Grilled Shishito Peppers are possibly the fastest and most interesting appetizer out there. These simple Japanese peppers are flash cooked, or blistered, on a screaming hot grill pan for just a minute or so, and then served with a shower of salt or a small dish of soy sauce for a crazy delicious treat. Just grab a pepper by the stem and gobble it down!
Peppers are the unsung heroes of late summer. While everyone is talking about tomatoes and zucchinis, we forget that peppers are just as abundant and just as delicious. And they come in more varieties, shapes, colors, and sizes than any other veggie I know.
These little Shishitos are thin skinned, mild Japanese peppers, you might have noticed them on the appetizer menus of super trendy restaurants lately. And no kidding, this is one of the quickest and easiest dishes you’ll ever make, and you will get raves, I promise. Oh, and I should mention that they’re about 2 calories apiece. For real.
Our friend Ken grows them in his yard and offered to give me some to play with. He says they’re easy to grow, and the more you harvest them, the more you get, so I didn’t feel too guilty accepting a big armful from him. You can grow them in pots, too, because the plants are bushy and the peppers are small (about finger length.) They’ll need lots of sun, and regular water though.
But unless you grow your own, Shishito peppers can be hard to find, they’re usually just in Asian or farmers’ markets, but the good news for you guys without gardens is that Trader Joe’s now sells bags of fresh Shishito peppers year round! I picked up a couple bags to augment what Ken gave us, because once you flash roast these little peppers, the hand to mouth reflex kicks in and you can down dozens without coming up for air.
To make the most unique, healthy and delicious appetizer you’ve ever had, all you have to do is literally toss the peppers with a little oil (I used sesame) and then shake them around a very hot pan for 5 minutes until they’re slightly blackened and blistered. Sprinkle with a little salt or sesame seeds, and you’re done. No sauce required, in fact dipping would just add an unnecessary stopover on the way to your mouth.
They’re fun to cook, they kind of dance around the pan and make little popping noises as they heat up inside. Just shake the pan every 30 seconds or so to shift them around, or use tongs if you want to be more precise. After about 5 minutes they’ll be blackened, slightly softened, and giving off their aroma. You can eat them as is, hot from the pan, or, if you must dip, a little Tamari or ponzu sauce works well. Ken’s’s wife likes to sprinkle them with salt and a squeeze of fresh lemon. Heaven.
Grilled shishito peppers are great to do when you have guests over because they take just minutes and everyone will love to watch. The only pitfall you’ll run into here is not making enough. A normal person can down 25 of these in a blink of an eye. They’re not heavy or filling, and there is no spicy heat to slow you down. Plan on making lots, and serve with some ice cold beer.
Eating instructions: grab by the stem and bite the whole pepper, leaving just the stem tip behind. Repeat.
- I have read that some people prick each pepper with a pin before cooking, supposedly to prevent them from splitting as they cook, but I didn’t do that and I had no problems.
- I cooked these both with and without oil and both worked great, so if you are really trying to cut calories, toast them in a dry pan and then just use the salt and lemon juice option.
- The Trader Joe’s bag states that 7 peppers make a serving. Um…no, don’t listen to them, they lie.
- These actually reheat in the microwave pretty well, so if you have any leftover, save them for later.
- A strange but true fact is that about 1 out of every 10 Shisito peppers is actually very hot. No one knows quite why this is, but be aware, and keep that cold beer handy just in case.
- about 15-20 Shishito peppers per serving
- oil for lightly coating the peppers (I used sesame, you can use peanut, olive, or whatever you like)
- black sesame seeds or sea salt
- tamari soy sauce, ponzu sauce, or fresh lemon juice
- Toss the peppers in a little bit of oil to lightly coat them. I used sesame oil, but you can use olive, peanut, or whatever oil you like.
- Set a grill pan or large skillet over medium high heat and let it heat up until nice and hot.
- Put the peppers in and let them cook for about 5 minutes, until they are blistered and charred in parts. Shake the pan or toss them around every 30 seconds or so.
- Remove from the pan and sprinkle with sesame seeds or salt.
- Serve hot with a squeeze of lemon, or a light sauce.