Chili Peppers: Tips & Recipes to Choose & Cook (cont.)

Availability, Selection, and Storage

Chili peppers are available year round and in the United States they are grown in California, New Mexico and Texas. When selecting chilies, look for firm, glossy chilies with taut, unwrinkled skin and fresh green stems. Dried hot peppers should be glossy yet unbroken.

Chilies should be stored unwashed and wrapped in paper towels in the refrigerator for up to three weeks. Dried chilies should be stored in airtight containers at room temperature for a maximum of four months. To keep dried chilies for more than four months, store them in the refrigerator.


It is very important not to touch your nose, eyes or mouth after handling or eating hot peppers. If you do, flush with water immediately. The capsaicin in the peppers can be extremely painful to your eyes and can even burn or irritate your skin (especially if you have cuts on your hands).

If possible, wear thin rubber gloves while preparing chili peppers. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water when done working with chilies. If the bite is too strong when you eat a chili, chew on bread or another starchy food; water only makes the bite worse as it spreads it. To decrease the heat intensity of chilies, wash them, cut them open and remove the seeds and veins. Also, soaking cut up chilies in salt water for at least an hour will help cool them off.

To add a mild pepper flavor to your dish, poke holes in the chili of your choice with a toothpick (or cut slits in it) and add it to a food that is already cooking. When cooking is complete, remove the chili from the dish.

Chilies can also be roasted whole over a gas stove, broiler, or on a grill. Use a cooking fork to hold each pepper over flame. Turn frequently until the chili's skin is blackened. After cooking is complete, place chilies in a paper or plastic bag for 15 minutes. Scrape off skin, cut off stem and pull out core. Scrape any remaining seeds.

Preparing Dried Hot Peppers

Use a damp cloth to wipe peppers. Grind chilies in a food processor for use as chili powder. To soften their texture and make their flavor more mild, soak chili peppers in water prior to using.

Make Chili Peppers Part of Your 5 A Day Plan

  • Cut up and add to pizza as a topping!
  • Dice and add to your favorite salsa recipe or any store bought salsa.
  • Chop finely and add to salads.
  • Serve as a garnish next to a meal and eat the garnish!
  • Add to stews and soups for a stronger flavor.
  • Sprinkle chopped hot peppers into meat loaf, tomato sauce or macaroni and cheese.
  • Cook in corn bread for a zesty jalape?o corn bread.

Chili Pepper Recipes

Roasted Pepper & Banana Relish

Each serving equals two 5 A Day servings
Source: Wegmans

1 medium (about 1/2 lb) green pepper
4 bananas, diced fine (about 2 cups)
1/2 Tbsp mint leaves, chopped fine
3 Tbsp lime juice (about 2 limes)
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded, diced fine (wear gloves)
1 medium (about 1/2 lb) red sweet pepper, cored, seeded, diced fine

  • Preheat grill on HIGH 10 for minutes.
  • Clean grill with wire brush; using soft cloth, coat grill lightly with vegetable oil.
  • Grill whole green pepper to char all sides, about 15 minutes. Remove from grill; place in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rest 5 minutes. Remove from bowl; peel, core, seed, and dice.
  • Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Relish can be served with hot dogs, grilled fish and meats and many other dishes!

Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 116, Protein 2g, Fat 4g, Calories From Fat 30%, Cholesterol 0mg, Carbohydrates 21g, Fiber 2g, Sodium 10mg.

Salsa Fresca

Each serving equals one 5 A Day servings
Source: Wegmans

2 lbs extra lean ground beef
1 lb hot lean Italian sausage
11/2 cups onion (diced large)
11/2 cups green pepper (diced large)
1 cup celery (diced large)
1 Tbsp jalapeno pepper (minced)
2 Tbsp garlic (minced)
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp dried oregano
1 tsp cayenne pepper
6 ozs low sodium tomato paste
4 cups salt-free beef stock
3 cups fresh tomatoes (diced large)
15 ozs low sodium tomato sauce
2 cups zucchini (diced large)
2 cups yellow squash (diced large)
1 1/2 cups low sodium dark red kidney beans (canned)
1 1/2 cups low sodium black beans (canned)
salt and black pepper to taste

  • This meal can be cooked in a crock pot (add all ingredients and cook for on low for 1 hour or longer).
  • Brown ground beef and sausage in a large pot, remove grease and add onions, peppers, celery, jalapeno, and garlic. Saute over a medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add dry spices and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes.
  • Add tomato paste, beef stock, tomato sauce, and fresh tomatoes and simmer on low heat for 1 hour, stirring frequently.
  • Add beans, zucchini and squash and cook for 20 more minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Makes 2 servings.

Nutritional analysis per serving: Calories 396, Protein 43g, Fat 12g, Calories From Fat 27%, Cholesterol 94mg, Carbohydrates 34g, Fiber 10g, Sodium 400mg.

Matbucha (Cooked Red Pepper and Tomato Salad)

Each serving equals two 5 A Day servings

2 red peppers
2 soft cooking tomatoes
2 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp sweet paprika
3 tsp crushed garlic
1/4 tsp salt
3 small dried chili peppers
1 cup cooked white rice

  • Place peppers on an open flame. Turn the peppers until they become blackened and are burned on all sides. Place peppers in a plastic bag and let cool.
  • Place tomatoes in a deep bowl and pour boiling water over them. After a few minutes remove tomatoes from water and peel them. Cut tomatoes in half and squeeze out the juice (which you can save for pasta sauce or discard). Chop the tomatoes into large pieces. Place oil and chopped tomatoes in a large pot.
  • Place blackened peppers under running water and peel them. Cut the peppers into thin strips. Add peppers to the pot with the tomatoes. Add the spices and chopped garlic. Cook on high heat until the mixture begins to stick to the pot. Reduce the heat and cook for about half an hour until hardly any liquid is left in the pot. Serve over rice.

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