Demystifying Shishito and Padron Peppers

In early June, I was having dinner at the Japanese-Peruvian fusion restaurant Chotto-Matte, one of the hippest places in London. Imagine sushi meets root vegetables—on steroids! It was one of the most amazing, enjoyable, and inspiring dinners I’ve had in a while.

Yes, that was in England, which in the past has not been known for the most adventurous cuisine. (Fish and chips and meat pies, anyone?)

So, out came a plate filled with thin, roasted green peppers. I said, “Oh, look at these Shishito peppers!” My friend gave me a quizzical look and said, “But the menu says they’re Padrón peppers.”

Hmm…I wondered why they looked and tasted just like Shishito peppers, which I have enjoyed many times at my favorite sushi bar back home in California. So, I immediately texted my chile pepper buyer and asked him, “What is the difference?”

Almost all commercially sold peppers are “cousins.” In fact, both Shishito and Padrón peppers are from the cultivar Capsicum annuum var. annuum.

Shishito peppers are the East Asian variety of the cultivar and are named because the tips of the peppers resemble the head of a lion—shishi (or jishi) in Japanese.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - What's on Karen's Plate - Christina's Cucina - Shishito Peppers

A handful of Shishito Peppers. Photo credit: ChristinasCucina.com

On the other hand, Padrón peppers are from Spanish seed of the cultivar from the municipality of Padrón in northwestern Spain, hence its name.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Padron Peppers

You can see from the photos that Shishitos are a little thinner than Padróns. Also, Shishitos are not usually hot—you may find 1 in 10 that is medium-spicy. Padróns are also mild with slightly more chance of being spicy—2 in 10.

Both peppers are very trendy right now, along with the rise of tapas bars, izakayas (Japanese bars with food), gastropubs, and small plate offerings. So, don’t be surprised if you find them showing up in your neighborhood establishments.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Blistered Shishito Peppers

Blistered Shishito Peppers

And now you know!

Karen

3 thoughts on “Demystifying Shishito and Padron Peppers

  1. Forgive my presumptuousness but the technical aspects of your explanation is a bit muddled.

    Capsicum annuum var. (abbreviation of “variety”) annuum is a “variety” not a “cultivar.” To botanists, “variety” indicates a from of a species that is found in nature. Capsicum annuum var. annuum happens to be a form (“variety”) of the species Capsicum annuum that produces almost all of the chilies that we culinarians use in our kitchens (with the exception of habanero, tabasco, rocoto, aji and other such hot oddballs).

    A “cultivar” is a “cultivated variety” (note the contraction), a plant that is grown only under cultivation and not found in the wild. ‘Shishito’ and ‘Padrón’ are “cultivars.” In other words, the two peppers are the opposite of what you said: they are “cultivars” of the same “variety.” That would be the most common way to say it among those in the know.

    To make things more complicated, a true “cultivar” is a vegetatively-propagated entity, a plant that is essentially a clone of a single parent. Most seed-grown plants should technically be called “strains.” “Strains” always display some variation from one seedling to the next (hence the range of mild to hot).

    Both Shishito and Padrón are heirloom peppers; both are strains showing noticeable variations. Shishitos grown in various parts of Japan are different from each other and when grown in the United States from US-produced seed, there is even more difference. Same with Padrón; differences in those grown around Padrón versus those grown in Morocco versus those grown in the US.

    I like Padróns for stuffing for tapas and Shishitos for roasting/grilling.

    • Hi Joe. Thank you for sharing additional information and clarification on the peppers, and adding to the conversation. We love it! 🙂

  2. Thanks for addressing this question. I’ve been wondering myself. We feasted on Padron peppers in Spain. They were so delicious. I find Shishitos are a little less great. Still great, but not quite as great as the Spanish peppers. I hope Friedas will start growing some Padrons!

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