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Pimentos: The Sweet Pepper

Pimentos

Pimentos are a type of bell pepper belonging to the chili family that can function as a garnish, a spice, or an ingredient itself. Regardless of its use, it’s a winner in every form. 

What are Pimentos?

Pimentos, also referred to as “cherry peppers”, are a variety of chili peppers. They have a distinct red color and round heart-shaped structure. They generally grow up to 3-4 inches long, 2 to 3 inches wide, and are attached to a small, thick green stem. They grow in both spicy and sweet varieties which are equally flavorful. Pimentos are quite mild compared to the other members of the pepper family and have the lowest Scoville rating, clocking in between 100-500 heat units.

Image Credit: Flickr user Edsel L ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

History of Pimentos

Derived from a Latin word meaning pigment, this red pepper was known by different names like “Pimiento” in Spain and “Pimento” in Portugal. Both of these countries are considered as the originating areas of pimentos. Regardless of the name both the words mean bell pepper. Pimentos came into the limelight in the 19th century as a stuffing for olives. Since fresh olives had a bitter flavor, a sweet combination was needed and Pimentos proved to be the best option. 

In the early days, these peppers were cut and squeezed into the olives by hand, unlike today where they are mashed and added with the help of machines. This has not only reduced the price of these olives but has made the overall manufacturing process quick and streamlined. 

Image Credit: Flickr user clemmac is ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

Some areas in the US combine paprika with powdered Pimento for a less hot variety of powdered red pepper. This unique combination is widely used by chefs in a multitude of dishes. 

Types of Pimentos

Pimentos exist in two varieties, the sweet (commonly used) and the spicy variety. Both of these types are used in numerous dishes worldwide.

What Do Pimentos Taste Like?

The flavor of pimentos is usually sweet with a very little amount of heat. Red bell pepper is an excellent substitute for pimentos due to its close similarity in taste. Although pimentos are known to be stronger and more aromatic in flavor, coupled with a succulent texture that bell pepper lacks.

Image Credit: Flickr user palmetto cheese ( CC BY-SA 2.0 )

Benefits of Pimentos

Pimentos are packed with vitamins A and C. These vitamins help boost the immune system by removing toxins from the body and by strengthening the teeth and skin. Pimentos are a good source of iron and contain folate (which increases red blood cells) and B6 (which regulates hormones). Moreover, pimentos also contain vitamin K that helps in maintaining strong bones. Overall they are a highly beneficial food which has been proved by different scientific researches. 

Uses of Pimentos

Due to its distinct flavor, pimentos can be incorporated into a wide variety of dishes. They can be eaten raw or sliced in a variety of salads, soups, tacos, risottos, and multiple grains. They can be stuffed with rice or cheese to make an excellent appetizer for a party. Pimento stuffed olives can be added to bread or used as a garnish for martinis. As pimento peppers are often used to add a sweet-spicy kick of flavor, especially to egg dishes, try substituting them in our breakfast recipes for Red Pepper Eggs and Red Pepper Feta Frittata.

They can be used in various dips, sauces, or spreads not only due to their flavor but also due to their lively red color. They are also used in burgers and sandwiches because they go well with meat and sauces. Another popular use is the Portuguese delicacy called ‘Pimento cheese’ which is used in salads or as a spread in sandwiches or crackers. Pimentos are also pickled and served with roasted and sliced chicken, beef, or pork. Try swapping red peppers with pimentos in our savory recipes Red Pepper Pasta and Creamy Red Pepper Salmon for a sweeter-aromatic flavor. 

Feature Image: Flickr user She Paused 4 Thought ( CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 )

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