Menu Trend: Padron Peppers

These peppers are popping up on menus across town, so we did a little research to help fans of peak summer produce stay informed.

By Allison Jones September 5, 2012

Padron peppers share center stage on the tapas bar at Bar Vivant.

The Trend: Fresh-from-the-farm Padron peppers, aka pimientos de Padrón, are appearing around Portland as simple pan-fried appetizers and flavorful accompanyments to entrees.

What they are: Originally from the Galicia region of Spain, these small green chiles are roughly two inches long. The first documented introduction of the Padron to US markets was by Happy Quail Farm's pepper farmer David Winsberg in Coastal Northern California in the late 1990s, and since then they've worked their way up the coast and into our hungry Portland hearts. Local chef favorite Viridian Farms was among the first to offer true Padrón peppers in Oregon, but now many farms in the Portland region are following suit.

What they taste like: More often than not, you'll see these green beauties pan-fried in olive oil until their skin blisters and sprinkled with sea salt for a deceptively simple finger food. Don't let their plain jane presentation fool you, because after your first experience, their smoky, clean flavor will have you waiting for Padron season year after year. Roughly one in fifteen padron peppers will be spicy, but not blow-your-head-off spicy. Think of it as tapas roulette. 

Who’s using themAt Southwest newcomer Market, chef Troy Furuta puts his spin on the greenies by adding fried cheese curds, smoked sea salt, basil, and smoked pepper aioli. Diners can also order charred padron peppers with yuzu as a side, or accompanying the tortiglioni pasta with braised short ribs.

The meat masters at Laurelhurst Market get in touch with their green side with their heirloom melon and Padron pepper salad drizzled with guanciale vinaigrette. The peppers also appear on the side of Laurelhurst's smoked St. Louis-style pork ribs and Piedmontese Denver Steak.

Beaker & Flask is offering an Oregon Albacore dish decked with seared Padróns, smoked tomatoes, and baby octopus.

Southeast Belmont's Genoa proves yet again that summer is the best time for vegetarian fine dining with their Sformato di mais, a savory baked corn and goat cheese custard with seared padron peppers, pickled chanterelles, and cipollini agrodolce

Next door at Genoa's sibling bistro Accanto, diners can order classic Padróns (fried with olive oil and fleur de sel) at brunch or a tuna conserva dinner antipasto with grilled padron peppers, anchovies, and olives.

Wildwood is offering a Padrón pepper appetizer with salami, scallions, and sherry vinegar.

Toro Bravo has featured a traditional tapas dish of fried pimientos de Padrón on their late-summer menu since the restaurant first opened in 2007, and Pix's new East Burnside tapas spot Bar Vivant is following suit with fried-to-order peppers taking center stage on the affordable small-bites menu.

See an ingredient on a menu in Portland and want to know more? Let me do the research for you. Email me at [email protected] or holler at me on Twitter at @allisonejones.

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