The tabasco pepper (Capsicum frutescens) is a chili pepper that is moist or juicy on the inside unlike other chili peppers. Usually about 1 ½ inches long it has an oblong narrow shape. These peppers are mostly grown in the Gulf coastal states in the United States having originally been brought to the region from Tabasco, Mexico. When ripe they have a bright red color.
Chili peppers contain a compound named capsaicin that resides mostly in the seeds and membranes. The amount of capsaicin in the pepper determines how hot it will be.
The hot in tabasco peppers is measured using the Scoville Organoleptic Test which produces an answer in Scoville Units. Chili peppers can range from 0 units (not hot) to 300,000 (extremely hot). Most tabasco peppers used in cooking rate 30,000 to 80,000 Scoville Units making them medium hot.
Of course Tabasco peppers are famous for being used to make the popular Tabasco sauce.
Choosing the Best
The best tabasco peppers will have a smooth skin and a bright red color. They will look fresh and crisp. Older peppers will look wrinkled and dry and possible have spots and other blemishes.
It should be mentioned that you can buy bottled whole tabasco peppers in vinegar at the grocery store.
When preparing the peppers for storage or cooking you should wear rubber gloves. The capsaicin in the pepper’s juice can burn your skin. You should also be very careful to not rub your eyes while handling the peppers.
Tabasco peppers can be stored in a variety of ways. If you bought fresh peppers and plan on using them soon, you can store the peppers whole in a paper bag in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Wash them first under cool water and pat dry before placing in the crisper.
Some people will wash and dry the peppers and then store them between paper towels.
Fresh, dried or roasted tabasco peppers can also be frozen for later use. They can be frozen whole after washing, or you can go ahead and freeze them sliced or chopped. They can be frozen for approximately 6 months.
- Put on latex gloves while handling
- Wash the peppers
- Gently remove excess moisture
- Cut off stems
- Core if desired (unless you want to keep the membranes and seeds intact for hotness)
- Leave whole or slice into strips
- Freeze in a plastic baggie.
If you decide to freeze your tabascos, just be aware that they will be soggy once thawed out. There is no loss of nutrition or flavor and are ideal for adding to recipes. Most of the spicy hot in a tabasco pepper is found in the seeds and membranes (core). These can be removed to significantly lower the pepper’s hotness.
Preparing and Cooking
If you stored your peppers in the freezer, you can remove the amount you need and leave the rest in the freezer.
If the peppers were stored whole in the refrigerator, then you will need to cut the stems and core before slicing or chopping. It’s important to cut tabasco peppers carefully so the juice does not squirt into your face or on your skin.
Tabasco peppers are quite versatile. They are used in the following ways:
- Chili pots
- Added to sauces
- Added to soups
- Roasted peppers for salads and sandwiches
Tabasco peppers may be small but they have plenty of nutrition.
Tabasco peppers are high in Vitamin A, C and folate. All of these vitamins are important for cardiovascular health. Other nutrients benefiting the heart and circulatory system include high amounts of phosphorous, magnesium and potassium. Chili peppers also contain iron. In addition, there is a significant amounts of fiber in tabasco peppers to aid digestion and reduce cholesterol.
Tabasco peppers can add plenty of spicy hot flavor to your foods while also adding good nutrition. Tabasco lovers will tell you that’s all part of the fun!