Hot dogs, check. Icy beer, check. Pie, check. Burgers, potato salad, corn. Check. Check. Check.
You probably have most of the bases covered for your next cookout spread but if you’re looking for something unexpected that will win over as many hearts as that bowl of chips, look to blistered shishito peppers.
Platters of these charred peppers have become popular at restaurants, but they’re way easy to make at home and are an excellent start to a meal. The hardest part may be finding shishitos near you. Typically they are picked when still green, and that’s how you’ll find them at the grocery store. (Locally, Trader Joe’s carries them.)
These Japanese peppers are about 4 inches long and wrinkly, like they’ve been out in the sun a bit too long. Shishitos are mild and crowd-pleasing peppers, though it is said that every once in a while you bite into a hot one in the bunch. The numbers I’ve heard for this game of culinary roulette are one hot one for every 10. This keeps things exciting, but just so you know, I’ve bitten into a hot shishito, and it’s not exactly fireworks in your mouth. You’ll be okay.
Shishito peppers don’t need much to shine, just a bit of high heat and a big pinch of flaky salt. And like salty potato chips, you’ll always want to reach for one more.
The pepper’s thin skin allows it to char easily. It won’t take more than 10 minutes to cook the shishito peppers to the point of blistering — whether you decide to blacken your bunch of shishitos on the stovetop, under the broiler or perched on the grill for added smoky character.
Should you stumble upon Padrón peppers instead of shishitos when shopping, know that they can be cooked and served in the same way. Padrón peppers look and taste similar, though shishitos have a little more going on in terms of flavor. Padróns are slightly smaller and wider, with a melt-in-your-mouth texture when blistered in a hot skillet. Shishitos tend to be less spicy.
A citrus note in the shishito peppers means they take really well to a spritz of lemon or lime juice. They are fantastic simply charred and salted, but to change it up I’ve dressed them lightly in a mix of fresh lime juice, sesame oil and seeds, and soy sauce.
Some other ideas for using these emerald peppers (because you’ll probably keep shishitos in the fridge all the time after making them once): Garnish your homemade Bloody Mary, chop a few and toss them into a frittata or fold them chopped into your favorite corn bread.
blistered shishito peppers with sesame
This is an easy appetizer that is perfect for summer gatherings. While the rest of the meal comes together, a platter of charred shishito peppers can be on the table in about 10 minutes. Padrón peppers can be substituted for the shishito peppers. Peppers can be cooked on the stovetop, as instructed below, or on the grill.
Serves 2 to 4.
2 teaspoons canola oil
1/2 pound (about 12) fresh shishito peppers
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 teaspoon soy sauce
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ lime, plus more wedges for serving
Flaky sea salt, such as Maldon
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
Heat canola oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shishito peppers to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally for even cooking, until the peppers soften and are charred on all sides, 6 to 8 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine sesame oil, soy sauce, lime juice and zest in a small bowl.
Remove skillet from heat. Toss peppers with sesame oil mixture to coat peppers. Transfer peppers to serving platter and sprinkle with a big pinch of salt and sesame seeds. Serve immediately with wedges of lime for garnish.