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All About the Popular Shishito Pepper

You’ve probably seen blistered or charred shishito peppers pop up on a menu in recent years as their trendiness in the United States has grown, but maybe you’ve never been brave enough to try one, let alone grow your own. Time to change that!

Shishito peppers, native to and prolific in Japan, are said to resemble lions’ heads, which explains their name: “shishi” is the Japanese word for lion, and tōgarashi means tip. These small peppers are now grown all over the world.

Perhaps the most interesting fact about shishitos is that, although they are usually relatively mild, it’s not uncommon to get one that seems to melt your face. And finding that special pepper in a crop is next to impossible–you won’t know you’ve gotten lucky until it’s too late!

Read on to learn more about this popular little pepper, including how to grow it and integrate it into your cuisine.

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Shishito pepper



Shishitos are typically around 3 or 4 inches long. The peppers are bright green and turn red as they mature, but most people enjoy shishitos before they mature. Their skin is slightly wrinkled, and they have long wooden stems.

Shishito pepper on white background


Shishito peppers have a subtle flavor and mild heat. Most people find them on the sweeter, smokier end of the pepper spectrum.


As I mentioned, shishitos are usually mild, but it’s not uncommon to get a particularly hot one without warning. On average, shishitos rate lower on the Scoville scale (a measure of spiciness) than, say, a jalapeño.

About one in ten shishitos max out the pepper’s Scoville rating, so eat enough of them and you’re bound to taste at least one scorcher.

Grow Your Own Shishito Peppers

What You’ll Need


You can buy shishito pepper seeds at various online retailers and read reviews and tips.


Like most peppers and other nightshades, shishitos are susceptible to blossom end rot, a condition that causes the inside of the fruit to rot. Blossom end rot is usually the result of calcium deficiency, so choose a fertilizer with a good proportion of calcium.

shishito peppers in fall

You’ll want to have about 1.5 cups of fertilizer per 10 square feet. Fold (or bury) it into the soil for best results.


As your plants grow, it will become necessary to stake them. You can make your own stakes from sticks if you’ve got them or buy them at most garden retailers. Natural bamboo stakes can be configured and reconfigured however you need them. They’re just the right size for both container and garden growing.

The Elements


If you’re planting in US Department of Agriculture zones nine or ten, plant shishitos directly outdoors once the threat of frost has passed.

In zones two through eight, you’ll need to start your seeds indoors, moving them to your garden when the seedlings grow to about 5 inches. Be patient–these seeds germinate slowly and can take up to four weeks to sprout, and it can take 8 to 10 weeks for the seedlings to reach an appropriate size to move outdoors.

You might want to use a warming mat during germination if you’re starting your seeds in a cooler environment. Keeping the soil warm and moist will promote germination and set the stage for healthy plants.

Shishito peppers are not frost-hardy. They do best in temperatures between 70 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.


Though it’s important to keep your shishito seedlings moist, be careful not to overwater them. Remember that seedlings are relatively close to the top of the soil, so you don’t need to give them a mighty soak like you would with established plants.

Once you move your peppers outdoors to well-draining soil, water them well. After a few days, regular watering is best. You’ll want to keep the soil moist to encourage growth and protect against blossom end rot.


Shishito peppers love the sun. Plant them in a large, deep container or in your garden in a location with lots of full sun exposure (8–12 hours).


If you want to keep your peppers in a container, make sure you use a big one so there’s plenty of room for the plant’s root system. Choose a container that’s at least a gallon deep and 12 inches wide.

When planting outdoors, space the shishito seeds about 14 to 18 inches apart in well-draining soil at a depth of about 1/4 inch.


Harvest your shishitos while they’re green (though mature red peppers can be delicious, too). Using sharp gardening shears, remove the fruit, leaving about an inch of the stem intact.

How to Enjoy Shishito Peppers

Roasted Spicy Shishito Peppers with Dipping Sauce

Health Benefits

Shishito peppers are a delicious way to reap some powerful health benefits. They’re loaded with fiber, which helps lower cholesterol, keeps you feeling full longer, and can improve digestive health.

The antioxidants and vitamin C in shishitos support immune health, and capsaicin–the chemical compound in chili peppers that gives them their heat–is an anti-inflammatory agent and a metabolism booster.

Easy to Eat

Shishito peppers are often eaten raw in Japan during summer, but there are many other ways to enjoy them.

Shishito peppers can be pickled or sautéd and added to stir fry or tempura batter. Blistered or charred shishitos make a simple, tasty appetizer, too. Just blister the peppers in olive oil (no need to remove seeds or stems) and lightly salt.

Drizzle soy sauce or squeeze a lemon over blistered shishitos for a little extra variation. These peppers are a unique addition to a charcuterie board.

Embrace the Trend

If you haven’t encountered shishitos yet, you will sooner than later, so embrace them!

Easy to grow and delicious, shishitos are a trend that’s easy to jump on board with.

Once your crop has come in, serve homegrown blistered shishitos at your next dinner party and be the talk of the town. You can even play the latest popular party game: Shishito Roulette. Whoever gets the hot shishito wins! Or loses. Your party, your rules.

Learn more about growing–and cooking!–all types of peppers on our pepper plants page.