Vol.1, No.9

When to cook chili peppers with seeds

Learn how to determine whether a hot chili pepper should be used with or without its seeds for any recipe.

Chili peppers with seeds
For the beginner, cooking with hot chili peppers can be intimidating. There is so much to consider. The heat of various peppers ranges widely. The mere act of cutting into a hot chili pepper can give a blister to those with extremely sensitive skin. There is the concern over how to prepare chili peppers, how to clean up after preparation and how to avoid cross-contamination with other kitchen utensils and household objects. Luckily, there is also a wealth of information available for beginners that can help to address these issues. One of the lesser considered issues with chili peppers is the use of their seeds. Many people choose simply to discard them, but the seeds can be used in a number of dishes for a variety of reasons.

When preparing a hot chili pepper for cooking, many chefs choose to remove the seeds, ribs (the white part inside the pepper), stem and inner membrane. The inner membrane is responsible for a lot of a pepper's heat; the ribs and seeds also increase the hot, fiery taste of a chili pepper. The stem is removed because it is inedible.

Many dishes call for hot chili peppers to be prepared in the above way for two major reasons. First of all, the preparation helps to decrease the heat of the pepper thus making it more appealing to a wider audience. Secondly, and some would argue more importantly, it helps to make the texture of the pepper more smooth. The seeds and ribs are often considered an unpleasant part of the pepper to bite down on. The heat from the pepper's seeds is tolerable, but their bumpy, hard nature makes them unpalatable.

In turn, many of the recipes where the seeds from hot chili peppers are removed produce dishes where the texture of the seeds would be noticeable. Spicy cornbreads, southwestern biscuits or other quick breads, for example, would exclude pepper seeds. A smooth refried bean dip would also keep its creamy texture by eliminating the pepper seeds.

Recipes where the texture of the dish is already bumpy, chunky or contains seed-like qualities would embrace the use of the whole chili pepper, including its seeds. A hearty meat chili, for example, could use chili peppers with seeds intact. Most meat fillings in fact can accommodate small chili pepper seeds without much textural change. Other dishes can exploit the textural element of hot chili pepper seeds; some salad dressings, for example, use peppers with seeds to add a bit of surprise for the consumer.

When choosing whether to seed your hot chili pepper or not, texture is the most important factor for your decision. The heat added from the seeds is not as dramatic or intense as many think; remove the inner membrane and some of the ribs to cut down on the heat if it is a concern. At the same time, do not be frightened of trying to take out the seeds in a hot chili pepper. Though smaller peppers may require a bit of patience, it is simple to remove the seeds for recipes that either require seed-free peppers. Ultimately though, it remains the choice of the chef. Try out different recipes to experiment with the texture of chili pepper seeds and have fun along the way.