Chili Piquin, from Mexico
Pequin Chilli / Chili Pequin / Chiltepe / Chile Del Monte
Also Known as: (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum)
Hailing from the Mexican state of Tabasco, where it's widely used to make salsa and to add some kick to many local dishes, this tiny Mexican chilli is renowned for giving dishes a fiery, spicy, flavour.
Pequin chilis are quite compact (they rarely exceed 2 cm in length). But don't be fooled by their small size, these chillies are quite strong and can reach 50,000 Scoville Heat Units on average - making them 6x hotter than jalapeños and just a bit less spicy than Birdeye or Habanero.
What Do They Taste Like?
Chili Piquin has a citrusy aroma and a bitter, nutty (almost chocolaty) note. Like most chilies, the berries start out green, ripening to a brilliant red at maturity.
How Are They Used?
From fruits and raw vegetables to chicharrones (fried pork belly), Mexicans love sprinkling Chili Piquin (oftentimes with some lime juice) on a wide range of snacks in a way that hasn't quite caught on elsewhere.
But these Chillis - and the popular Mexican hot sauce brands like Cholula that they power - are a global favorite and often used as a condiment for eggs and pizza.
Chefs like to use Chili Pequin to add depth and some nice heat to beans, sauces, soups, stews, and red meat marinades. An increasing number of pubs have also discovered how well chili pequin's unique nutty flavour complements the taste of hops.
Locally grown piquin chillis are highly valued in Mexico, often costing more than 10 times the price of other peppers, but their cultivation is limited due to low seed germination (15% average germination rate).
Piquin chillies are a good source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as beta-carotene and potassium. The small chillis also contain large amounts of iron, magnesium, and capsaicin, which is a chemical compound that is responsible for their fiery heat and has demonstrated benefits as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
To release the chilli's flavour, roast them briefly in a hot pan. If you roast your chili piquin and then rehydrate it, you can prepare a piquant chili paste with a deliciously spicy taste (you may taste a nice hint of roasted peanuts as well).
Common uses include pickling, salsas, sauces, soups, and vinegars. Many popular Mexican hot sauces (such as Cholula) also list Chili Piquin among its main ingredients.