If you’ve never heard of shishito peppers, no worries! Maybe they haven’t popped up at your local grocery store or farmers market. I hadn’t grown these gems until just a few years ago. But let me tell you, they are some of the easiest peppers to grow at home!
Growing shishito peppers, Capsicum annuum, can be a fun and simple process, especially if you have the right gardening space. Growing these not-so-spicy little green peppers are an easy way to add flavor to your meals without having to buy them at the store!
Learning how to grow shishito peppers at home also gives you quick access to a tasty appetizer in a flash! These plants grow best in full sunlight and loose soil that drains well. Here are some tips on how to get started:
What are Shishito Peppers?
Shishito peppers are a Japanese heirloom pepper that is small and thin with multiple lobes. Their name comes from the Japanese words “shishi” which means lion and “togarashi” which means chili pepper. They don’t look like lions, but they are very squared off hot peppers which makes them easy to blister in a pan.
Shishitos look like wide and wrinkled jalapenos, but they can also be confused for Padron peppers or Anaheim chilies . What makes shishito peppers stand out from the rest of these types of chili is how mild their heat level is. They are much milder than any chilies mentioned with only 1 in 10 having any heat. These peppers typically range between 50-200 Scoville heat units. And if you’re not sure what that means, jalapeno peppers rank between 2,000 and 8,000 heat units.
So, they’re perfect for those gardeners and cooks who don’t love to infuse their dishes with spice and heat but instead want a mild flavor. Though they are definitely not as sweet as bell peppers.
True Leaf Market has good quality Shishito Pepper Seeds if you need them!
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When and Where to Grow Shishito Peppers
Shishito pepper are best grown in the spring through the fall. They need a warm place to grow with direct sunlight and prefer some humidity as well as soil that has good drainage (like a raised bed). Find out how to build your own raised beds here. Here’s the optimum growing conditions for shishito peppers:
- Full sun (minimum 6 hours of sunlight)
- Begin seeds indoors in late winter or early spring (6-8 weeks before danger of frost passes)
- Choose a spot with well-drained soil
- Transplant seedlings after last frost date (they love warm soil)
Shishito peppers can be grown in container gardens, but they like deep potting soil with plenty of nutrients for their roots. So be sure to use a good sized pot for one shishito plant. If you want start plants from shishito pepper seeds, then start them indoors 8 weeks before your area’s last expected frost. (Check your frost date here). These peppers grow best in full sunlight (6 hours a day or more) and loose well-draining soil, so be sure to have your containers in a place where they aren’t too shaded.
Like many other pepper varieties, it may be possible to overwinter shishito plants. Here are some instructions on how to overwinter pepper plants.
How to Grow Shishito Peppers at Home
Here’s all the details you need to start growing these small peppers at home. From where to grow to when and how to harvest!
Planting from seed– Begin by starting at the correct time of year. If starting from seed, sow them indoors 8 weeks before the last expected frost. Use good quality seed starting mix and place seedlings in a warm, sunny place. Consider using a heat mat and/or grow light to get a better germination rate and keep them thriving when they’re indoors.
Transplanting– If using transplants or plants, be sure they are hardened off before planting them outdoors in the garden after the last frost. This is especially true if you are purchasing seedlings from a garden center where they have been kept indoors such as a greenhouse. (Not sure how to harden off plants? Check out my guide!)
Watering– Water shishito pepper plants at least once a week during dry periods. They are pretty hardy little plants, only growing up to 2 feet, so they can go a little longer in particularly dry weather.
Fertilizing– Use a good quality organic fertilizer for shishito pepper plants that is high in nitrogen and low in phosphorus (the first number of the N-P-K ratio on the package). Check out these recommended fertilizers that are higher in nitrogen:
Pruning Shishitos– As with many pepper plants, shishito plants can be pruned for better fruit production. This involves removing leaves from the lower part of the plant (the bottom 6 inches), as well as pinching off the first few blooms. I know it’s painful sometimes to pinch off those blooms, but it will definitely be worth it!
Mulching– The shishito pepper plant loves to live in soil that contains lots of organic matter. For this reason, mulching the shishitos with compost is a great idea and will help them thrive during their growing season (spring through fall). Mulch can also be any type of material such as straw or even grass clippings. (Not sure how to compost? Learn how to start composting here.)
How to Harvest Shishito Peppers
When shishito peppers are mature and full size, they will turn from green to red. This can take between 60 and 80 days after transplanting shishito pepper plants (which should be done in spring or early summer).
Many shishito pepper gardeners will harvest shishitos when they are small, green and tender. To harvest use sharp pruners or a paring knife to cut off the pepper at the top of the stem being careful not to damage the main stem in the process.
Peppers can be harvested from the home garden throughout the season until the cool of fall finally slows production.
You can then saute them in a pan with oil or roast them on the grill to eat as snacks. They’re delicious! See my recipe below for Easy Blistered Shishito Peppers for a delicious appetizer that is also healthy and just uses a bit of olive oil and sea salt!
How to Store Shishito Peppers
What if you’ve harvested your peppers, but you aren’t quite ready to use them yet? The best way to store fresh shishito peppers is in the fridge down in the vegetable drawer; place them in a plastic bag to keep them fresh and from being banged around by other veggies you may have in there.
I have also left shishito peppers out on the counter for a day or so if I know I’ll be using them within 24 hours of picking. For longer term storage, consider using some preserving methods I’ve outlined below so you don’t miss out on getting to enjoy your hard grown peppers.
Preserving Shishito Peppers
After the harvest is done, what can you do with shishito peppers?
One option is to preserve shishito peppers by pickling them much like my Quick Dill Pickle recipe, simply swap in the seasonings of your choice.
Shishitos are also great in homemade salsas or sauces. Swap them out for recipes that call for jalapenos or bell peppers since they are so versatile.
Like many other chiles, shishitos can be dried for use later. You can do this by using a dehydrator or a low temperature oven. This will take longer than canning, but it uses up much less storage space in the pantry. (Our Instant Pot Air Fryer actually has a dehydrator option as well! So use what you have.)
Recipes for Shishito Peppers
Once your shishito plants have basked in a sunny spot long enough, they’ll be ready to produce an abundant harvest for you. Here are some delicious ways to use shishito peppers in recipes and they all include using the whole pepper, which is so much easier:
- Easy Blistered Shishito Peppers (The Kitchen Garten)- Easy and quick appetizer or snack!
- Creamed Shishito Peppers (Serious Eats)- Want a rich and creamy side dish? This recipe is just the ticket, especially if you’ve had a great harvest of shishitos.
- Stuffed Shishito Peppers (Kevin is Cooking)- These cream cheese stuffed shishito peppers would make an excellent appetizer just about any time!
If none of these ideas sound appealing, simply chop up the peppers and use them on homemade pizza, salads, or dipped in tempura batter and fried up!
So consider adding this east Asian chili pepper to your garden plan this year! It’s delicious and incredibly easy to grow no matter the size of your garden. If you’re still looking at other peppers to add to your summer garden, check out my article on The 15 Best Pepper Plants to Grow at Home!