You might be a pickle girl, but I am a pepperoncini queenie. Yes, pickles are perfect, but pepperoncini are for those ready to up their intake of zesty, tangy flavor. The people who, over the last few years, have started to become numb to it all and need to be punched in the face by flavor to feel alive. Those people are me, and pepperoncini are my medicine.
When I’m feeling peckish, I reach for the tall, cylindrical jar of Mezzetta pepperoncini that lives in the front of my fridge. You might remember these little peppers from the inside of your Papa John’s pizza box, but they are so much more than an Italian American afterthought. The neon-greenish-yellow peppers floating around the jar pack so much flavor in each bite that they make my eyes water. If you’re really craving zing, drink a little of the juice. *Chef’s Kiss*
Pepperoncini have everything you love about pickles turned up to a ten. They’re crunchy, juicy, and sour. The added benefit is the additional spice. Plus, with pepperoncini, you get one of my favorite things in the entire world: the seeds! Eating the cluster of seeds that live at the top of this pickled pepper is a luxury. It’s the vegetable equivalent of caviar.
To me, the ideal way to eat these is with your hands while standing over the sink. I grab each pepper by its stem and lower it into my mouth like I’m a Greek goddess being fed grapes by her adoring flock. Plus, consuming them over the big basin is practical and prevents me from getting covered in pepperoncini vinegar.
Speaking of the vinegar, talk about an underrated ingredient. After eating all your pepperoncini, take your pepper-less jar and add olive oil, salt, pepper, grated garlic, dijon mustard, and a little sugar for a perfect salad dressing. The juice is also a wonderful marinade for chicken. Goodbye, picklebacks. Hello, pepperoncinibacks!
A huge bonus is that pepperoncini are good in every preparation that typically calls for a pickle, like tuna salad and on a hoagie. Plus they’re great where a pickle might not make sense, so you get much more bang for your buck when you buy a jar. Toss them into chopped salads or place whole ones on a charcuterie board. If you really want to get wild, put some goat cheese inside and top them with a drizzle of honey and some freshly cracked black pepper. A pickle could never.
Don’t get me wrong, you don’t have to abandon pickles entirely. They are great and I still partake in a tasty pickle snack from time to time. I do, however, urge you to incorporate pepperoncini into your snack rotation. They will spice up your life (and your cooking) in a way you might not expect.