Three cheers for pickled jalapeños, the spicy, briny and versatile pantry hero

Aaron Hutcherson

THE WASHINGTON POST – Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers, Was it pickled jalapeño peppers that Peter Piper picked?

If so, Pete and I share a fondness for this spicy, vinegary pantry staple.

Compared with fresh peppers, pickled jalapeños have a tamer, more uniform heat that I find to be more consistent from jar to jar, whereas the spiciness of fresh jalapeños can vary. (Jars are preferable to cans so that you can just take what you need and store the remainder in the refrigerator for another meal in need of pizazz.) Pickling mellows the grassiness that fresh peppers can sometimes have, and the acid in the pickling brine adds a slight pucker. Once pickled, the peppers do lose a bit of crispness, but the convenience of pre-sliced rings ready to adorn tacos, hot dogs and slices of pizza is hard to deny.

What else can you do with a peck of pickled jalapeño peppers?

Pickled jalapenos. MUST CREDIT: Photo for The Washington Post by Laura Chase de Formigny

There are the obvious choices listed above, along with nestling them in burritos, placing them in sandwiches to spice up a ho-hum ham and cheese or using them to top nachos of all types – including the microwave version I sometimes make with just tortilla chips, melted shredded cheese and these verdant rings of wonder.

But pickled jalapeños are more than just a condiment. You can cook with them – and their brine – too.

If you’re without limes and have an avocado or two, mash them with the diced peppers and a bit of the brine for a quick guacamole dip. They work in other dips, too, such a queso, spinach and artichoke, and Buffalo chicken dip for all of your spicy chipping and dipping needs.

You can also use the peppers to give a punchy kick to salads as a mix-in, chop them up finely to make a jalapeño ranch dressing or use the brine in place of vinegar in vinaigrette to give the whole bowl a nice tinge of spice. And while we’re speaking about salads, they would be great added to mayo-based potato, chicken or tuna salads, too.

Add them along with some shredded cheese to make jalapeño-Cheddar cornbread. Bread and fry them as you would pickled cucumbers as a fun appetizer. Use the brine on chicken parts to make jalapeño fried chicken that is sure to impress. And in a pinch, you can even use the pickled peppers in place of fresh ones in recipes, but beware the acidity they will add to a dish.

The possibilities are endless. The convenient, tart, spicy punch a jar of sliced pickled jalapeños can add to any dish make them a mainstay in my kitchen – and they deserve to be one in yours, too.