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Everything Spain

"Pimientos del Piquillo" – the Spanish small Red peppers

For many Spaniards, the very name “pimientos del piquillo” is enough to make their mouths water. These are small, more or less 8 centimeters long and dark red in colour.

These peppers have to be cooked to get some flavor, they tend to be quite bitter in taste when raw. Therefore, they are usually grilled over an open fire, then skinned, seeded and then marketed for preserve. Yes, that’s quite a process and not a cheap one either, hence why they are not cheap.
It’s a mysterious transformation, almost magical, how the heat of the wood fire transforms the red peppers from bitter to sweet delicacies.

More about the process
When freshly harvested and sorted at the canning factory, these red peppers are washed thoroughly. They then go in the wood-fired oven and grilled until the skin is charred. Yes, charred black. Women in the factory then remove the charred skin, seeds and stalks by hand. Some carbon traces may have been left on the peppers, when these are softly and carefully removed, these pimientos del piquillo are canned. You can buy them form the shops either whole, for stuffing or in pieces.

That smoky tang flavor from the wood fire and the hot spicy nature of these peppers is simply delicious.Usually served as a salad, pimientos del piquillo go great with fishy, seafood dishes as well as vegetables, specially mushrooms.

Pimientos del piquillo stuffed with squid

Ingredients for the peppers
12 small squids
2 table spoons of olive oil1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped (‘dientes de ajo’ in Spanish)
1 table spoon of chopped parsley
75 grams of air-dired ham, finely diced
2 tomatoes, skinned and dices
1 table spoon of flour
Salt and pepper (to taste)
12 whole pimientos del piquillo, canned

Ingredients for the sauce
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic
100 ml of olive oil
4 tomatoes, quartered2 pimientos del piquillo, canned
1 bay leaf
1 slice of toasted white bread, cut into cubes
Salt and pepper (to taste)
Options for fillings

  • Ground meat with béchamel sauce (‘carne picada’ in Spanish)
  • Oyster mushrooms (‘setas de cardo’ in Spanish) with hard-cooked eggs and almonds
  • Salt cod (‘bacalao’) with cream and onions – a personal favourite
  • Hake (‘merluza’) with ham and eggs
  • Snow crab (‘centollo’) with white sauce
  • Crab meat (‘carne de cangrejo’)
  • Lobster (‘langosta’)
  • Snails and mushrooms (‘caracoles y setas’)
  • Lamb brains (‘sesos de cordero’)
  • Kidneys (‘riñones’)
  • Spinach and béchamel (‘espinacas y bechamel’)
  • Scrambled eggs with button mushrooms (‘revoltillo de champiñones’)

1) Clean the squid, remove the ink bags and set it aside. Boil the squid for 10 minutes in 4 cups of water. Then drain, reserving the liquid. Cut the squid into small pieces.
2) Heat olive oil in a pan and cook the onion and garlic in it gently until soft and transparent. Add parsley, diced ham and tomatoes. Sprinkle with flour, add some squid stock (that you made before) and leave to thicken.
3) Carefully fill your pimientos (that you have taken out of a can) with this mixture (that you made in step 2) and arrange side by side in an casserole. Pour 250ml squid stock in the casserole and heat your pimientos gently.
4) Meanwhile, prepare the sauce by cooking the chopped onion and garlic gently in the olive oil until soft and transparent. Add the tomatoes and the pimientos (that you set aside for the sauce) and fry briefly, stirring constantly.
5) Strain the ink from the ink bags (that you did in step 1) through a fine sieve and stir into the remaining squid stock. Add to the sauce with the bay leaf and toasted bread crumbs and simmer for 20 minutes.
6) Remove the bay leaf and purée the sauce with a blender. Season it with salt and pepper. Pour your sauce on a warmed plate, arrange your stuffed pimientos on top and garnish with fresh parsley and more sauce (if you wish). Enjoy!

Pimientos del Piquillo salad

Note: this recipe serves for 4 people
Takes approximately 5 minutes to prepare and 15 minutes to cook.

  • 3 spoon fulls of olive oil
  • 4 red peppers (3 pimientos rojos in Spanish)
  • 5 chopped garlic cloves
  • 2 teaspoons of fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of Jerez vinegar
  • Salt and pepper (to taste)

1) Wash your peppers, remove the seeds and cut them into strips.
2) Heat up olive oil in a pan and medium-high heat.
3) Add the peppers to your pan, lower the heat and dry for around 10-15 minutes, moving them/turning them around with frequency.
4) Once they have turned soft, add the garlic, thyme and fry for 1 -2 minutes more.
5) Add your Jerez vinegar and mix your ingredients so the flavors really blend together, for another minute or two.
6) Place your peppers on a plate and serve it either hot or room temperature.  In southern Spain we tend to eat it room-temperature, as a starter salad to the rest of our meal or as a cold tapa. Enjoy!