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10 Best Piquillo Peppers Substitutes

Piquillo peppers are one of the most popular varieties of dried, pickled red pepper in Europe. They’re also known as Italian peppers or Italian pimiento peppers. 

This variety of chili is long and thin with a pointy tip and wrinkly skin. They have a smoky flavor and a firm, slightly sweet flesh. Piquillos are available year-round but the peak season is from September through December. Availability can vary from season to season so it’s best to buy them locally or from trusted online vendors if possible. 

These chilies are not available in every region, so when you run out of them you can try these top 10 piquillo pepper substitutes that look and taste like the real deal.

1. Sumac

Sumac
Sumac

Sumac is a fruit that’s dried and used as a spice in Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, and Indian cooking. It’s also commonly used in Mexican cooking to add a smoky, earthy flavor. 

Piquillos are often combined with sumac to give them a slight tartness and a greater complexity. Sumac is available at Middle Eastern grocery stores and some grocery stores specializing in ethnic foods. It can also be purchased online.

2. Smoked paprika

Smoked paprika
Smoked paprika

Smoked paprika comes from sweet bell peppers (not hot chili peppers) that’s been naturally smoked using oak wood. It’s a great substitute for the smoky richness of piquillos. Smoked paprika can be used in place of piquillos in any recipe that calls for pickled red peppers. 

You can find smoked paprika in the spice aisle of your grocery store or buy it online. You can also spice up your dishes by mixing smoked paprika with ground spices such as cumin and coriander.

3. Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper

Cayenne pepper can add a fiery kick of heat to recipes. It’s also great for adding color and a bit of personality to dishes. Piquillos are orange-red with medium heat. Cayenne pepper is a bright red with a hot heat level. It can be used as a substitute in any recipe that calls for piquillos. 

Cayenne peppers are sold in many grocery stores and specialty food stores. They can also be purchased online.

4. Red bell pepper

Red bell pepper
Red bell pepper

Red bell peppers are a staple in many cuisines due to their versatility. They can be used in place of red bell peppers in any recipe. Piquillos are bright red with medium heat. Red bell peppers are available year-round but are most plentiful from September through November. They can also be found during the summer months. 

Red bell peppers are also less expensive than other bell peppers so they’re a great option for budget-conscious cooks. Bell peppers (including red and yellow varieties) are found in the produce aisle. Red bell peppers can also be purchased online.

5. Canned red Habanero peppers

Canned red Habanero peppers
Canned red Habanero peppers

Red habanero peppers are a hot chili pepper commonly used in Mexican cooking. They’re available in both fresh and canned varieties. Fresh red habaneros are less hot than the canned variety, so they can be used as a substitute for the spiciest piquillos. 

Canned red habanero peppers are typically found in the international aisle or near the international ingredients. They can also be purchased online. Habanero peppers are often used in Mexican and Caribbean cuisine. They’re also used in Asian and Indian dishes. The heat level in habanero peppers varies, so be sure to read the ingredient label before purchasing.

6. Dulce de leche

Dulce de leche
Dulce de leche

Dulce de leche is a type of sweetened condensed milk that originated in Argentina. This staple ingredient can be used as a substitute for piquillos in any recipe. Dulce de leche is available in grocery stores and specialty food stores. You can also make it at home. 

It requires simmering sweetened condensed milk with a dash of cinnamon to create a syrupy consistency. You can store dulce de leche in an airtight container to keep it fresh. It can also be frozen for long-term storage.

7. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce
Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce

Chipotle peppers are smoked jalapeño pepper that is commonly used in Mexican cooking and Southwest cuisine. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce are a great substitute for the smoky spiciness of piquillos. 

Chipotle peppers are found in the international aisle of your grocery store or can be purchased online. They’re often used in Mexican-American, Southeast Asian, and Southwestern dishes. Chipotle peppers are often used in Mexican, Asian, and Southwestern dishes. 

They’re native to Mexico. Chipotle peppers are often smoked and have a pungent, spicy flavor with a hint of heat. They’re often sold canned but can also be purchased in adobo sauce.

8. Lemon juice or zest

Lemon juice or zest
Lemon juice or zest

Lemon juice and lemon zest are great alternatives to piquillos. Both are used in many recipes to add a subtle sourness. Piquillos are a tangy, acidic fruit with a milder flavor than lemons and zests. Lemon juice is used in place of piquillos in many recipes. It’s also used to add a subtle sour flavor to desserts and other dishes. 

Lemon juice can be found in the refrigerator section of most grocery stores. Zest is the thin outer layer of the lemon peel which contains oils and nutrients. It’s used in many recipes and can be found in the produce section of most grocery stores.

9. Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar
Balsamic vinegar

Balsamic vinegar is a sweet, aged vinegar that originated in Italy. Balsamic vinegar can be used as a substitute for piquillos in any recipe. Balsamic vinegar can be found in the spice aisle of most grocery stores. It can also be purchased online.

10. Spices and herbs

Spices and herbs
Spices and herbs

Pepitas These are toasted pumpkin seeds that are commonly used in Mexican and Southwest cuisine. Pepitas can be used in place of piquillos in any recipe. Sumac is a Middle Eastern spice used to add a smoky flavor to dishes. It can be used in place of piquillos. Cayenne pepper This is used to add a fiery kick of heat to recipes. 

It can be used as a substitute for piquillos. Red bell pepper This is a medium heat bell pepper used in place of red bell peppers. Dulce de leche This is sweetened condensed milk that originated in Argentina. It can be used in place of piquillos. Chipotle peppers in adobo sauce These are used to add a smoky flavor to dishes. It can be used in place of piquillos.

Summary

Piquillos are a type of dried chili pepper that can be used as a substitute for the smoky, earthy flavor of piquillos. They’re long and thin with a pointy tip and wrinkly skin. Piquillos are available year-round but the peak season is from September through December. 

Availability can vary from season to season so it’s best to buy them locally or from trusted online vendors if possible. Sumac is a spice that adds a smoky flavor to dishes and can be used as a substitute for piquillos. 

It’s available year-round and can be used in any recipe that calls for piquillos. Smoked paprika, cayenne pepper, red bell peppers, chipotle peppers in adobo sauce, dulce de leche, and lemon juice and zest can be used as substitutes for piquillos.