development of flavor, and I never use salt. After I open the jar, I store it in the fridge with the rest of the condiments.

The extension center information that I use is located here: