Despite not being native to Asia, Africa, Europe or Australia, chile peppers can now be found in cuisines all over the world.1 With tens of thousands of cultivars found globally, the range of spice levels, flavor profiles and colors is truly extraordinary. And while extreme heat is often a hallmark of menu items featuring chile peppers, it’s not the whole story. The latest wave of pepper proliferation demonstrates that “bold” does not necessarily mean “spicy”—and your taste buds are better off for it!
New hybrids and pepper varieties are taking the Scoville scale to extremes…but probably not in the direction you’re accustomed to. For example, the game-changing habanada pepper delivers the color, crisp texture and fruity flavor of a habanero, without any heat. Chefs are serving these versatile peppers freshly sliced or coaxing even more flavor out by roasting, searing or pickling.2 A look at the fastest-growing peppers on restaurant menus reveals earthy, fruity, mild and even chocolatey Middle Eastern and Mediterranean varieties, such as Aleppo peppers, Calabrian chiles and dried Urfa peppers.3
Frequently found on the rims of margarita glasses, the popular seasoning known as Tajín has sparked a flurry of chile-lime innovation across menus—demonstrating the appeal of flavor combinations like sweet-and-hot or spicy-and-sour. Salad dressing, dry rubs and coleslaw, have all been enlivened by this particular seasoning blend. The mangonada, a popular Mexican street beverage made with mango, lime, chamoy and Tajín,4 can even be found on a top national ice cream chain menu.
Chicken wings are a tried and true carrier for chile-based sauces and glazes, and we continue to see flavor innovation beyond the classic Buffalo and “fire” profiles. For example, a ghost kitchen in Chicago offers jumbo grilled wings with such flavors as “Spark It Up” (guajillo aioli and pickled Fresno peppers) and Peruvian aji panca with smoky chili citrus glaze.5
Today’s consumers are ready to explore the nuanced, complex flavors of global chile peppers. Whether dried and ground into a condiment, dusted over an appetizer, pickled as a burger topping or infused into broth—smoky, sweet, nutty or tart chiles give menu items a memorable punch of flavor.
Chiles: Flavor, Not Fire
WOODFIRE GRILLED SWORDFISH WITH SUN-DRIED TOMATO AND CALABRIAN CHILE PESTO
of American consumers are interested in spicy and sweet flavor combinations, such as honey-sriracha and mango-habanero.6
growth of Italian Calabrian chile peppers on US menus over the last 4 years.7
growth of Tajín (chile-lime salted seasoning) on US menus since 2017.8
growth of Turkish Urfa peppers on US menus over the past four years.9
#Scoville may only have 65,000 tagged photos on Instagram, but what it lacks in quantity it makes up for in a tightly curated presentation of colorful heirloom chile peppers, many of which are cultivated by home gardeners and chefs. Check out #pepperloverscommunity and #growinghotpeppers for even more passionate culinarians showcasing the complex flavor profiles of chiles.10
Our parent company Griffith Foods sources more Indian chiles than any other spice or herb. We recently conducted a multi-year study to identify opportunities for reducing the climate impact of our chile supply chain, from reducing emissions to increasing soil carbon sequestration. As part of our larger sustainable sourcing program, Griffith Foods Sustainably Sourced (GSS), we are actively working with growers to continuously implement agricultural practices that improve the wellbeing of farmers, increase crop yields and enable farm-to-table traceability. To learn more, click here to access our 2020 Sustainability Report.
1Francis Lam, “How chili peppers conquered the world (or at least most of it),” Splendid Table, July 11, 2018.
2Rob Corliss, “10 Flavor Upgrades: Far Out Flavors,” Flavor & The Menu, September 14, 2020.
3,7,8Datassential MenuTrends, U.S. menu penetration growth 2017-2021.
4Ximena Larkin, “Why Mangonada Is the Best Summer Snack, Period,” Food & Wine, July 17, 2018.
5“Good Eats Group Opens Ghost Kitchen Charred Wing Bar in Chicago,” QSR, February 4, 2021.
6Jennifer Grebow, “2021 Flavor Trends for Food and Beverage,” Nutritional Outlook, January 6, 2021.
9Instagram, #scoville accessed August 17, 2021.