Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers

There are many things in this world worth pickling–cucumbers, carrots, pig’s feet (if you happen to have a few lying around)–but my favorite thing to pickle? It’s peppers, just like that tongue-twister about Peter Piper. (How do you pick a peck of pickled peppers, anyway? If they’re pickled, aren’t they in jars? I guess you can pick from jars. I wonder if he had tongs?) This is a recipe I learned from Brandon Pettit (aka Mr. Orangette) while writing my cookbook. It’s hidden in a sidebar, next to a pizza recipe, but it remains one of my favorite recipes that I learned how to make writing the book.

What’s so good about it? You have these spicy peppers, see, preferably pretty ones from the farmer’s market (though that’s not essential) and you transform them with a little vinegar, a little sugar and a little salt. They’re still spicy, yes, but now they’re approachably spicy. Like a friendly drag queen.

Here’s a table of peppers from my trip to the Atwater Village Farmer’s market last Sunday:


See the peppers on the upper left? I packed up a bag of green, red and orange ones. When I got home, I washed a jar very well with soap and water and set up a cutting board and my newly sharpened knife. Note: it would’ve been smart to wear gloves at this juncture, but more on that in a moment. I rinsed my peppers under cold water and patted them dry:


Then, while listening to Stephen Sondheim’s “Company,” I cut the tops off the peppers and seeded them. Then I sliced them into rings and packed them into the jar, making layers of different colors.


Pretty, right?

That’s really all there is too it. Then you boil a mixture of white wine vinegar, sugar, garlic and salt and pour it over the peppers.


Put the lid on and that’s pretty much it: you have a jar of sweet and spicy pickled peppers.


Note: this isn’t shelf stable (you’d have to process it in boiling water for that to be the case) but you can keep this in your refrigerator for several weeks. I love serving the peppers with chicken, meat, on burgers, in sandwiches, and chopped up in scrambled eggs. Or chop them up and stir them with some of the liquid into mayo and you have a killer spread. The possibilities are endless.

Only, if you don’t wear gloves? Your hands might burn for a while afterwards. But the pulsing sensation in your hands as you go to sleep will remind you of the beautiful jar of pickled peppers you have in your fridge. Consider that a good thing.

Recipe: Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers

Summary: As taught to me by Brandon Pettit.


  • 1 pound assorted chiles (red Fresnos or red jalapeƱos work great)
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced (I left these out this time around, but they’re a nice addition)
  • 2 cups white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons water
  • 2 sliced garlic cloves
  • Big pinch of salt


  1. Wash and dry a jar with soap and water. Pat dry and set aside.
  2. Carefully (gloves are recommended) stem and seed the chiles. Slice them into 1/4-inch rounds and pack them into the jar.
  3. Bring the white wine vinegar to a boil with the sugar, water, garlic and salt. Pour the boiling vinegar over the chiles and cover with the jar lid. Allow to cool to room temperature and store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to eat them (give them at least 24 hours to start absorbing the vinegar).

Preparation time: 30 minute(s)

Cooking time: 5 minute(s)

24 thoughts on “Sweet and Spicy Pickled Peppers”

  1. we’d always do this growing up with the chiltepin peppers that grow wild on my parents place. The vinegar they’re soaking in make a great hot sauce.

  2. i learned to wear gloves when handling peppers when, later that night, i went to remove my contacts and basically mace’d myself. that’s fun. not.

    1. I’ve done that, too! Studpidly, I did it twice before I really learned my lesson. I mistakenly thought jalapenos wouldn’t be as dangerous as serranos – worst pain I’ve ever experienced. I was crouching on the floor and gasping for breath, and that was the morning AFTER when I needed to put my contacts in again. I had washed my hands, of course, but the spiciness remained. A painful lesson learned.

      1. I’ve done that as well! I’ve also made the terrible mistake of chopping peppers for a spicy chili and then taking a shower. There was burning. In places.

      2. Use lemon juice (or yogurt..basically anything with a high acidity) to wash your hands with. Just soap and water will not do it.

    1. Adam Amateur Gourmet

      Trust me, these are super spicy without the seeds. If you want extra spicy, keep the seeds in (though I hear it’s the rib, not the seeds, where the heat lies).

    1. J'Marinde Shephard

      I went to your site and I did not find any pickling info and a search yielded NOTHING!
      Advice on “finishing and keeping” your simple recipe please?

  3. I hear the mens people might want to be careful what they touch when getting ready for bed after seeding peppers … or it might be more than one’s hands that are tingling uncomfortably. Just being servicey here …

    1. And, men, leave your wife alone! I once transferred a whole jar of pickled jalapeƱos from one jar to another. It took a while so I had to go #1 by the time I finished. BIG mistake! Live and learn.

  4. Mrs. Meyers soap is an excellent remover of all things sting-y from the peppers. it cuts the oil that carries the heat like nobody’s business. experience. yeah.
    also–these look wonderful and i’ll be making them tomorrow!

  5. These looked so pretty that I made them this afternoon using some red non-spicy peppers and red onions that I bought yesterday. I used Japanese rice vinegar because that’s all I had, and I was too lazy to go to the store. I’ll report back after they’ve pickled awhile. Thanks, Adam!

  6. Interesting thing about burning hands. My doc says that the burning ingredient, capsaicin, is actually good for arthritic hands.

  7. Charles Holewinski

    If you happen to forget using rubber gloves while handling hot peppers you can remove the material which causes the heat, capsicum, merely by taking some cooking oil (doesn’t matter which one) and rub it all over the effected area. Soap and water will not remove the capsicum since it does not dissolve in water but it does dissolve in oil. After throughly rubbing the oil on the effected area then wash it off with soap and water. If the irritating feeling still exists repeat the oil treatment. It does work.

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