What to do with lots of peppers (without spending days in the kitchen)

Did you end up harvesting more peppers than you expected? Worry not; this is a happy problem. Here are my best easy-to-follow tips on what to do with that bumper harvest of peppers.

You have nurtured your pepper plants all season long. At times, you did not think you would get any pepper fruits. 

But now, you have a bumper harvest of peppers and no real idea of what to do.

And when you have lots of peppers, it is not an option to use them all at once.

Here are my tried and tested ways on what to do with an abundance of freshly harvested peppers.

A large harvest is defined as more peppers than you can use fresh for cooking, sauces, marinades, and salsas. And when you have a large harvest, you should use what you can and store the rest for later.

1. Freezing peppers – simple, fast, and perfect for hot peppers

Freezing peppers is the perfect solution when you do not want to spend a day in the kitchen. And unlike pickling, canning, and preserving, it calls for no special ingredients or purpose-made containers. 

It is fun to grow hot peppers. Fiery peppers like habaneros and ghost peppers open up all kinds of exciting possibilities in the kitchen. 

Handling habanero pepper using gloves and protective eyewear
Always handle hot peppers with care

But while you can use milder peppers like any other vegetable, cooking with hot peppers demands moderation. 

And this is where freezing peppers whole is a quick and easy way to store your peppers for later use.

Ensure you protect yourself from pepper fumes and powder by wearing gloves and protective ewyewear when working with hot peppers. 

To freeze peppers, you need freshly harvested peppers and plastic freezer bags. That’s it.

  1. Clean your peppers with a brush. Do not use water. Peppers should be dry.
  2. Place peppers in a freezer bag and remove as much air as possible.
  3. Seal plastic freezer bag, and place in freezer. Use a tag or permanent marker to note the date.

It does not get easier than that. 

And you do not have to remove the stalk as long as you ensure the peppers are dry.

Freezing the peppers whole makes it easy to identify them later when you need to use them. I have several bags of peppers where jalapenos and cayennes mix with Spanish Padron and serrano peppers. 

Hotter peppers take longer to grow and develop, and I always end up with separate mixed bags of mild, medium-hot, and hot peppers.

2. Dry peppers to use now or later

There are at least three ways to dry peppers.

  • Use a dehydrator 
  • Dry peppers in the oven
  • Tie peppers to string

Dry peppers in a dehydrator

You can use dehydrators to dry fruits, vegetables, and herbs. For the best result, clean and cut peppers into halves, quarters, or any other size you prefer. 

Remove the white membrane and the attached seeds. Gently shake peppers to remove any remaining pepper seeds as needed. Next, put the seeds and membrane in a cup.

Place the peppers evenly spaced on a tray of your dehydrator. 

Dried cayenne, Padron, serrano, jalapeno and habanero peppers from this years harvest
Dried peppers from this years early harvest

Set dehydrator to the recommended temperature, usually around 55 degrees Celsius / 130 degrees Fahrenheit. 

It will take anything from 5-10 hours to dry your peppers. Check progress after 30 minutes and then at hourly intervals.

Once the peppers are dried, let them cool down before you store them in a sealed container in a dark place like your pantry.

Tip: Do not miss out on the heat of your peppers. Dry the seeds and the membrane on a separate tray for a hotter and spicier dried pepper product perfect for spice mixes.

Dry peppers in the oven 

Drying peppers in your oven follows the same principles as using a dehydrator. But there is one main difference.

Do not close the oven door completely when drying peppers in the oven. Keep the door slightly ajar to help airflow and circulation.

Make sure you label your trays of peppers if you dry different varieties of peppers simultaneously. Dried pieces of peppers tend to all look the same.

Tie peppers to string

Stringing up peppers and leaving them to dry is a fast and reliable method to dry whole peppers.

The process is simple as it is ingenious. 

  1. Start by picking (or buying) peppers
  2. Clean peppers with a brush
  3. Tie peppers to string
  4. Hang peppers in a light and dry spot with good air circulation.

Ensure you space the peppers along the string to allow for good air circulation.

Store peppers in a dry and dark place when they are totally dry and all shriveled up 

3. Make hot sauce or chili pepper paste

To make hot sauces or chili pepper paste, you must spend some time in the kitchen. But trust me, it is worth it.

Making pepper hot sauce
Making hot sauce and pepper paste

Some recipes call for fermentation, where the hot sauce is left at room temperature for several weeks.

I prefer to use a method where the peppers are mixed with vinegar. Please read my article The best peppers for hot sauce (& no fermentation recipe) to learn more.

For me, it is a superior method as it is faster and takes all the guesswork out of the process.

You have no guarantee that the results will be good when you ferment peppers. You could wait for weeks and then find that the whole batch is no good.

How to use frozen peppers

When you freeze peppers, you have peppers on tap for cooking, marinades, and sauces.

Take as many peppers as you need and chop or cook them from frozen. You do not want to defrost peppers before use as they will have lost all their vigor and structure. 

You can easily make pepper-based condiments if you find it challenging to work with frozen peppers. One of our favorites starts with blitzing frozen peppers in a food processor with a drop of olive oil and garlic, salt, and lime juice to taste. 

How to use dried peppers

Dried peppers are one of our most trusted and versatile helpers in the kitchen. 

We primarily use dried peppers in 3 different ways. 

  1. Grind into powder or chili flakes
  2. Use dried peppers to flavor stews, soups, and stock
  3. Rehydrate dried peppers for cooking

Grind into powder or chili flakes

Use a spice grinder or food processor to grind your dry peppers into flakes or a powder.

Store chili pepper powder or flakes in an airtight container in a dark spot. 

Use dried peppers to flavor stews, soups, and stock

When cooking stews, soups, or making stock, throw a couple of your dried chili peppers into the simmering liquid. 

The dried peppers will flavor your meal as they hydrate and soften. Chose to remove peppers after a while or blend them smooth into your dish. 

Rehydrate dried peppers for cooking

When you rehydrate peppers for cooking, you have more control over taste.

Boil water and remove from heat. Put your peppers in hot water and leave them to sit for 5-10 minutes.

When peppers are fully hydrated, remove them from water to use in chillis, pasta sauces, stir-fries, or any other dish in need of some extra heat.

The water left behind is perfect as a base for stock, stews, or soups.

Meet the author: Mattias is an experienced gardener spending most of his free time on his knees among herbs, plants and garden vegetables. For the past two years he has been sharing gardening projects and how-to tutorials on the NordicLavender website and YouTube channel.