A staple in the Philadelphia area, Italian long hot peppers are very popular as a topping in hoagies or roasted and served alone with bread. They are also stuffed and served as an appetizer. Delicious!
What exactly are these peppers?
Italian long hot peppers are very popular in the Philadelphia area and are widely available at many produce and grocery stores. That said, it appears that they are much more difficult, if not impossible, to find outside of the area.
Reading: how to make fried hot peppers
Know simply as “Italian long hots”, I had often wondered if the Italian long hot peppers were referred to by another name. The answer is debatable (see Substitutions below)…
Italian long hot peppers belong to the Capsicum annuum species, which is one of five major Capsicum species, and are considered to be a hybrid pepper. A hybrid pepper is one that develops when two self pollinating varieties are intentionally crossed.
Growing Italian long hots is super easy! They don’t require a lot of water, just plenty of sunshine. I bought two plants this year and they yielded about 2 dozen peppers each.
The Italian Long Hot Pepper is about 6 to 9 inches in length, thick walled, and the heat (ie, measured by Scoville heat unit [SHU]) varies greatly from pepper to pepper.
In fact, one of the hallmarks of the Italian long hots is that they vary greatly heat-wise from pepper to pepper. Consequently, they have been know as the “Russian roulette” of peppers because you never know how mild or spicy each pepper will be.
Many sites now list the Scoville heat index of Italian long hots from 100 to 1000. However, I have found some of the spicier long hots can be as spicy as a jalapeno pepper, which is rated as up to 8000 SHU. A much more accurate description of the Italian long hots heat index, according to one Philadelphia chef, is somewhere between a Poblano pepper (1000 to 1500 SHU) and a Jalapeno (2500 to 8000 SHU).
Other sources have rated the Scoville of an Italian long hot from 1000 to 50,000 SHU. In short, these peppers vary substantially in heat.
It has been postulated that the wide variability of range of heat associated with Italian long hot peppers may be one of the reasons that this pepper is not widely produced/available in the USA (because production plants need to be consistent).
To me, part of the allure of Italian long hots, as crazy as it might sound, is you never know what you are getting from the standpoint of heat. It’s like a surprise in every bite!
To get a better idea of heat index, see the Scoville heat unit scale shown below for selected varieties of peppers (Italian long hots not shown).
Although there are no direct substitutes for the Italian long hot peppers, consider the following varieties of Capsicum annuum species:
- Anaheim peppers (500 to 2500 SHU)
- Banana peppers (0 to 500 SHU)
- Cowhorn peppers (2500 to 5000 SHU) (sold by Bonnie Plants and said to taste very similar but they are not exactly same)
- Cubanelle peppers (1 to 1000 SHU)
- Friggitelli (peperoncini NOT peperoncino) (100 to 500 SHU)
- Mesilla peppers (2000 to 4000) (some say this hybrid pepper is the same pepper as the Italian long hot; they are probably different)
- Poblano peppers (1000 to 2000 SHU)
- Portuguese long hot peppers (5000 to 30000 SHU) (some claim this is the same as an Italian long hot; they are probably different)
Overview of cooking
Most people cook Italian long hots directly on the stove in a pan with a little olive oil and salt. Or, you can roast them in the oven with olive oil and salt for about 15 to 20 minutes (450 degrees). Pretty simple.
How to serve
These peppers are not typically skinned or seeded when roasted whole. Some serving suggestions include:
- Serve alone with bread (+/- provolone cheese)
- Top Italian hoagie, cheesesteak, roast beef, or Italian roast pork sandwiches.
- Chop and add to pasta sauce, pizza, or even over fried calamari
- Add to scrambled eggs and serve on a hoagie roll.
- Stuff with sausage and cheese and serve as an appetizer
Where to buy
These peppers are widely available in the Philadelphia area.
If you are having trouble finding them (ie, you do not live in the Philly area), consider purchasing the Italian long hot seeds online.
You can also buy the peppers already cooked/jarred. Please see Mancini Italian long hots from Amazon or gourmet Italian groceries online.
More appetizer ideas…
- Fried Calamari
- Roasted Red Peppers
- Caprese Salad Bites
- Black Bean Salad