Spotlight Spice: Piment d’Espellette

This week’s spotlight spice is fun to say. Give it a try…. Piment d’Espelette.  See what we’re talking about?

Piment d’Espelette is a chile from the Basque region in Southern France. It was introduced from the New World (Mexico and South America) over five hundred years ago and quickly became a popular substitute for costly imported black pepper. It’s become a prized ingredient in Basque cuisine and has earned its status as an “appellation d’origine contrôlée” (AOC) product – a designation granted to certain French geographical indications for wines, cheeses, butters, and other agricultural goods.

Since it’s a chile, you’re probably wondering how hot it is. We think of it as paprika with kick – in fact, paprika can be a great substitute for Piment d’Espelette if you don’t have any on hand. The French chile is graded no higher than a paltry 4,000 on the Scoville Scale, so it fits distinctly in the mild category. We love to use it in our cooking to add an intriguing spiciness with a touch of fruitiness.

Piment d’Espelette is a key ingredient in piperade, a popular Basque dish prepared with onion, green peppers, and tomatoes sauteed with the chile. Eggs and ham frequently make an appearance in the dish too. Wondering what else you can do with this pepper? Check out our list of recipes that use Piment d’Espelette for inspiration, add a sprinkling to your eggs or breakfast potatoes, or use it in recipes in place of paprika or black pepper.