It’s easy to see why cooking with rocoto pepper is appealing.
It can be cooked into anything from soup to salad dressing, but it’s best known as the main ingredient in Peruvian hot sauce, a spicy condiment that packs a punch.
Locoto peppers are small but pack immense heat.
The Scoville Scale measures the spiciness of peppers, and the Rocoto scores anywhere from 2’400- 250’000 SHU, depending on where it is grown.
The name Rocoto is derived from the word “Capsicum” in Quechuan, the language of the Incas.
If you want to cook with rocoto pepper, but you can’t find it in stores or online, don’t worry.
Several substitutes will make your food equally delicious.
Here are the five best alternatives to cooking with rocoto pepper.
What is Rocoto Pepper?
Firstly, Rocoto Pepper is a type of pepper that comes from the Peruvian Andes.
It grows mainly in Peru and Chile and has other plants in Colombia, Bolivia, Venezuela, and Argentina.
It’s part of the ‘Capsicum pubescens’ species, which are very different from normal peppers as they grow at much higher altitudes and colder temperatures and take longer to grow.
It is a chili pepper with a unique taste and appearance, being spicier than normal peppers but with a much more fruity flavor, which means it works in many spicy dishes.
Rocoto Peppers are found in many classic Peruvian dishes, such as the famous anticuchos dish roasted beef hearts marinated in a spicy sauce.
The rocoto pepper is so traditional to Peru that it featured heavily on a 20 Soles banknote between 1985 and 1991.
The 5 Best Substitutes for Rocoto Peppers
Since rocoto peppers are very hard to get outside of South America and the USA, it is good to know what you can use as a substitute in your cooking.
It’s important that when we say substitutes, we don’t mean you should use any available chili pepper – these have varying levels of spiciness, so if you use a normal red pepper, it will still taste great but not have the distinctive flavor that rocoto peppers do.
These are all chili peppers, but they are on different levels of spiciness, so you can experiment with them to see which tastes best in your cooking.
1 – Jalapeno Pepper
Jalapeno peppers are a great place to start when you’re looking for a replacement for rocoto peppers.
They have a very similar spiciness but not quite as fruity and sweet.
This means it doesn’t change the taste of your meal too much; you get the heat.
They are relatively easy to find, even in supermarkets.
If you’re looking for them specifically, specialty food stores will always have a range of options for different peppers, so they should be easy to track down.
Jalapeno peppers are popular across South America and the USA.
Still, another great substitute is the Poblano pepper which has almost similar heat levels, so feel free to pick one up if you have trouble finding jalapenos.
2 – Scotch Bonnet Pepper
The scotch bonnet pepper is a very, very close substitute for rocoto peppers and has the same spiciness level and unique flavor that makes them so great to cook with.
You will be able to find scotch bonnet peppers in your local specialty food store or supermarket, making them very easy to get hold of.
Professional chefs use Scotch bonnets more than rocoto peppers because they are widely available, and it’s much easier to buy them instead of growing the plant.
They also have a fruitier flavor than rocoto peppers which means you don’t need to cut up the pepper – you can throw it in your dish whole.
An added benefit is that they are not very spicy compared to other peppers, so if you’re cooking for kids or people who don’t like spice, then this is an excellent option.
3 – Long Green Chile Pepper
Long green chili peppers are typically used in South America for dishes that include Rocoto, but you can use them if you do not have the original.
They will provide a more citrus-like taste than that of rocoto peppers.
This is due to their higher sugar content and lower capsaicin (the compound that makes peppers taste hot).
This means, if you are looking for something with a little more of an orange-flavored kick, this is the best sub.
Don’t be fooled by the name though they are very spicy.
So proceed with caution.
4 – Banana Pepper (aka “Pimento”)
Banana peppers are great if you want something with a little more “bite” than the other substitutes.
They are not quite as mild as your typical green bell pepper, but they will still be much milder than rocoto peppers, so keep that in mind.
Please don’t confuse them with the super-hot ghost chili pepper, though, because these are much less spicy.
They are slightly less crisp and acidic than rocoto peppers, but if you’re looking for some heat, then these will give you that, and they’re not too hard to find.
They can be easily found in supermarkets where the other peppers might be harder to track down – some larger chains like Pick n’ Save carry them.
If you have trouble finding them, try looking in the international section.
5 – Fresno Pepper
Fresno peppers are somewhere between a jalapeno and long green chili peppers on the spicy scale, so they are a good sub for Rocoto if you can’t find one of those.
You might have to look in an Asian or Mexican food store for them because they aren’t as common in regular supermarkets, but it shouldn’t be too hard to find one near you.
They have a very bright, citrusy taste that makes them perfect for Asian dishes.
They provide a good amount of heat when eaten raw, so if you’re into that, then you might want to give these a try.
If you want to try something different, you should pick up some peppers and use them when you make your next batch of stir-fried vegetables.
Rocoto peppers are a unique and delicious pepper that can be used in many different dishes – they’re not as popular as your standard bell peppers, but they still have a lot to offer.
That being said, rocoto peppers aren’t the easiest things to find (especially if you live outside of South America), but there are some great substitutes that you can use instead.