Roasting peppers is one of those kitchen skills that seems daunting until you've done it a couple of times, but takes hardly any practice before it becomes second nature. Jarred or canned roasted peppers are perfectly fine, and have gotten me through many a winter. But nothing matches freshly roasted sweet peppers in a bright summer salad, or smoky+spicy roasted Hatch chiles in a batch of guacamole.
Many chefs consider roasting peppers over a gas flame or under the broiler a basic skill in the kitchen. Searing a pepper until the skin is charred develops the flavor of the pepper’s flesh, caramelizes some of the sugars to concentrate their sweetness, and adds a touch of smokiness. It’s a flavor profile that is unique, delicious, and useful in a variety of cuisines and dishes.
Baking or grilling peppers can accomplish this to a certain degree, but not in the concentrated way that flame roasting does. Roasted bell peppers add a sweet, smoky, tangy element to recipes that can be hard to get any other way. Roasting spicy peppers boosts their distinctive chile flavor, which might otherwise be overwhelmed by the pepper’s heat.
My favorite peppers to roast this way are field-grown sweet bell peppers and Hatch chiles. Hothouse-grown peppers are easier to find, but they have thicker walls of flesh that sometimes don't get cooked enough to achieve the flavor I want. They absolutely will work, though they may need to be cooked a bit longer to achieve the same result.
Pepper roasting basics
It takes about 25-35 minutes to roast peppers, depending on how many you are cooking and what technique you use. The result is well worth the effort! Here is a quick overview of the steps involved:
Step 1: Cook the peppers so that the skin gets black and charred and begins to pull away from the flesh.
This can be done by cooking a whole pepper over the flame of a gas burner or grill. It can also be accomplished under your oven broiler with peppers that have been stemmed, seeded, and halved.
Step 2: Place the charred peppers in a plastic Ziploc bag or a covered heatproof bowl and allow them to sweat for 15-20 minutes.
This softens the skin of the pepper and allows the residual heat from roasting to gently finish cooking the flesh.
Step 3: If your peppers are whole, cut them in half. Use your fingers to gently remove the skins from the flesh of the peppers, as well as any remaining stems, seeds, and membranes.
You are then left with just the sweet, smoky flesh of your roasted peppers or chiles. That's it! You're all done.
Important safety note!
- Always use gloves when working with spicy peppers. This is especially important when you are handling the seeds and/or membranes inside the chiles.
- Do not touch your face or rub your eyes while working with hot chiles, even whole ones.
- Medium or hot chile peppers can release capsaicin into the air while cooking (capsaicin is the chemical that gives peppers their heat). This can bother your eyes or lungs if you are sensitive. I open my kitchen window and turn on the fan on my stove when I'm roasting spicy peppers.
Storing roasted sweet or spicy peppers
While I typically roast peppers as I need them, there are some times of year–such as Hatch chile season–when I want to save them to use later. Roasted peppers can be pressure canned, but I refrigerate or freeze them.
Refrigerating roasted peppers: 1-2 weeks
- Roasted peppers or chiles will store easily in a sealed container in your refrigerator for up to a week. To make them last two weeks, coat them with extra virgin olive oil.
- As with any refrigerated food, throw them away if there is any sign of spoilage, such as an unpleasant smell or mold.
Freezing roasted peppers: up to 3 months
- I freeze individual peppers in large ice cube trays with a little olive oil. Once frozen solid, transfer them to a silicone freezer bag or other airtight plastic container. They will last three months in the freezer.
- You can also lay bell peppers flat on a baking sheet and freeze them, then transfer them to a Ziploc freezer bag. Be sure to move them to the freezer container as soon as they are frozen to avoid freezer burn, and make sure to press out all of the air before returning the bag to the freezer.
- Your peppers won't spoil in the freezer, but the flavor and texture will begin to deteriorate after about 3 months. Be sure to label the container with the date!
FAQ: Roasting peppers or chiles
It’s perfectly safe, as long as you pay attention to your pepper while it’s cooking. You might see little bits of skin or stem create a momentary bit of flame, but there should be enough moisture in a fresh pepper to prevent it from actually catching fire. That said, it's common sense to not turn your back on your pepper while it's roasting, just in case.
If your broiler is not up to the job, roast halved peppers, skin side up, in a 450° F oven until they’re a little blistered and starting to soften (8-12 minutes, depending on size). If the skins aren't sufficiently cooked, finish them off with 2-4 minutes in a very hot skillet, skin side down.
You can also grill your peppers on high over gas or charcoal until the skin is blistered and the pepper is soft. If your grill grate is adjustable, set it as close to the flame as you can. Grilling works really well for Hatch chiles in particular.
Charred pepper skins can taste burned as opposed to smoky. This might add a bitter flavor to your peppers, so you’ll want to get as much of the skin off as you can. Little flecks of skin here and there are fine. It’s actually not that hard to get almost all of the skin off; I sometimes use the back edge of a knife to scrape the skins off the peppers and it works like a charm.
How to use roasted peppers
Let me count the ways! There are so many amazing recipes from all over the world using roasted peppers. You can add them to salads, use them on sandwiches, blend them into dips or soups, and use them in salsas and sauces. They are also amazing marinated or pickled. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that use roasted peppers:
Peppery arugula and salty feta are the perfect flavor companions for roasted peppers in this easy and delicious side salad.
Quite possibly the perfect guac! Roasted Hatch chiles add flavor and a touch of heat, while blistered corn adds extra smokiness plus a nice sweet crunch.
Here are a few of my favorite roasted pepper recipes from around the web:
- Muhammara by Yotam Ottolenghi - A delicious sweet and spicy spread made of roasted peppers and walnuts. YUM!
- Romesco sauce by Pinch of Yum - Delicious and simple, this sauce goes on everything! It is perfection on grilled cauliflower.
- Roasted Hatch chile salsa from Adriana's Best Recipes - Adriana is a Latina food writer who really knows her salsa. I'm a big fan!
I love hearing from you!
I'd love to know how your roasted peppers turned out and what you did with them! And if you have any questions about how to roast peppers after reading this post or giving it a try, I am here to help. You can add your question in the comments below or send me an email at email@example.com.
Roasted Sweet or Hot Peppers
- Gas range or oven broiler
- Fresh sweet bell peppers or chile peppers
- Extra virgin olive oil (for refrigeration or freezing) See notes for substitutions
Gas stovetop-roasted peppers
- (Optional) Cover the area under your burner with foil.
- Replace the burner grate and turn the burner on medium-high.
- Use tongs to place a pepper directly on the burner grate so that the tips of the flame make contact with the pepper. Allow to cook until the spots in contact with the flame have charred.
- Turn the pepper several times so that the entire surface spends time in contact with the flame and becomes black and blistered.
- Once the pepper has softened and the entire outside is charred (8-10 minutes), remove it to a bowl and cover with a lid, an inverted plate, or plastic wrap. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to sweat before proceeding.
- Use your hands to remove and discard the tops, seeds, membranes and skins from the flesh of your peppers.
Oven broiler-roasted peppers
- Move the top rack in your oven to the highest position and turn on the broiler to high.
- Wearing gloves, cut the tops off of your peppers (if desired) and cut them lengthwise in half. Remove the seeds and membranes of chile peppers if you prefer a mild roasted pepper.
- Place the pepper halves flesh-side down on a metal baking sheet lined with foil. Position the peppers so they will be in close proximity to the flame of your gas broiler or the element of your electric broiler.
- Broil your peppers for 10-15 minutes, checking every 3-4 minutes and moving the pan around to ensure all of the peppers get time in close proximity to the broiler. I sometimes also have to move the peppers around on the pan with a pair of tongs.
- When the chiles are soft and the skin is charred all over, remove them to a bowl and cover with a lid, an inverted plate, or plastic wrap. Let sit for 10-15 minutes to sweat before proceeding.
- Peel off and discard the charred skin from the flesh of your peppers.
Roasted pepper storage: Refrigerator
- Add your peppers to a jar or a container with an airtight lid and store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
- To make your peppers last up to two weeks, add 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil to the container.
Roasted pepper storage: Freezer
- If desired, cut your roasted peppers into strips. Chiles can be diced or left whole.
- Fold peppers or chiles into the compartments of an ice cube tray.
- Add extra virgin olive oil to cover the peppers or chiles, and cover your ice cube tray with a lid or plastic wrap.
- Place the ice cube trays in your freezer for 12-24 hours.
- Once the peppers and oil are frozen, pop them out of the ice cube trays and store them in a Ziploc bag or a silicone freezer storage bag. Be sure to add a label with the date!
- Frozen peppers will defrost overnight in the refrigerator, or within an hour or so on your kitchen counter. Only defrost on the counter if you plan to use your peppers right away.
- To defrost peppers in 10-15 minutes, place them in a small Ziploc bag, press out the air and seal, then place the bag in a bowl of warm water.