If you’ve ever bit into what you thought was a banana pepper and were met with unexpected spice, you may have experienced the heat of a Hungarian wax pepper.
When harvested early in the season, Hungarian wax peppers look much like banana pepper, so you wouldn’t have been the first to mix them up.
They’re both yellow and similar in size. To add to the confusion, the banana pepper is sometimes referred to as the yellow wax pepper.
Let’s ensure you never confuse them again, so read on to learn about the Hungarian wax pepper.
The Hungarian wax pepper has been around for centuries, and as you may suspect from its name, it originated in Hungary. It first made its appearance around the 16th Century.
It’s also known as the Hungarian Hot Wax Pepper for the exact reason you can guess–it’s hot!
This pepper is suspected to be one of the first spices to have been used in paprika. Paprika was first produced in Hungary using wax pepper. The Hungarian word paprika translates to little pepper in English.
The Hungarian Wax pepper was grown for centuries in European countries and was first introduced to the United States in the 1930s.
Characteristics of the Hungarian Wax Pepper
The pepper is yellow, like a banana pepper, growing about eight inches long and two inches thick. As it ripens, it turns orange and then crimson red.
Texture and Taste
It has waxy, crunchy skin. Like a banana pepper, it’s sweet – but much hotter. If left to mature fully, this pepper will become scorching hot as it turns red.
The Hungarian wax pepper typically falls between 1,000 and 10,000 Scoville Heating Units (SHU). For comparison, a banana pepper only reaches about 500 SHU at its peak heat. This means a Hungarian wax pepper can reach twenty times hotter!
Specifics about the Hungarian Wax Pepper
Hungarian wax peppers are best when eaten the same day they are picked, which will help prevent steam from blowing out of your ears.
If allowed to sit, they will continue to ripen and get hotter over the next couple of days.
Enjoy them raw or in salsas, dips, soups, marinades, hot sauces, sandwiches, stews, and stir fry. They’re also great for stuffing because of their large size.
Due to the unpredictability of their heat, kids may not be big fans. Adults should always taste-test these peppers first before letting their children try them.
Next time you have a cold, try eating a Hungarian wax pepper. They’re rich in cold-fighting vitamins C and B6.
Peppers are probably not number one on the food group list for pregnant moms, especially when heartburn is a problem. However, this pepper is high in vitamin B9 and provides incredible health benefits to unborn babies for expectant mothers who can handle the heat.
It also contains Manganese, which contains enzymes to help with blood clotting, and Copper, which helps develop healthy red blood cells and boosts immune systems.
Growing at Home
Refer to How to Plant Peppers for a general overview of starting your pepper plants, and refer to the information in this article for tips specific to Hungarian wax peppers.
Start growing the peppers indoors eight to ten weeks before the last frost. Check out Seed Starting: The Complete Guide for more information on how to start your garden indoors.
Maintain an indoor soil temperature of 80-85 degrees. Also, ensure plants receive 12-16 hours of sunlight each day.
They won’t be able to go outside until the outdoor temperature is at least 60-65 degrees during the day and does not go lower than 50 degrees at night.
The plants will need to be 12-16″ apart from each other when planted in your outdoor garden.
Do not fertilize these peppers because it will cause them to drop their blossoms. Water them at ground level to prevent insect and fungal diseases.
Keep the soil evenly wet and weeds at bay. If too much sun and heat cause the plants to wilt, then provide shade. These peppers grow best in short-season climates.
You can usually start to harvest them 70 days after planting, but they will still be immature. Whether or not you prefer to have them ripen on the vine or in your kitchen depends on your personal preference.
Most gardeners prefer to harvest them while they are still young and mild in spice and they may be ready as early as late spring if you start them indoors in February, depending on your location.
You can store your Hungarian wax peppers in an airtight container in the refrigerator for three to five days if you don’t want to eat them right away and hope to slow down the ripening process.
You can also dehydrate them in a food dehydrator or an oven. Many like to use dehydrated peppers to make pepper flakes or seasonings. Ground up your peppers for a taste of the original paprika seasoning from Hungary.
Most people prefer to can them, though. For this storage process, you may want to wear latex gloves if you are sensitive to hot peppers.
Pickled Hungarian Wax Peppers
To make pickled Hungarian wax peppers, you will need 20-30 peppers with two cloves of garlic, four cups of water, two cups of white vinegar, four tablespoons of Kosher salt, two tablespoons of peppercorns, and two teaspoons of mustard seeds.
In a medium saucepan, boil the vinegar, water, and salt. Then let the pan cool. Pour the hot liquid over the peppers and seal them with a tight-fitting lid. Refrigerate for at least two days before enjoying. They will keep in the refrigerator for at least two months.
Where to Buy
Hungarian wax peppers may not be as popular as banana peppers because of their heat, but they are available at many US retailers like Publix and Kroger.
Try specialty organic stores if you can’t find them at your local grocery store.
Like banana peppers, you’ll likely find them pickled before you find them fresh, especially during the off-season months.
Check for them at your local farmers’ market as well.
Most importantly, always double-check your labels—you probably would like to avoid bringing a Hungarian wax pepper by surprise home.
You can buy Hungarian wax peppers seeds on Amazon.
Enjoy the Hungarian Wax Pepper Today!
The Hungarian wax pepper is a great choice for spicy pepper lovers. Stay vigilant, though, and be careful around crimson peppers of this variety.
Are you a pepper enthusiast? Learn more about different pepper varieties as well as tips and tricks, on our Peppers page.