Looking for ways to use lots of peppers from your summer garden? You’ve come to the right place!
Summer is winding down, and if all has gone well in your garden, the pepper plants have grown vigorously and are full of perfectly ripened peppers waiting to be picked and enjoyed.
Sometimes though our efforts yield a little more than we anticipated or desired and we’re faced with way more bounty than we know what to do with. No need to despair, or secretly drop off bags of peppers on your neighbor’s doorsteps — these creative ways to use lots of peppers will help you turn those peppers into delicious concoctions that can be used until the next warm weather growing season rolls around!
It doesn’t matter what kind of peppers you have a surplus of — whether it be jalapenos, sweet peppers, or hot peppers, there are plenty of creative ways to use them. A great thing too, is that many ideas/recipes can be changed up depending on the peppers you have and how much heat your taste buds can handle!
Six Creative Ways to Use Lots of Peppers
1. Pepper Flakes
One of the most simple and versatile things to do with an abundance of peppers is to dry them down and then roughly grind them into pepper flakes that can be used as a seasoning when cooking. A mix of hot peppers works best (cayenne, serrano, jalapeño, and bell peppers are all staples) but any pepper will do. Dry them using your oven, a food dehydrator (*we highly recommend getting an Excalibur dehydrator – pepper flakes if you’re getting serious about gardening), or allow them to air dry, and then pulse in a food processor to the desired size flakes. For reference, Mexicali Mexican Grill has the full instructions over on their website.
One other tip here: we also like to keep a jar of smoked green pepper flakes (anchos/poblanos are a favorite peppers for this) and a jar of smoked red pepper flakes throughout the year as a seasoning.
The different color and flavor combos can both beautify and uniquely flavor a dish, depending on how you use them. As for how to make smoked peppers, see #6 below!
2. Frozen Pepper Strips
If you have lots of bell or sweet peppers to use, you can clean and seed them, and then slice them into strips. Lay the strips out on cookie sheets covered with wax paper and freeze. When frozen, transfer to zip-top freezer bags and portion out as needed for recipes such as stir fry or other dishes.
3. Pepper Jelly
If your palate appreciates a mix of sweet and spicy, then try your hand at pepper jelly. Depending on how much heat you can handle, pepper jelly can be made using habaneros, jalapenos, or ever sweet red peppers. The end product makes a great appetizer when paired with cream cheese and spread on crackers. There are an abundance of recipes available for making your own pepper jelly; Taste of Home has a super simple one that uses a mix of habaneros and sweet red peppers. This is a unique way to use lots of peppers, and the finished product makes a great gift!
4. Red Pepper Paste
There are many recipes ranging from Korean dishes, to Portuguese meals, to basic soups that call for different variations of red pepper paste. This delicious and flavorful addition to culinary creations can often be hard to find unless you have convenient access to speciality food markets, so making your own is a terrific way to use lots of peppers. Depending on the end flavor you want, red bell peppers (with a couple hot peppers added if you prefer some heat) are roasted, broiled or grilled and then combined with oil and seasonings to create an emulsified, smooth paste that can be stored in the fridge for later use.
We always add a small jar of our homemade, slightly spicy red pepper paste to the tomato sauce we use to make our eggplant parmesan. Everybody who eats it says it’s the best eggplant parm they’ve ever had, and pepper paste is a key secret ingredients that helps make it amazing!
5. Pickled Peppers
Any kind of pepper can be put into a pickling brine, and canned either whole or in slices to be used on a variety of dishes from hamburgers, to nachos, to quesadillas, giving you another way to use lots of peppers. You can mix different types peppers to give you a variety of flavors in a jar, or you can stick to one single type; you can also make them sweet or savory depending on your taste preferences.
If you want a mild/sweet pepper for pickling that also provides an absolutely beautiful range of colors (orange, purple, red, yellow), we recommend the aptly named Sweet Pickle Peppers.
6. Smoked Peppers
Typically red jalapenos are smoked to make chipotle peppers, which can then be used in a variety of ways. But it is possible to smoke different pepper varieties to add varying levels of smoky spiciness to your dishes. After prepping and smoking, the peppers can be dried down to make chipotle seasoning, sliced into strips and stored in garlic infused oil, or used to make smoked stuffed peppers.
Sure, you can smoke peppers on a standard smoker or even a grill. However, a few years back, we got a smoker as a present that really upped our smoking game: a Masterbuilt digital smoker. It has four shelves and is way easier to use than a traditional smoker. No more constantly checking the internal temperature, smoke levels, amount of wood, etc. Just plug it in, set it, add some wood chips, and come back when it’s done. In fact, last weekend we smoked about 20 pounds of hot peppers in our Masterbuilt digital smoker, a sampling of which you can see below:
Yes, we’re purists so on special occasions we’ll still wax nostalgic and break out our old smoker and do things the old fashioned way.
As the end of pepper season wraps up in your garden, no need to worry about what you’re going to do with a bounty of peppers! No matter what type of pepper you have an abundance of, the above ideas can turn all those extra peppers into creative culinary uses that can be enjoyed throughout the year.
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