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All About the Fish Pepper

If you’re a fan of spicy peppers, then this post is for you! While the fish pepper is a less commonly known hot pepper, that doesn’t mean it lacks flavor. In recent years, this pepper has taken over the culinary industry.

Often compared to the heat of a serrano pepper, this hot pepper doesn’t taste like fish. So where did it get its odd name?

Read on to learn about the fish pepper and how to add it to your menu!

Looking for fish pepper seeds? Check availability.

Closeup of striped fish peppers.

A Little History

The fish pepper became popular in the Caribbean Islands in the 1800s, especially among enslaved people.

The African Caribbean people brought these peppers to the continental United States around the 1870s and introduced them to the African American community. The Chesapeake Bay area quickly became a popular hub for this spicy pepper, with Baltimore and Philadelphia making it a culinary staple.

When slavery was abolished in the late 19th century, this pepper declined in popularity. However, Horace Pippin, an African American folk artist, was responsible for keeping the seeds of this pepper alive since the 1940s.

Thanks to his perseverance in preserving the seeds of this lesser-known pepper, there has been a recent resurgence in growing the fish pepper in the past two decades!

Another reason for the obscurity of this pepper throughout the twentieth century is its roots. Because this pepper was used mainly within the African American community, many recipes were never written down. They were passed down orally and were lost over time.

What About the Name?

Chef putting cream sauce on fish.

This pepper got its name from its common use in seafood dishes. Oyster bars and crab houses often use this hot pepper over others to flavor their dishes with heat!

Most fish houses prefer to use the white-colored versions of these peppers to blend into creamy sauces to top their dishes.

Take a trip to the mid-Atlantic region of the U.S. and stop into a seafood house for your chance to try this pepper!

The Characteristics of the Fish Pepper

What it Looks Like

This chili pepper may look similar to your average pepper, but its unique coloring does make it stand out. It is a visual rainbow of color that will make your garden shine!

It begins as a creamy white color before changing from yellow to green. Then it transforms from orange to red when it’s fully matured. Sometimes they settle into a brownish-purple color. Many often show stripes of blended colors.

Fish peppers on a plant.

This pepper usually grows 2-3 inches long, and the plant grows to a height of approximately 2 feet.

What it Tastes Like

This pepper is often described as crunchy, bright, and fresh in flavor with just a hint of bitterness.

As stated before, this pepper makes a great companion to seafood dishes. This is because it helps balance the seafood’s brine flavor while maintaining the chili’s spiciness.

The Benefits of Cooking with a Fish Pepper

This pepper is perfect for use in chilis or creamy sauces to spice up a dish! It can easily be swapped in any recipe for jalapeno or serrano pepper. Using this chili pepper in your salsa will bring it to medium heat.

Remember that this pepper is higher on the heat scale than the average hot pepper used in the kitchen. Therefore, it may not be a favorite among the kids. Save this pepper for dishes that heat lovers will appreciate!

Tip: As with other hot peppers, the capsaicin in this chili can irritate those with sensitive skin. It’s suggested you use gloves when cutting and handling these peppers.

Recipes That Include the Fish Pepper

Spicy shrimp and sausage jambalaya.

Not sure where to begin using this pepper in your kitchen? Try these recipes and surprise your taste buds!

This Jambalaya Recipe is a taste of Louisiana you won’t want to miss. Try mixing a few different chili peppers to make the flavor unforgettable!

Are you a fan of chips and salsa? Try this White Hot Fish Pepper Salsa to change up your favorite snack experience!

These Shrimp Tacos are great for a Taco Tuesday feast! Switch up the jalapeno for the fish pepper when making the spicy sauce to drizzle on top!

Where to Purchase!

Burpee Fish Hot Pepper Seeds 30 seeds

Have we sold you on the idea of growing these spicy peppers in your garden this year?

If so, you can purchase your fish pepper seeds online from Amazon in time for spring planting!

While these peppers are making a comeback in the culinary world, finding these at your average grocery store may be difficult. Inquire at a specialty market or plan to grow your own.

Growing it in Your Backyard

Fish peppers on a plant.

This pepper is easy to grow. It can be done in a pot or in your garden.

Be sure the peppers have full sun exposure. Plan to plant them 18-24” apart. They thrive in hot and humid weather.

These peppers can be picked at any stage of coloring. The longer they mature, the hotter they will be!

Read our blog post on How to Plant Peppers for everything you need to know for growing fish peppers.


How hot is the fish pepper?

Chilis are measured using the Scoville heat units (SHU) system of measurement. The fish pepper falls in the 5000-30,000 SHU range. The median heat is 17,500 SHU.

How hot will this pepper taste when compared to other peppers?

As a reference, the fish pepper is 12 times hotter than a jalapeno chili pepper. The heat is most closely compared to the serrano pepper. This pepper falls just short of the heat of a cayenne pepper.

Are You Ready to Try the Fish Pepper?

Fish peppers lying on red pequin chilis.
Fish peppers lying on red pequin chilis.

The fish pepper has a long but interesting history that has gained recognition only recently. If you haven’t considered growing your own or cooking with this chili pepper, now is the perfect time to begin! What will you make with the fish pepper?

For more information about peppers, visit our website’s Pepper Plants page. You’ll find blog posts about different varieties, plus helpful growing and care guides to help you grow the best peppers ever!