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What Is Calabrian Chili Pepper Paste?

Have you ever heard of Calabrian Chili paste? No? This tasty paste is about to spice up your life.

Well, what exactly is Calabrian chili paste? Below we will discuss the origins of Calabrian Chili paste and how you can implement it in your day-to-day cooking.

Where are Calabrian Chili Peppers from?

Calabrian Chili peppers are grown in and originate from Calabria, Italy.

These peppers have been used in the Italian cuisine for hundreds of years. Peppers were initially brought to Italy by Spanish travelers who were visiting Italy for trade purposes.

Originally, peppers were used only for decoration until it was confirmed they were able to be eaten. Once deemed safe to eat, peppers were integrated swiftly into Italian cooking.

After that, more types of peppers were cultivated and grown to incorporate additional flavors like sweeter peppers.

Peppers are so popular in Italy now that there is even a weeklong festival every year in September that is dedicated to available local peppers.

This festival educates visitors on each chili presented as well as promoting contests, live music, artwork inspired by peppers, and stalls that sell each type of pepper.

It’s safe to say chili peppers will remain in the Italian cuisine for a long time to come.

Characteristics of Calabrian Chili Peppers

Calabrian Chili peppers have a long/rounded shape that differentiates them from other types of peppers. Think similar to the formation of an eggplant, but much, much smaller.

These peppers are about the size of a grape. There is a waxy, red exterior complete with a small green stem on each pepper. The inside is a gorgeous red color that contains a few seeds in the middle (like most peppers).

The Calabrian Chili has many nicknames ranging from Small Red Cherry Pepper to Devil’s Kiss. In Italian, the pepper is called Peperone Picante Calabrese, which can be translated directly to “spicy pepper of Calabria”.

These peppers are typically ready for picking around the end of summer and into the fall time.

What Does Calabrian Chili Paste Taste Like?

At this point, I bet you’re wondering what exactly this paste tastes like.

This paste is known for having a sweet, salty, smoky flavor with, you guessed it, some heat. This paste adds a delicious flavor to any dish, especially pasta, noodles, or even used seasoning for stuffed peppers.

What could possibly be in this paste to make it so tasty and so widely used?

What Are the Ingredients in Calabrian Chili Paste?

The simple ingredients in Calabrian paste come together perfectly to create the delightful smoky flavor it is known for.

There is some variation in the ingredients that create this paste.

However, it typically includes dried Calabrian Chilies, which are mashed with olive oil, then combined with salt and occasionally vinegar.

If you can’t seem to find this delightful paste at the store, you can create your own version easily.

How Can I Make Homemade Calabrian Chili Paste?

Calabrian Chili Paste can be made quickly and with only three ingredients so you can try it out on your dishes right away.

Here are the ingredients you will need:

  • 1 cup of Calabrian Chilies (packed in oil + stem removed)
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled and kept whole)
  • ¼ cup olive oil


Add the three above ingredients into a blender or food processor.

Pulse the ingredients until they combine into a paste consistency.

You’re ready to enjoy your Calabrian Chili Paste!

Pro tip: For a spicier paste, you can add some of the oil that the chilies have been soaking in instead of fresh olive oil. Yum!

If you can’t find the paste at your local store and don’t want to make the paste at home, there are alternatives you can use to create a similar flavor.

What Can I Use Instead of Calabrian Chili Paste?

The easiest way to swap out Calabrian Chili Paste is by using a sweet/spicy hot sauce.

This will create nice heat in the dish, and most people have at least one type of hot sauce in their house.

There are additional substitutes that create a more similar flavor to the chili paste than just hot sauce.

What is a Good Substitute for Calabrian Chili Paste?

Some alternatives include red chili flakes. These flakes will add some heat to your dishes and are fairly easy to find at your local store.

Another great alternative is Sriracha hot sauce. This will provide the same sweet and spicy flavor that you’re craving.

Now that you’re settled with either Calabrian Chili Paste or an alternative let’s run through some dishes you can add this spicy-sweet flavor too.

Recipes Using Calabrian Chili Paste

Below are three scrumptious ways you can use Calabrian Chili Paste at home.

  • Calabrian Chili Pasta. This yummy dish incorporates pasta, olive oil, garlic, lemon (zest and juice), Calabrian Chili Paste, and Pecorino cheese. For this recipe, you’ll boil the pasta as per usual and create a sauce out of the remaining ingredients (except the Pecorino). The cheese will be used as a garnish/topping for serving.

  • Calabrian Chili Garlic Bread. This delightful recipe takes garlic bread and adds heat to it with chili paste. Enjoy as an appetizer or to the side of a pasta dish (like the one above!).

  • Calabrian Style Shrimp Scampi. Calabrian Style Shrimp Scampi is a tasty dish that takes the pasta to the next level. You will need deveined shrimp, spices, Calabrian chili paste, and vegetables/fresh herbs. Check the recipe for the full ingredient list.

Pro tip: Try this scampi over risotto for a creamy, rich way to cool down the spice from the chili paste.

So you’re just about to start on a delicious recipe with Calabrian Chili paste, but you forgot to grab some at the store.

Where To Find Calabrian Chili Paste at the Store?

There are multiple stores that carry Calabrian Chili Paste, including Walmart, Williams Sonoma, and Whole Foods Market.

Try strolling through the Italian/ethnic foods section in any of these stores or look near the hot sauce to find this chili paste.

Once you have the paste in hand, there are multiple ways to use it at home.

How to Use Calabrian Chili Paste

Get creative with your Calabrian Chili Paste at home. Add a spoonful to a tomato sauce to add some sweetness and heat.

Try adding some to a Southwest Salad to spice it up. You can even use this paste as a way to season chicken breast.

If you still can’t find the paste, you can either revert to the above alternatives or make your own at home.

Can I Substitute Sambal Oelek for Calabrian Chili Paste?

First, what is Sambal Oelek? Sambal Oelek is chopped chilies with lime or salt.

Sambal has many different forms and can also include fish sauce, tomato, herbs, spices, and even fruit.

The ingredients entirely depend on what the end flavor goal is – whether that is spicy, sweet, or tangy.

So, can it be swapped with Calabrian Chili Paste? Essentially, yes; however, it will change the flavor and texture of the dish.

Sambal is typically a chunkier dish/topping that includes chili seeds. It will add heat to dishes and perhaps even a sweetness (depending on additional ingredients), though it will lack the smoky flavor.

The texture will also be different since the pieces are larger. If you’re in a pinch, Sambal Oelek will do as a substitute. Just be prepared for the differences in the final product.

I bet you’re wondering how to store the Calabrian Chili Paste after you’ve bought, made, or found an alternative.

Do You Refrigerate Calabrian Chili Paste?

It is recommended to refrigerate Calabrian chili paste – both store-bought and homemade.

Store-bought can be kept in the pantry until the first use, and then it should be refrigerated after.

The paste should be kept cool even though it might have a low PH level. It can still spoil sitting out. Keeping the chili paste in the refrigerator will ensure the paste lasts as long as possible.

This way, you can keep trying out a multitude of recipes! Not sure how long you can keep using your paste? Take a look below.

How Long Does Calabrian Chili Paste Last?

Chili paste can typically last un-refrigerated in the pantry for about one month.

This is still not recommended as there’s no guarantee it will still be consumable for this amount of time.

If you ensure to keep your Calabrian Chili Paste refrigerated in between uses, your chili paste can last about 6-9 months. Unless it’s eaten first!

Make sure to grab a jar of Calabrian Chili Paste to try out at home (or make your own!).

One taste of the smoky Calabrian Chili Paste, and you’ll be hooked.

Your friends will be asking you what your secret ingredient is. Will you be eating your Calabrian Chili Paste with pasta?


What Is Calabrian Chili Pepper Paste?

What Is Calabrian Chili Pepper Paste?

Have you ever heard of Calabrian Chili paste? No? This tasty paste is about to spice up your life.


  • 1 cup of Calabrian Chilies (packed in oil + stem removed)
  • 3 garlic cloves (peeled and kept whole)
  • ¼ cup olive oil


    Add the three above ingredients into a blender or food processor. Pulse the ingredients until they combine into a paste consistency. You’re ready to enjoy your Calabrian Chili Paste!

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