A pimiento, also spelled "pimento," is a small sweet red pepper, similar to, but more flavorful than, a bell pepper. These peppers can be used in a wide range of dishes, from stuffed olives to chicken salad sandwiches. They are commonly dried and ground into a powder called "paprika," which is quite popular in the cuisine of countries such as Hungary and Spain. Pimientos are low in calories and fat content but contain a great deal of Vitamins C and A.
When used fresh, the skin of a pimiento is typically removed; one old-fashioned method for this was to hold the pepper on a long fork over a fire to char the skin, which someone could then easily pull off. This process can still be used for pimientos and bell peppers, often then referred to as "roasted red peppers." Pimiento is familiar to many Americans as the square red strip that is found inside some brands of seedless green olives.
It can be grown and used just like bell pepper, sliced or diced and added raw to salads, or stuffed with other ingredients and baked as a side dish or entree. Available in "olive-stuffing sized strips" in many grocery stores, canned pimiento tastes great in pasta salads, cheese spreads and dips, and chicken or tuna salad sandwiches. If a recipe calls for pimientos, but a cook does not have access to them, then the cook can typically use red bell peppers in their place. Roasted peppers are often the best replacement, since their texture and flavor more closely matches the softness and sweetness of pimientos.
Use As a Dried Spice
Grown commercially in Spain, Hungary, and the Middle East, the pimiento is native to South America. Pimiento dried and ground fine becomes the spice paprika, which is widely used in Hungarian and Spanish cuisines. Many chefs add paprika to stews, vegetables, and other dishes both for its pungent flavor and to add an attractive red color to the dish. Paprikash is a Hungarian dish prepared with paprika and sour cream; it is most typically made with chicken, although turkey and vegetarian versions are also quite good, and many cooks serve it over buttered noodles.
Both pimiento on its own and paprika are very low in calories, especially since they are usually eaten in small quantities, and have little fat. They are commonly prepared in dishes with high-fat content, but do not contribute much to this. Pimientos are very good sources of Vitamins A, even in fairly small quantities, and a single pepper has almost the entire recommended daily value of Vitamin C for an adult.