Culinary Russian Roulette: Pimientos de Padrón


Eating local is getting easier and more fun when local farmers are cultivating all sorts of interesting and delicious fruits and vegetables. I’ve said a few times before that even most ingredients for my Thai food are pretty easy to find locally. And recently I found something that got me all excited, Pimientos de Padrón, Padron peppers.

PadronesandsquidsThese little green pods are a staple at tapas bars in Spain, where they are simply cooked in lots and lots of olive oil over a slow heat until wrinkled and slightly brown, and served with a sprinkle of good salt. They are sweet, smoky, and delicious, with a light pang of heat. But that’s not really the point of eating them, really. The entire point of eating Pimientos de Padrón, for a lot of people, is the culinary russian roulette aspect of it. You see, one in about ten of these deliciously mild peppers is super hot. Reaching Out For Beer Screaming hot. And the trick of it is, you never know which one. There is no physical characteristic or forensic clue to tell you, in plain view, which one is spicy and which isn’t. You’ll just know it when you bite into it. And it will always catch you by surprise, always. You begin with a little tentative step, taking a mini bite from the tip of each one, to make sure it wouldn’t kill you before you eat the entire pod. And if you were me, before you knew it you’d be in the groove, eating a whole pod at a time in between bites of this and that, and perhaps a sip of beer or two. And that’s when it hit, when you least expected. Got me every time. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

In the Bay Area, Chris Cosentino, the chef at my new favorite restaurant, Incanto,
love them so much he brought seeds back from Europe for Andy and Julia
at Mariquita farm to cultivate. Chris was first to put them on his
menu, but now you could find them at plenty of restaurants locally.
Other farmers are growing them too, the people who sell sweet peppers
(I forgot the name of their farm!) at the front of the ferry plaza on
Saturday have them. Joe at Dirty Girl also harvests for his friend Geoff Palla at Meder St. Farm who
moved up to Napa. I’ve even seen them once or twice elsewhere. Next
time you see these peppers at the farmers market, try them. It will be
fun, that I can promise you.

Cooking the Padrón is really easy, you hardly need a recipe. This is what I do, take a small pan, or a beautiful spanish Cazuela, put it on a low heat, add enough olive oil to cover about half inch from the bottom, arrange the Padrón pods on the pan when the oil is cold still. Keep turning, don’t let the pods burn, until each pod is wrinkled and the clear skin seperates from the pod. Serve with a dusting of good salt. You can reuse the same oil to cook more peppers, like they do at tapas bars, or you could eat that smoky deliciousness with plenty of bread. Yum.

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28 Responses to “Culinary Russian Roulette: Pimientos de Padrón

  • NS said:
    August 26th, 2005 at 11:44am

    Thanks for the great tip. I believe that the farmer at the Ferry Building that you’re referencing is Happy Quail Farms out of East Palo Alto.

  • Barbara said:
    August 26th, 2005 at 1:12pm

    Mmm…those look and sound good.
    I wonder if I can get seeds to grow them next year. I will have to look into it. Thanks for the idea!

  • saomai said:
    August 26th, 2005 at 1:47pm

    Hey!!!! what a surprise!!!! Pimientos de Padrón, I´m from near Padron, in A Coruña, Spain, the original “pimientos de Padron”, it´s really funny read this post, great Pim!!!!
    a recomendation: the recipe, is better a frying-pan than a spanish Cazuela, because the “pimientos” need high heat, better than low heat, in a few minutes you have the pimientos done, be careful, burn it easyly.
    In Padron, there is a market, every sundays, you can buy the plant of this kind of pimiento, original and give a lot of pimientos in summer.
    Here, in Galicia, from may to august everyone eat “pimientos de padron” in the bars, is really really good. And we say about the pepper: “os pimientos de padrón uns pican e outros non”, and the antidote for the pepper is a beer, of course,… and bread, a lot of bread…

  • Brett said:
    August 26th, 2005 at 3:24pm

    Thanks for the tip that Mariquita also grow these peppers. I’ve only had the ones from Happy Quail Farms. I’ll have to stop by Andy’s stand tomorrow and see if they have any. They’re so much fun at parties, especially a backyard barbecue.

  • dexygus said:
    August 26th, 2005 at 3:34pm

    maybe i was there on an off night, but incanto really didn’t impress me at all. though i have to say that the olive tapenade that is served with the bread is heavenly.

  • Sam said:
    August 26th, 2005 at 5:49pm

    they are so ala mode this summer. I’ve written them up, Shuna wrote about them too, Jack Falstaff serves them exactly as you have described, crockery the same and all, Picco puts them on their special pizzas, and Happy Quail Farms is everyones’ favourites. long live the padron.

  • Shelli said:
    August 26th, 2005 at 9:10pm

    Browsing at the Ferry Building Saturday market a couple of weeks ago I was charmed to have the extraordinarily self-possessed young boy at the pepper stand recommend these pimientos and tell me how to cook them. Couldn’t resist either his charm or the adorable little peppers. I bought and fried them up that evening, doused them with fleur de sel, made a drink and thought myself very lucky.

  • Charlotte said:
    August 27th, 2005 at 6:36pm

    Seeds of Italy ( has Padron seeds — I have some growing in my garden up in Montana this summer. I have about three or four … it’ll be a tiny pan of pimentons de Padron …

  • Joy said:
    August 28th, 2005 at 8:45am

    Cesar is doing this same preparation — and doing it well. Delfina also serves them alongside their fresh stretched mozzerella with a tomato toast. I believe both restaurants are getting them from Happy Quail since they seem to be the only local place to get them. I, for one, love the roulette aspect. I feel like I’ve won a prize when I get a spicy one.

  • shuna fish lydon said:
    August 28th, 2005 at 11:56am

    Great to see you writing about them too! Incanto might be just behind Zarzuela though… I had them there just before summer began. I have introduced them to the chef at Evvia and he now serves them too. I love them so much I think I should start buying wholesale for my house, the 16th street restaurant.
    I brought them up here on my Portland trip and my half brother said there is a Japanese pepper that is very similar in size and style of preparation, I will report back on that if we can find some.
    A strange thought that I had worked as well– I eat them with black mission figs as a foil.

  • Pim said:
    August 29th, 2005 at 12:54am

    Hi everyone,
    Yes, the stall in the front of the market is Happy Quail, how could I forget. I’m glad everyone is so enamored by the Padrons, just like I have been.
    Saomai, That is funny that you are from right there. Thanks for the recommendation about high heat. I will give it a try next time.
    And thanks Charlotte for the source for seeds.
    Happy Spanish roulette everyone!

  • Pim said:
    August 29th, 2005 at 12:57am

    I wouldn’t be surprised if it was Zarzuela who got them first. He’s spanish after all. I am just happy they are everywhere. 🙂

  • J. said:
    August 29th, 2005 at 5:27pm

    how funny! we went to Manresa yesterday and guess what they served as part of the amuse-bouche? padron peppers cooked precisely the way you described. 🙂

  • johanna said:
    September 9th, 2005 at 3:23pm

    i make pardon peppers quite often, they’re great nibbles with an aperitif. however, i don’t drown them in oil, i just spray them with olive oil, throw them under the grill on a tray until they throw blisters and season them with fleur de sel. much kinder to the waistline, less messy and still utterly delicious. disappointed about the ratio though – here they say 1 in 30, but i hardly find any at all… maybe i ate too many habaneros when i lived in mexico 😉

  • nikki said:
    September 12th, 2005 at 12:09pm

    Next time you are in london you should try the pimientos de padron at moro absolute russian roulete! the vanilla pashmak is always worth a shot as well.

  • Pim said:
    September 12th, 2005 at 11:52pm

    J: What coincidence! 😉
    Johanna: Perhaps I’ll try your low fat style, but my way gives you plenty of smoky oil to dip your bread, surely a good thing, no? 🙂
    nikki: I tried! Couldn’t get into Moro in such a short notice last time I was in town, not with the group of 6 I was with. Too bad.

  • shelley said:
    October 5th, 2005 at 4:04pm

    Hello – for those of you who are not aware, you can now buy Pimientos de Padron direct from the only producer in the UK –

  • Jon said:
    November 2nd, 2005 at 7:20am website does not respond. Does anyone know wehere these can be purchased in the UK (outside London!)

  • Tito Estrada said:
    November 6th, 2005 at 4:34pm

    I had the Pimientos de Padrón for the first time this last summer in A Coruña… Believe me, they are adictive !!! I even brought some of them uncooked and I have started some seedlings to start growing them this Spring. I don’t knoe though, how many plants I have to plant to get a decent crop.. If anybody has details as to how to grow them, please write.

  • Shelley said:
    November 7th, 2005 at 10:42am

    We, ukpeppers, are still thriving in North East Hampshire UK and are just coming to the end of the Pimientos de Padron season.
    Anyone who wishes to be kept informed about the 2006 crop, please visit our website and our contact details can be found there – all emails will be responded to within 48 hours.
    Thank you to everyone who has supported us in 2005 – we will be back with a bigger crop in 2006 to meet the demands of the UK market!

  • Corinna Dunne said:
    November 8th, 2005 at 7:54am

    I first tried pimientos de Padrons 3 years ago and adore them. They are not available in Ireland, so I only get them when kind friends bring them back from Spain or the few times I visit. Has anyone tried growing them inside?

  • Denis Perol said:
    April 15th, 2006 at 10:32am

    hi there. i am actually from padron, my family originates from ther. they have a 100yr old farmhouse next to the monestary in “Herbon” the small village cotained in padron. all my aunties an uncles produce these pimietos.
    there is also an anual “fiesta” to celebrate the pemiento. people come from all around ,even the tv crews. “festa do pemento” i have been to more than 10.
    these pimientos are top draw. i love em ..try . dont get mugged off by imitations..only pimientos de pardon will do

  • sftom said:
    October 26th, 2006 at 1:44pm

    Discovered these peppers at Market Hall Produce (Rockridge/Oakland,CA). They buy them from Happy Quail Farms in E. Palo Alto. We have been eating them for the past few months but couldn’t quite get the right recipe. I think we were using too high a heat, will try the low heat approach next fall when they are back in season. Cesar’s serves up a very good dish of pimientos!

  • Pille said:
    July 11th, 2007 at 12:48am

    We had them in London recently, where the vendors (Brindisa at the Borough market) told us that one in 30 is super-hot. I shared must have eaten 50 over the the next few days (we had one at Johanna’s place and bought a packet to take along, too) but I never got ‘lucky’. Must try again 🙂

  • Lovica said:
    September 1st, 2008 at 2:36pm

    I have had these at Cesar, and they are wonderful. This inspired me to grow some of my own. This summer, I grew two plants of padrons in my back yard, and had a good sized crop. My only problem is that it seems all of them are very hot.
    When I cook them on high heat, they are unbearably hot. I have not yet tried the low heat method – hopefully I’ll get a few more before the season ends so I can try that. Also, I’m not sure if they keep getting hotter as they get bigger. I have some that got really big (almost 4 inches) and I’m not sure if I should even try cooking those. I did roast one, which mellows out the heat, but I prefer the preparation with the oil and salt.

  • Kelli said:
    September 6th, 2008 at 4:50pm

    Does anyone know where I can find pimientos de padron in the LA area? Since going to Spain for the first time in May I have been craving them.

  • Ryan G said:
    October 23rd, 2008 at 10:31am

    Mmmmm, fried pimientos with salt. Great with a cold beer.

  • wholesale five four said:
    February 4th, 2009 at 4:30pm

    hmhmh!! pimientos de padron sounds delicious, huh? very interesting! thanks for sharing the tips, i enjoyed browsing your entry,, keep it up!

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