There are hundreds of different pepper varietals you can find in today’s supermarkets, farmer’s markets, and bazaars. But although some peppers are easy to tell apart, lots of folks have difficulty telling the difference between banana peppers and pepperoncini. Things are made even more complicated by the fact that both peppers taste pretty similar to one another, at least at the first bite!
Want to know more about banana peppers vs. pepperoncini? Let’s take a deep dive into the specifics of both peppers and examine how they’re different from one another.
Banana Peppers and Pepperoncini Appearance Differences
While not necessarily the most dramatic of differences between these two pepper types, banana and pepperoncini peppers do look different from one another… although not very dramatically so.
Both pepper varieties are roughly the same color and size. You can tell the difference between these peppers in terms of their skin and shape, instead.
- Banana peppers, for example, have thick walls and pepperoncini peppers have thinner walls. As a result, pepperoncini skins tend to be more wrinkly and have more folds, while banana peppers seem smoother by comparison
- Banana peppers are also shaped like their titular fruit, having a pointy end at the bottom compared to pepperoncini peppers. Pepperoncini peppers have rounded bottoms
Using these two appearance differences, you should be able to tell whether you’re looking at a banana pepper or pepperoncini whenever they’re placed side-by-side.
How the Heat Differs
Naturally, many people are most interested in the heat factor differences between banana peppers and pepperoncini.
Most people measure the heat of any peppers using the Scoville scale, which is a heat unit scale designed to differentiate heat ratings between different foods. In most cases, pepperoncini peppers have between 100 and 500 Scoville Heat Units or SHU. In comparison, banana peppers have between 0 and 500 SHU. That’s right; some banana peppers aren’t spicy at all. Not the best pepper for a Diablo sandwich.
This does mean that pepperoncini peppers are generally spicier than their banana pepper counterparts. However, both of these peppers aren’t particularly spicy compared to some of the other pepper types available. Jalapeno peppers typically range between 2500 and 8,000 SHU, for instance.
There is one big exception to the banana peppers’ generally flat spice factor. Hungarian wax peppers are a varietal of banana peppers and have SHU ratings ranging between 1000 and 15,000 SHU. Indeed, Hungarian wax peppers are the spiciest type of banana pepper in the world, and even the mildest Hungarian wax pepper will be twice as spicy as the spiciest pepperoncini.
Bottom line: both pepperoncini and banana peppers aren’t particularly spicy compared to other pepper types. But pepperoncini peppers are usually spicier than banana peppers.
The Flavor Factors of Pepperoncini and Banana Peppers
The banana pepper and pepperoncini also differ in terms of their flavor, although they are fairly similar to one another. Both peppers are considered “sweet peppers”, so they aren’t often used in the spiciest or hottest salsas or other cuisines.
Notably, banana peppers are slightly sweeter than pepperoncini peppers to most folks. In fact, pepperoncini peppers feature a “sharper” flavor profile, and some people even detect a hint of bitterness when eaten raw or with certain ingredients. Italian pepperoncini peppers are particularly bitter compared to regular pepperoncinis.
But since both pepper varieties are similar in flavor, you should be able to use them relatively interchangeably if you are mixing them into a cuisine.
Common Cuisines for Banana Peppers vs. Pepperoncini Peppers
Speaking of cuisine, banana peppers and pepperoncini have a place in many dishes around the world. This is partially because of their origins and how they spread through different cultures.
All peppers, including these two, come from the Americas. They were distributed throughout the European countries from explorers during the 1500s to 1700s.
Banana peppers weren’t as quickly adopted as pepperoncini, which are very compatible with the Italian climate. These peppers quickly became very cheap to grow and became a staple food item for the Italian lower classes throughout the 16th century.
Today, banana peppers and pepperoncini peppers are found in all kinds of cuisines like:
- Pizza, either as toppings or blended into sauce
- Pasta dishes
- Stir fries
- And more
More specifically, pepperoncini peppers are considered juicier and crunchier than banana peppers. Some people more often use them to make salads more interesting. Banana peppers, in contrast, are more often used in roasts or recipes that call for stuffing.
What About Nutritional Content?
One big area where the banana peppers and pepperoncini peppers don’t differ very much is their nutritional content. Both peppers are fairly nutritious and can give your body plenty of vitamins and minerals.
Both banana and pepperoncini peppers are rich in:
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin B6
- Fiber, with 30 g of either pepper containing 1 g of fiber
These nutritional elements include plenty of antioxidants, which reduce inflammation throughout your tissues and can help prevent free radical molecular damage from affecting your skin and organs. There’s some evidence that antioxidants in the vitamins above can even reduce the risk of cancer.
The only big area where the two differ is magnesium. Banana peppers contain magnesium and pepperoncini do not.
Banana peppers are also a little more calorific. But it’s not enough to make one pepper or the other better for a diet. A 33 g pepper of either variety will have about 9 cal, with banana peppers having slightly more and pepperoncini peppers having slightly less.
Which is Better: Pepperoncini vs. Banana Peppers?
At the end of the day, there isn’t a clear answer as to which of these two peppers is better for you! It depends on your personal flavor preferences, the kind of texture you like from your peppers, and what types of cuisine you are making.
Both peppers are pretty similar when it comes to heat and flavor, as well as appearance. There are slight differences in all of those categories, but the peppers are almost identical nutritionally speaking.
Our advice? Try both banana peppers and pepperoncini and see which of the two you prefer. Then you can decide to incorporate one (or both!) into your dishes more regularly.