Shishito Peppers: Grow Your Japanese Appetizer

by / 21 Comments / 33558 View / July 24, 2011

Roasted and salted Shishito peppers from Shirley’s garden

I started to grow  Shishito peppers in my garden after enjoying them as a Japanese appetizer at a favorite sushi bar.

Love at first bite baby!

I didn’t know what to expect from this Capsicum annuum, with it’s thin-walled, glossy green pepper that lay wilted and charred on my plate.

The sushi chef prepared the Shishito peppers so that they were tantalizingly hot but still retained a bit of a crunch.

A mellow, juicy and flavorful liquid was released at first bite.

I was hooked and ate the whole plateful within a few minutes!

At $7 dollars a plate, I knew I could save some money if I grew my own Shishito peppers.

Shishito peppers growing in a whiskey barrel garden container with marigolds

I now have three plants growing in containers in my garden!

The curvy, wrinkly, moderately hot Shishito pepper is low in calories and high in fiber.

Which means….

On my WeightWatchers plan, Shishito peppers are considered “zero points,” or “free food!”

Which means….

I can eat a plateful of them without feeling guilty…

If, I prepare the Shishito peppers in a “calorie-smart” manner.

Don’t go crazy chain eating Shishito peppers at a restaurant, I discovered that they are usually fried or prepared with more oil than this curvy girl can afford to eat!

Shirley’s WeightWatchers-Friendly Shishito Pepper Appetizer

Five minutes to sheer delight!

Start the clock.

Fresh picked shishito peppers, spray oil and sea salt

Gather the following three ingredients:

  • Shishito peppers- as many as you like, preferably from your garden
  • Spray oil
  • Sea salt

Green and red shishito peppers freshly picked from Shirley's Garden

Green and red Shishito peppers

pan roasted shishito peppers with spray oil

Shishito peppers sprayed with Canola oil in a hot pan

1. Rinse and dry Shishito peppers. I include some mature, red  Shishito peppers. They are spicier than the green ones.

2. Spray pan with cooking oil and heat until very hot.

3. Add Shishito peppers and coat them with a short spray of oil. Toss them occasionally by shaking the pan and allow the skin to char.

4. Add sea salt to taste

Plate of pan roasted Shishito peppers

Delicious, hot, charred Shishito peppers!

That’s it!

A delightful, three ingredient appetizer, prepared in less than five minutes, for a LOT less than $7 dollars!

When everyone else is eating peanuts or potato chips at my house, I know what I’ll be eating.

Ready to grow your own Shishito peppers?

Grow Shishito peppers in containers or in the garden.

You don’t need a large garden to grow enough Shishito peppers to keep an individual or family satisfied.

Two or three plants should suffice.

One plant is not enough for the raging fan!

Shishito pepper growing in Shirley Bovshow's garden ready to harvest

Remember, peppers are a summer crop and thrive in warm climate areas, but cold climate gardeners can grow them with some planning.

My peppers are growing strong right now in mid-summer here in Los Angeles.

I’ve been able to harvest a plateful of Shishito peppers a couple of times a week and I can see many flowers, so more are on their way!

Growing Shishito Peppers From Seed

Get a head start by growing your Shishito seedlings indoors, 8 to 10 weeks before the last frost.

When the weather is consistently warm, (70 degrees or more), plant the seedlings outdoors.

Two good sources of seeds include Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and Kitazawa Seed Company.

The better deal is Kitazawa Seeds where you can buy 80-100 seeds for $3.49 (price at the current time).

Baker Creek has excellent stock, but it costs more.

Twenty-five seeds for $2.25

Have you seen Baker Creek’s gorgeous catalog, by the way?

Pure plant porn.

Transplanting Shishito Peppers Outdoors

All plants grow taller and usually produce more fruit when they are planted in the garden as opposed to a container.

Space your Shishito peppers at least three  feet apart for maximum air circulation when planted in the ground.

Plant the peppers where they will receive at least 5 hours of direct sunlight in well-draining soil.

Pepper plants are not good swimmers!

Peppers will grow well in a 15-gallon container.

I use half whiskey barrels.

(Square foot gardeners can transplant one plant per square foot area in the ground).

Shishito pepper flower blosson

Feed your Shishito peppers throughout the growing season with a balanced fertilizer when the plant begins to flower.

Fertilizing Shishito Peppers

I avoid feeding newly transplanted peppers excessive nitrogen because it encourages lush green foliage to grow rather than fruit.

Select a balanced vegetable fertilizer with a formula such as 5-10-10 or similar.

The first number represents the percentage of nitrogen, while the following two represent phosphate and potassium, respectively.

Some of the fertilizer brands I use include Jobe’s Organics and Dr. Earth– both are reliable products.

Watering Shishito Pepper Plants

I water my Shishito peppers every other day during the menacing 100+ degree days of summer.

Container garden soils tend to dry faster than garden soil, so I make sure that my parched soil is moist but not soggy at all times.

If you plant your Shishito’s in the ground, check the soil 4-6″ inches deep and water when the soil  feels dry to the touch.

This may be anywhere between one to two times per week.

Harvesting Shishito Peppers

Shishito pepper ready for harvest

Shishito peppers are at the height of flavor when they are between 3-5″ inches long and lime green in color.

You can harvest the peppers when they are smaller and also when they are older and start to turn dark red.

Older peppers tend to be tougher in texture and sometimes have more of a spicy bite.

Smaller peppers have more intense flavor.

Decide what you like best and set up your own harvesting preferences.

I harvest my peppers right before cooking them so that I can benefit from the garden to plate freshness.

So what do you think?

Have I tempted you into growing Shishito peppers?

You will thank me, if you do.

I promise!


21 Comment

  1. Cheers! You are going to love your homegrown shishitos.

    They are a favorite.

  2. Debbie,

    I have never frozen shishitos before.

    Have you tried roasting them first and then freezing them?

    That’s what I do with hatch chiles and they freeze well for 1-2 years.

  3. If you are growing your shishito peppers in a 5 gallon container, I would seed 2 or 3 seeds and allow the most vigorous seedling to grow by itself.


  4. Hi Erin,

    That depends on how large the pot is.
    For planting seeds, you are better off planting in trays that are wider than they are deep.
    Space the seeds according to the instructions on the seed packet.


  6. Hi Shirley,

    Can these pepper be frozen for longer storage? We have a bumper crop of these this year and there are to many to use in a short time. I cannot find any information on storing these through canning or freezing..

    Thank you

  7. We got Shishito peppers last year in our co-op organic produce box with a recipe to saute with salt and lemon juice and serve with martinis! What a concept. I am totally hooked. I could eat them every day. I am so happy to dream about them growing in my garden. I have ordered the seeds from your recommended Japanese grower. Thank you for your great step-by-step instructions. Cheers to Shishito lovers!

  8. Hi Jerry,

    Yes, but dry your shishito peppers completely before planting so they won’t rot.

  9. Can I prepare seeds from fresh Shishito peppers for planting?

  10. Green shishitos are tastiest for me. Once they turn red, they are older and not as tender and soft.


  11. Hi Amy- To be safe, try planting them in March. Like most peppers they like warmer temperatures!

  12. Thanks Shirley!  Great post!  I can't wait to try growing them!  I live in Southern California, too.  Not sure when the last frost is, maybe March?  So should I start my indoor growing in late January?  I have wine barrels in a sunny spot to transplant them so I'm guessing that would happen in March…


  13. I am so glad to read this information. I grew a bunch of these peppers this summer without knowing much about them. I did not know I should pick them when they are green and most of mine are red. Should I just pick them and let them dry or what else can I do with them?  I'm headed into my garden to see if I can find some green ones!  Thank you so much for all this info !

  14. Hi Beth= Thanks for commenting.

    I’ve only grown Shishitos from transplants so I can’t answer your question about the seeds. I’m planning on harvesting seeds from this year’s plant, so I’m sure I will learn a lot!


  15. Hi Shirley,  I really wanted to grow some of these so I bought some at my Japanese grocery store.  I removed the seeds from a lot of peppers and will be eating those delicious pods tonight.  My peppers were not quite ripe (still green) but I'm hoping the seeds inside are mature enough.  Some of the seeds were pure white, some were brown tinged on the edges.  I'm assuming the brown tinged ones are a little more mature.  What do your seeds look like that you plant?  Thanks!

  16. I also enjoy Shishito and now trying to find seeds to grow along with a lot of my heirloom tomatoes. Enjoyed the info.

  17. Great article Shirley! I’ve been looking to grow shishto peppers myself! So excited, thanks so much for all of your help!!!

  18. I really love planting some vegetables in my garden especially this peppers, I love it.

  19. Just read all the blogs, so I went out to the garden and picked a handful. Haven’t had time to cook any, but I bit into one and it tastes like fresh green peas! Great flavor sure to be a hit around my house, glad I put them in!

  20. Hi Ewa,
    Great to hear from you. I just visited your blog and left a comment. Gorgeous work!
    I recommend the Shishito peppers as soon as you get those snails under control!

  21. Hello Shirley! These peppers look delicious. Next year I’l go bakc to grow them. This year I have real troubles with snails – they eat all my fresh sprouted veggies! arrrggghhh!

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