What is Piment D'Espelette?

Article Details
  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Images By: n/a, Benkenogy
  • Last Modified Date: 13 October 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
There is a railway line in the hills above Budapest, Hungary, that has been operated by children for over 70 years,  more...

October 13 ,  1943 :  In a major turn of events in World War II, Italy declared war on Germany.  more...

Piment d'Espelette literally means “pepper of Espelette” in French. It is a food product produced around the town of Espelette in Southern France, in the region sometimes known as Basque Country. This pepper is so famous that it has been given a protected designation by the European Union, ensuring that only peppers grown in the Espelette region may be labeled as “piment d'Espelette.” This is designed to protect the heritage and integrity of this unique pepper, which is a commonly-used ingredient in Basque food.

Peppers were one of the earliest imports from the New World, and they attracted immediate attention in Mediterranean Europe. Cooks realized that peppers could be easily cultivated in kitchen gardens, and that they made a convenient replacement for the much more costly black pepper. The earliest documented instances of pepper cultivation near Espelette date to the 16th century, and by the 18th century, the region was famous for its peppers.

The piment d'Espelette is red when mature, and relatively small and mild. Heat-wise, it is usually compared to paprika, another flavorful European pepper product. Piments d'Espelette also have a dark, slightly smoky flavor which can be intensified with roasting or pan-searing, and a robust peppery flavor which can be useful in a wide variety of dishes. These peppers are traditionally used to rub Bayonne ham, a famous export of the region, and they also appear in many other Basque dishes.


Fresh peppers are sometimes available at markets and grocers, and strings of dried peppers are usually readily available in Southern France as well as being exported abroad. Piments d'Espelette are also sold in dried and powdered form, and in the form of pastes, which may be in jars, cans, or tubes. They are also sometimes blended into spice mixes which are meant to evoke the cooking of Southern France. If a dish calls for piment d'Espelette and you have trouble tracking this ingredient down, paprika often makes an adequate substitute.

Espelette takes its famous export so seriously that it has an annual Celebration of Peppers every October, in which the piment d'Espelette takes center stage. Peppers bedeck the streets while citizens compete with their favorite recipes and restaurants feature pepper dishes on their specials menus. Other regional foods are also feted during the annual Celebration, and for visitors to the region, it can be a great way to get a taste of Basque cooking.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 12

Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco has P d'E.

Post 11

Traci Des Jardins has Cayenne listed as a substitute in one of her recipes.

Post 10

There is an amazing chef who uses piment d'Espelette in a ton of her french/American recipes.

Post 9

It can be bought at the grocery store in the ferry building in San Francisco.

Post 8

Piment d'Espelette is available online from many places. I know a chef that uses it in a ton of her wonderful recipes. She also lists online sites that have it for sale.

Post 6

I have started to grow some piment d'Espelette plants, from the grains I brought back from the Pays Basques. They are now about 12 inches tall and only leaves. My question: ehen do they start to develop the peppers, and will these grains actually produce peppers?

Living in Florida, in Miami, it's warm, and at the moment quite humid.

In short, how long can one expect to have peppers from a seed?

Post 4

Is piment d'Espelette available at any stores in the San Francisco Bay area, California?

Post 3

It can be bought online.

Post 2

What type of paprika would be a substitute for piment d'Espelette? Spanish (smokey), Hungarian (sweet), or hot?

Post 1

Is piment d'Espelette available at any stores in the Orange County, CA area?

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?