What Is a Pepperoncini and Is It the Same as a Banana Pepper?

I first became aware of the pepperoncini in college after my roommates and I became addicted to ordering Papa John’s pizza on Friday nights. In terms of delivery pizza, it’s probably on the lower end of the quality spectrum. But the fact that each pie came with a pepperoncini had us fighting over who’d get to eat it in the end. So, why were we so ravenous about this tiny yellow pepper?

What is a pepperoncini?

Pepperoncini, known as friggitelli in Italy, are small, yellow peppers with Mediterranean origins. The pepper is popular in both Italian and Greek cuisines, becoming so synonymous with those countries that they are often called Tuscan peppers, sweet Italian peppers, or golden Greek peppers in the United States and other export countries.

In America, they are commonly found pickled whole in jars, accompanying Italian or Greek salads, antipasto plates, or as a side to the aforementioned pizzas. The flavor of pepperoncini even finds its way into other foods like potato chips. They have a sweet and sour taste, thanks to the pickling, and a little bit of heat.
Take it from Sporked’s very own “pepperoncini queenie” Jordan Myrick: These peppers are really good.

Are pepperoncini spicy?

Pepperoncini are a very mild pepper, but they still do have a bit of a kick to them. On the infamous Scoville scale, pepperoncini rate anywhere from 100 to 500 scoville. Compared to a jalapeño, which clocks in anywhere from 2,500 to 8,000 scoville, the pepperoncini is a walk in the park. But compared to your standard bell pepper, which has a scoville of zero, it’s got a tad more zing.

best pepperoncini

Don’t Sleep On Pepperoncini

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.

What is the correct pepperoncini pronunciation?

Fun fact about me: I was a Classics major in college and I haven’t touched it since I graduated. I have no remaining knowledge of the Latin nor the ancient Greek that I learned almost 20 years ago. So, take all of this with a grain of salt.

In Italian, whenever the letter “c” is followed by an “e” or an “i” it makes the “ch” sound. This means the appropriate pronunciation is peh-per-un-CHEE-nee. This pronunciation is what you’ll usually hear in the United States.

In modern Greek, there is no letter “c.” It is usually replaced with a “k” or “ch,” which approximate the hard “c” sound. But for a soft “c” sound, the approximation is “ts.” So, in Greek the word may be pronounced pee-per-on-SEE-nee.  Depending where you are, pronunciation may change.

Banana peppers vs pepperoncini: What’s the difference?

The banana pepper and pepperoncini can easily be mistaken for each other, thanks to their bright yellow color. However, there are several differences between the two.

The banana pepper is aptly named because it is long, smooth, and yellow with a rounded tip. The pepperoncini is short and squat by comparison, with wrinkled skin and a more pointed tip. If you plucked both of them off the vine and took a bite, they would have pretty similar tastes, except that the pepperoncini is slightly spicier. However, when commercially processed, the pepperoncini will be a little more sour thanks to the pickling.

Additionally, their countries of origin are different. The pepperoncini is decidedly Mediterranean while the banana pepper is an evolution of a traditional Hungarian pepper. Both are great with pizza; that is undeniable.

About the Author

Luke Field

Luke Field is a writer and actor originally from Philadelphia. He was the former Head Writer of branded content at CollegeHumor and was also a contributing writer and actor to the CollegeHumor Originals cast. He has extensive improv and sketch stage experience, performing both at The Upright Citizens Brigade Theater and with their Touring Company. In addition to writing, he also works as a Story Producer, most recently on season 4 of Accident, Suicide, or Murder on Oxygen. Keep your eyes peeled for his brief but impactful appearance as Kevin, the screaming security guard, in the upcoming feature The Disruptors, directed by Adam Frucci.

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