Pepperoncini vs Banana Peppers: How To Tell Them Apart

The other day, I was ordering a sandwich at a make-your-own sandwich bar. I said “I’ll have pepperoncini,” to which the staff replied, “You mean the banana peppers?” After agreeing, I couldn’t help but think to myself that I really can’t tell the difference between the two.

After all, I like how they both taste - are they even different? Or are they just two names for the same sweet and tangy pepper?

The simple answer is yes; they are actually different! While they often serve similar purposes, these two peppers each have some unique characteristics. Let’s take a closer look at what separates these two peppers.

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How Are These Two Peppers Alike & Different?

Pepperoncini and banana peppers are often confused because they share a similar appearance, flavor, and even heat! How can you learn to tell them apart when they’re just so similar?

Heat

There is an official way of ranking the heat of a pepper called the Scoville heat units, and these two peppers rank a bit differently despite both being very mild:

  • The banana pepper ranges from 0 to 500 SHU
  • The pepperoncini ranges from 100 – 500 SHU

While banana peppers can truly have zero heat, this isn’t possible for pepperoncini, so that’s one point of difference that is worth nothing. Banana peppers come in a variety of different heats but are good if you don’t want any heat, either!


Appearance

Telling these two ingredients apart by sight alone is incredibly difficult, even for the experts! There are just too many characteristics that both peppers share:

  • Two to three inches in length
  • Similar greenish color
  • Curved pepper-like shape (almost like a banana)

So what do you look at to tell them apart?

First, you should look at their skin! The skin on pepperoncini tends to have more bends, divots, and dents, while the banana pepper could almost be described as baby faced because of how smooth it is. It is possible to have a smooth pepperoncini, but it’s usually more wrinkly than a banana pepper.

Second, check out the end of the peppers. The banana pepper will usually have a pointier end while pepperoncini have a more round shape.

Lastly, the thickness of the walls of the vegetable can tell you something important. When compared, the banana pepper will have thicker walls than the pepperoncini will have. This is only a good way to tell them apart if you can cut them open, however.

Do They Have Different Tastes?

While the flavors of the banana pepper and pepperoncini are the same to me, some people can taste the subtle differences between them, so I’ll share those anecdotes with you.

Each of these peppers has a sweet and tangy taste to it.

The pepperoncini, however, has more of the tanginess and less of the sweet! For this reason (and because it has thin walls), the pepperoncini are more often used as a pickling pepper than a banana pepper.

Why Are They So Similar?

So why is it that these two peppers are so similar? Just like most chili peppers, both of these peppers are varieties of vegetable from the same larger species - Capsicum annuum.

Within this family of vegetables, there are a lot of similar but slightly different peppers that carry profiles that either complement or compete with each other. Each specific plant variety within this family has unique flavor, but there are some overlaps.

And pepperoncini and banana peppers are one of those overlaps!

If you want to get more specific, pepperoncini could actually be considered a very specific kind of banana pepper. There are many different kinds of banana peppers, as it is a larger, categorical term.

Pepperoncini refer to a specific, Italian variety of banana pepper, so their overlapping characteristics occur because they are members of the same category!

Which Pepper Should I Use?

The answer to this question depends largely on what you want to use it for and the availability at your local market!

Fresh

Generally speaking, banana peppers are much more easy to find as fresh produce than pepperoncini. So, if you want to use a fresh pepper for a recipe, you’re probably want to look for a banana pepper instead of pepperoncini. The sweetness of the banana pepper is also preferable in most fresh applications.

Stuffed Peppers

Also, the thicker walls of the banana pepper are better for hearty recipes such as a stuffed pepper. Stuffing pepperoncini might be hard because of the thin walls, so you should stick to a banana pepper instead.

Pizza

If you’re making pizza at home or ordering pizza from a local establishment, you’re likely to see banana peppers on the list of options. The banana peppers are often used as a tasty, tangy topping for pizza.

Pickled Peppers

When you want a pickled pepper, the pepperoncini wins out over the banana pepper. The thinner walls make it a better pickling pepper, and the tangy flavor works well in many pickling liquids.

Let’s take a look at the awesome process of pickling pepperoncini - your mouth will be watering by the end of the video!

While it is possible to buy pickled banana peppers, they don’t have as tangy of a pickle flavor as the pepperoncini.

Conclusion

There you have it - everything you need to know about pepperoncini vs banana peppers! These two very similar peppers have their own unique merits, and you should choose between them accordingly.

Still, they’re both delicious and have their own special place in my kitchen. If I can’t find one, I use the other, as the taste isn’t different enough to matter. Don’t stress out if you can’t find one of the other - just make a substitution!

Do you like banana peppers and pepperoncini? Let me know in the comments below!

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Sophia Gardner
 

I'm Sophia, food blogger, dog lover, homemade cooking and travel passion. I really hope you enjoy my blog, i'll do my best to share great recipes, healthy living tips and just general 'food' thoughts!

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