Malagueta Peppers (pronounced "ma-la-GWAY-ta"), or Malagueta Chiles, Capsicum frutescens, are small, golden-red chiles that are staples in Brazilian and Portuguese cuisine. They are also known as pimento malagueta in Portugal. Brazilians call large, fully mature peppers malaguetão; they are known as malaguetinha if they were picked while they were young and small. Thin-skinned and papery when dry, they crumble easily and are an easy way to add heat and fruity flavor to dishes.
There are approximately 120 Malagueta Chiles in one ounce.
What are Malagueta Peppers?
Malagueta Chiles, roughly two inches long with thin walls, are a hot chile that’s primarily found in the cuisines of former Portuguese colonies. It is a close relative of the Tabasco pepper, only with a more complex flavor and a bit more heat.
Though there is no genetic connection, Malagueta peppers were named for the Melegueta Pepper, a member of the Zingiberaceae—ginger—family that is also known as Grains of Paradise. The unrelated spices were linked together because Portuguese traders felt that the spiciness of the capsicum resembled the heat from the seeds of the Melegueta rhizome.
Malagueta peppers are often conflated with African Bird’s Eye Chiles. These small peppers, which are also known by their Swahili name, piri-piri or peri-peri, are about half the size as Malagueta Chiles, and a notch or two hotter. Though they are very close relatives—Bird’s Eye Chiles may have evolved out of Malagueta plantings—time and distance has created enough of a difference that they are classified as distinct varietals.
Most food historians agree that peppers originated in South America roughly 8,000 years ago, and were actively cultivated throughout South America 6,000 years ago. Christopher Columbus brought chile peppers to Spain, and then to Portugal and the rest of Europe in 1493; by 1500, Portuguese conquistadors colonized Brazil. They came across the native pepper there, and mainly transported it back to Portugal and among their colonies, like Mozambique and São Tome and Principe. While this pepper is a standard pantry staple in these regions, it’s only recently started gaining popularity elsewhere in the world. This can be largely credited to immigration patterns the easy availability online shopping creates.
Malagueta Chiles grow best in a direct sunlight paired with a hot, humid environment that mimics the steamy Brazilian climate. They are generally grown in the northern regions of South America, across Peru and Brazil, though they can also be found in former Portuguese colonies like Mozambique. Malagueta peppers do not do well in the face of drought, so soil needs to be kept damp. They do very well in rich soil that’s fed by organic matter, like mulch. These peppers like abundant sunlight. The plants can vary tremendously in size, ranging from 1-4 feet tall, depending on the growing conditions, and on average produce about 100 peppers each. Malagueta peppers undergo the traditional color changes that most peppers exhibit, emerging as a green pepper and changing to red as they ripen. They grow well in containers and don’t tolerate cold weather, so if you live in a colder climate they can be protected against a freeze by keeping them in portable pots and bringing them indoors.
Where are our Malagueta Chiles from?
Our Malagueta Chiles are grown in Peru.
The Malagueta Chile is a sassy pepper. They have a mild aroma, vegetal and clean, so their sharp flavor is a little surprising. They are initially—just for a moment—berry-sweet. Then the heat kicks in, washing across the tongue and like a wave. A low-level burn lingers, but the initial burst of spicy chile pepper heat fades fairly quickly, leaving a rich, sweet finish that’s reminiscent of sun-dried tomato.
How hot is the Malagueta Pepper?
Our Malagueta Chiles register between 120,000-160,000 Scoville Heat Units on the Scoville Heat Scale, placing it at the upper end of the medium-to-hot pepper range.
How do you use Malagueta Peppers?
Use Malagueta Chiles as you would use any crumbly red pepper; crush it in a mortar and pestle and toss over the top of Savory Brazilian Pizza. Add a spark of heat to Portugal’s beautiful, summery, chilled Salmorejo Soup. The light, savory flavor and crackling heat would be a welcome addition to fruit or tomato salsas, and it’s a glorious addition to ceviche, a bright and savory Malagueta Crab Cocktail, or sweet and spicy pickles. Toss over a stir-fry for a spicy boost, or blend with vinegar for a traditional Brazilian sauce that you can use to accent just about everything.
Use caution when handling these peppers because of their heat. Wear disposable gloves when handling them, be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after cooking, and do not rub your eyes or nose.
Substitutions and Conversions
One teaspoon is approximately equal to 2 whole Malagueta peppers.
|Also Called||Malagueta Peppers, Malaguetinha, or Malaguetão|
|Recommended Uses||Crumble and toss over pizzas or on soup. Stir into ceviche. Cook into stir-fry|
|Flavor Profile||Spicy, with a sweet berry top note and a rich finish reminiscent of sun-dried tomatoes|
|Scoville Heat Units||120,000 - 160,000 SHU|
|Botanical Name||Capsicum frutescens|
|How To Store||Airtight container in a cool, dark place|
|Shelf Life||1-2 Years|
|Country of Origin||Peru|
|Dietary Preferences||Gluten Free, Non-GMO|
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Serving Size4 chiles, 1g
Amount Per Serving
% Daily Value*