What To Look For When Buying Peppers For Roasting

Roasted peppers can elevate a good dish to a great one, lending their distinct smoky char and sweetness to everything from Spanish pasta with homemade romesco sauce to second-helping-worthy steak fajitas. But this works only if you know how to choose the best peppers for optimal results.

When buying peppers for roasting, first pick a type of pepper best suited to what you're making. This step is all about the pepper's flavor profile and heat level. Sweet red bell peppers are hard to beat here. Suitable for roasting either whole or sliced, their robust flavor is perfect for roasted red pepper hummus, pizza sauce, or sausage hoagies covered with peppers and onions. Try orange and yellow bell peppers for a more subtle sweetness. Green bell peppers are less sweet, with a sharper bite.

If you'd like a spicy zip without too much heat, poblano peppers are the go-to choice. These large, dark green Mexican chili peppers work well for steak fajitas. They also come in a red variety that packs a bit more kick than their green counterpart. On the Scoville scale, poblanos register between 1,000 – 2,000 Scoville heat units (SCU). For a potentially spicier variant, the longer, thinner Anaheim pepper (500 – 2,500 SCU) has a similar flavor profile. Or you can always just stop playing around and go straight to the decidedly hotter jalapeño at 2,500 – 8,000 SCU. 

Signs of a good roasting pepper

Peppers are late summer fruit, though they are available in grocery stores year-round. If they're in season, farmer's markets often offer the absolute best in terms of ripeness and taste — plus local farmers appreciate the support.

When purchasing peppers for roasting, first examine them closely. The best peppers are firm to the touch with a thick outer layer that is devoid of soft spots, wrinkling, or mold. Each pepper should have a decent weight considering its size — a tell-tale sign of freshness. The color should be deep, even, and vibrant with a glossy sheen. A uniform shape and size will ensure even cooking. Finally, pick the smoothest ones, which can help make peeling effortless.

Roasting peppers at home often yields more flavorful results than store-bought jarred ones. They're also easy to make, whether you're grilling them in the backyard or just using the broil feature of your oven. Roasted peppers work beautifully all on their own as a simple appetizer and can be jarred or frozen for later use. As long as you know what to look for and take care in the choosing, it's hard to go wrong with a roasted pepper