Pimientos de Padrón is A Favourite Spanish Tapas Dish:
Pimientos de Padrón is one of our favourite tapas dishes in Spain. We first tasted this delicious dish at Sésamo’s in Barcelona and have become addicted to it. These small Padrón peppers are fried, at high temperature, in olive oil and sprinkled with flakes of sea salt to give it a delicate and sweet flavour. Alfredo, the chef at Sésamo, adds a secret ingredient to his Pimientos de Padrón, which makes them very moreish. I suspect the spice is sumac which gives the dish a lemony tang.
The star ingredient of this simple dish is the Padrón peppers. The peppers originated in the municipality of Padrón in the Province of A Coruña in Galicia. We have the Franciscan monks to thank as they brought back the first pepper seeds from Mexico in the 16th century.
I had hoped that we would stop in the home of the Padrón peppers on our way to Santiago de Compostela. However, our local tour guide Manuel said that the town itself is not very attractive. So, unfortunately, we didn’t stop in Padrón, but caught views of the vast stretches of greenhouses where the Padrón peppers are grown.
About 15,000 kg of peppers are grown in Padrón each year. Ninety percent of the peppers are not hot and ten percent are. Some would suggest that buying these peppers is like a game of Russian roulette. You never know if your purchase is going to include some hot ones. As someone who loves spicy food, I’ve yet to hit a hot pepper in our plates of Pimientos de Padrón. It seems that it is possible to control the spicyness of the pepper. The growers do this by varying the amount of watering and exposure to sunlight.
Buying Padrón peppers
According to our guide Manuel, Padrón peppers are sold by the hundreds and not by weight. The seller will ask if you want some hot ones included. Manuel jokes about always being very nice to his Padrón pepper seller and he never argues about the price either. If you upset her, she could very well slip some wildly hot ones in your batch. There is a Galician aphorism “Os pementos de Padrón, uns pican e outros non” which translates as “Padrón peppers, some are hot, some are not”. By being nice to the seller, Manuel ensures that his Padrón peppers are never hot.
Pimientos de Padrón is relatively easy to cook but getting the raw peppers is not so easy. The Padrón peppers are now grown in various places outside of Spain but for us in Australia it is still a bit expensive.