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)

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